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What You Eat During Pregnancy Might Help Protect Your Child From Food Allergies

By Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®
March 13, 2018
2 min read

I grew up with little knowledge of food allergies. My sister is allergic to shell fish and always carried her EpiPen with her, but that’s the extent of which I knew about anything related to being allergic to certain foods. That was until my son was diagnosed with many life-threatening food allergies two years ago.

With my sister’s life threatening food allergies, our pediatrician suggested my children get tested out of precaution. We’d avoided most seafood and shellfish because of our family history, but I knew being tested would help bring some relief. I expected the allergy tests to come back negative as none of my children had ever expressed any concern when it came to foods, so you can imagine my surprise when my son, my youngest child, came back negative to shellfish, but positive to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and egg.

The feeling you get when you find out your child not only has a life-threatening food allergy to one food, but several is overwhelming. I was in a state of shock, absolutely terrified, and clueless as to where to go from there. One of my first thoughts was, “What did I do differently this time that might have exposed him to these food allergies?” I racked my brain about what I’d eaten during pregnancy. I thought about the foods I’d consumed during our 15-month breastfeeding journey. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t do anything differently than I’d done with my two older daughters. But while I didn’t necessarily change anything during those pregnancies, maybe I could have done more.

According to new research from Boston Children’s Hospital, a study published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that eating allergenic foods, such a peanuts and eggs, during pregnancy can protect your child from food allergies, especially if you breastfeed. Previous researched advised pregnant and nursing mothers to avoid allergenic foods, but the recent findings support otherwise.

Researchers looked at pregnant mice that consumed highly allergenic foods and found they transferred protective antibodies to their babies through breast milk. This is the first controlled study that shows breast milk can help protect against food allergies.

Though an estimated 1 in every 13 children have food allergies, experts aren't sure exactly what causes these allergies or what can be done to prevent them. Looking back on my pregnancy with my son, I often wonder if I'd eaten more nuts, sesame, or eggs, he would have been less likely to develop his food allergies. And the fact is, I will never know. I do know that I can't look back and question, but I can educate myself for the future. While the study does not show that a child is guaranteed to be free of food allergies if a mother eats certain foods, it is promising news for pregnant and nursing mothers who may be able to help protect their babies by eating allergenic foods.

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By Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®
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Kim West , LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady®

Kim West is a mother of two wonderful daughters and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for 25 years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past twenty years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.

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