Dr. Eric Viegas, ND
Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre
Q: As a parent of a young child, what steps can I take to reduce the risk of childhood food allergies?
- Fish Oil consumption during pregnancy may cut the risk of childhood allergies by 30% (1). Researchers in London compiled data from women consuming a daily fish oil capsule from the 20th week of pregnancy until the first 3-4 months of breastfeeding. The consumption of fish oil cut the risk of childhood egg allergy by 30% (1).
- Probiotics: eczema risk was cut by 22% in a group of mothers consuming a daily probiotic supplement between 36-38 weeks of pregnancy and the first 3-6 months of breastfeeding (1). However, probiotic supplementation did not appear to reduce the risk of childhood dairy allergy (1).
- Hygiene: Avoid overuse of “baby wipes” and make sure that soap is completely washed off of your baby’s skin. A recent study using mice suggests that disruption of our skin’s top lipid (fat) layer by soaps and allergens can contribute to the development of food allergies in young children with altered genetic mutations in their skin (2). Mice with genetic mutations in their skin barrier that were exposed to common food allergens (eg. peanuts) to their skin over 2 weeks were then fed these allergens by mouth. The mice developed allergic reactions in the intestines, on the exposed skin sites, and suffered anaphylaxis. More research is needed in this area to further clarify how these mechanisms affect humans. Unfortunately, skin barrier mutations are not visible in children until later in life, so minimizing your child’s exposure to harsh chemicals and allergens that may disrupt their skin barrier is a factor in reducing the risk of developing childhood food allergies.
Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new supplement or medication. For more information on the prevention and treatment of childhood allergies, consult with your local naturopathic doctor and/or functional medicine practitioner.
- Garcia-Larsen V, Ierodiakonou D, Jarrold K, Cunha S, Chivinge J, et al. (2018) Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine 15(2): e1002507. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002507.
- Matthew T. Walker, Jeremy E. Green, Ryan P. Ferrie, Ashley M. Queener, Mark H. Kaplan, Joan M. Cook-Mills. Mechanism for initiation of food allergy: dependence on skin barrier mutations and environmental allergen costimulation. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2018, ISSN 0091-6749, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2018.02.003.