Helping Children

Some Topics

Food Allergy & Infant Feeding

During the first year of life, the infant diet is the most powerful determinant of the growth and development of the child. Food allergy is the most common health problem. Many studies show that breast feeding is best and that the feeding of solid foods is best delayed4 to 6 months to reduce the risk of food allergy.

Food allergy in infancy is expressed as crying, colic, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, eczema and cold-like respiratory congestion. Some infants with food allergy become seriously ill and fail to thrive unless their allergy is recognized and corrected.

Infants who develop food allergy in their first year may "outgrow" the first effects but tend to grow into children with more pervasive health, behavior and learning problems unless their diet is properly managed.

There are different types of food allergy

There are different types of food allergy. The immediate or type 1 food allergy pattern is easily recognized because it involves quick and dramatic symptoms. Hay fever is the most common type 1 allergy and can be diagnosed by allergy skin tests. Some food allergy is also type 1 and shows up on skin tests.

Delayed patterns of food allergy are not so obvious and generally go unrecognized. Allergy skin tests do not show this problem nor do IgE antibody tests such as RAST or ELIZA.

Delayed patterns of food allergy are responsible for causing common but ill-defined illness patterns in children.
A cluster of physical, behavioral, and learning problems is typical of many children we see.

Food Allergy Symptoms

A child may present with chronic nose congestion, cheek and ear flushing, a history of recurrent ear infections and tonsillitis, associated with infrequent attacks of abdominal pain and episodes of hyperactivity with temper tantrums. Another child may present with recurrent "flu", fatigue, lymph node swelling and appear to be depressed.

Flu-like symptoms are typical manifestations of the delayed patterns of food allergy - children often complain of fatigue, abdominal pain and aching; parents observe that they are irritable and distracted. Many children say they are "sick-all over". The delayed mechanisms of food allergy tend to produce recurrent or chronic symptoms. This symptomatic process begins with the action of food materials in the digestive tract and continues into the blood stream, and then affects the function of any target organ which receives the food problem. For example:

1. Symptoms may be limited to the digestive tract-indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

2. Symptoms may be general or systemic - fever, fatigue, sweating, and chills.

3. The lungs are the target organ in food-induced bronchitis and asthma.

4. The joints are target organs in food allergic arthritis.

5. The skin reacts with itching, rashes, hives, thickening, redness, swelling, and scaling as in eczema and psoriasis.

6. The brain is the target organ when disorganized, disturbed thinking, feeling, remembering, and behaving occur.

The food problems that concerned us involves a complicated series of body dysfunctions. Since there is no current testing method that reliably identifies the causes of food-related illnesses, we cannot specify a short list of foods to avoid, and assume that everything else will function properly.

Listen to Food Allergy in Children 1

Food Allergy 2

See Food Allergy Center