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THE ABC OF ALLERGENS

June 13, 2021

THE ABC OF ALLERGENS

Taryn talks us through The ABC of Allergens!

Introducing allergens into your little human's diet is always stressful and can be a bit of a grey area for new mamas. However, with the professional insights from Registered Dietician Taryn Bortz, we are here to advise.

"Food allergies tend to start in early infancy/childhood, which is a critical window period known as the first 1000 days of life"

What is an Allergy?

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology  defines food allergy “an as adverse reactions to food in which the immune system is involved.  This term involves both immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated and non-IgE-mediated food allergies” If you come in contact with the allergen, the cells release chemicals which cause food allergy symptoms such as  eczema, itching, swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing and a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. There is a difference between food allergy and food intolerance. A food allergy involves the immune system while food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance,does not. Food allergies can be outgrown in childhood, especially cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat. Fish, shellfish, peanut and tree nut allergies are less commonly outgrown. 

A

Allergens

The major allergens are classified as:

  1. Cow’s Milk
  2. Egg
  3. Fish and shellfish
  4. Peanut, tree nuts 
  5. Wheat
  6. Soy
  7. Sesame Seed (in Canada it is considered a major allergen)

Children who are allergic to milk and egg may tolerate them in the baked form, as heat changes the shape of the proteins which makes them less “recognizable” by the immune system, decreasing the chances of a reaction taking place. Up to 70% of children with cow’s milk or egg allergies can tolerate baked milk or egg (baked with flour ie in a cupcake/cookie/ flapjack) before they tolerate unbaked milk or less well-cooked forms of egg. A healthcare professional will guide you through this.

"Food allergies tend to start in early infancy/childhood, which is a critical window period known as the first 1000 days of life"

This is a time of rapid growth as well as oral motor and cognitive development, and a period when feeding patterns are established. The basics of food allergy management are to cut out the food which is causing food allergy symptoms. Feeding difficulties, such as poor feeding skills (which arise as a result of long term food avoidance) are reported in between 40% and 90% of children with food allergies. Parental anxiety regarding the food allergy may worsen feeding practices. Many of the more common allergens contribute essential nutrients during this vulnerable time, such a protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, Vitamin D, zinc and essential fatty acids such as omega 3. A registered dietitian, together with an allergist, plays an integral role in the nutritional and medical management of food allergies, ensuring suitable replacements to prevent micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies  

B

Be aware- Check Food Labels!

It is always recommended to check the food labels to see whether it contains any allergens. If there is any uncertainty about the allergen content of a food, it is best to call the manufacturer.

Only major allergens are required to be present on food labels. With regards to minor allergens, caution is warranted with foods that list natural flavours, colourings, additives, or other vague food descriptions in the ingredient list. Precautionary Allergen Labeling (PAL) includes statements such as “May contain”or “Manufactured on the same equipment as” or “Produced in the same facility as..” These precautions may follow ingredient lists and should also be taken note of. 

C

Complementary Feeding: introduction of allergens 

"The research has shifted from previous guidelines to delay food allergen introduction beyond 1 year of age to current guidelines stating that introduction of all allergens should take place before 1 year of age, even as early as from 4 to 6 months of age"

Egg and peanut are two particularly important foods to introduce early on to avoid risk of allergy. It is advised to introduce peanut-containing products and eggs to all infants, at around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months of life. If parents are concerned that their child will react, an in-office introduction together with a dietician and allergist is recommended. It is important to note that once peanut and eggs are introduced, regular ingestion should be sustained. Age appropriate peanut containing foods should be given as they can pose as choking hazards. Age appropriate peanut foods include diluted peanut butter ie mixed in porridge, peanut flours or peanut snacks (puffs ie Bamba). Whole-peanut kernels and chunks of peanut butter are potential choking hazards and should not to be given to children below 4 years of age.

When introduction of complementary foods begins, infants should be fed a diverse diet, as this may help with the prevention of food allergy. A diverse diet includes many different sources of fruit, vegetables, proteins and fats. Parents may offer a single ingredient food one at a time and gradually expand the variety of foods and textures offered to the infant to help balance the diet and promote acceptance of a wide variety of flavours and textures of natural foods.

As a practical example, you can start with 1 new food every 3 days. There is no specific order in which the other allergens should be introduced, and no specific wait time between new foods that is required 

Some examples of how to introduce allergens

This is just a practical example and not necessarily a guideline. Always discuss with your allergist or healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Milk—Yoghurt/ cheese  can be introduced from 6-7 months. Avoid giving full cream milk to drink before 1 year of age as it is too concentrated for your baby’s kidneys.

Egg—Give fully cooked/baked egg to start with (ie in a pancake/ cupcake) rather than soft boiled egg/poached egg/raw egg powder/pasteurised egg. Under-cooked egg is also not recommended for children younger than 1 year.

Soy—Offer you baby soy milk, soy yogurt, or tofu (there is not much protein left in soy sauce, and the salt content is very high— best to avoid these).

Fish/Shellfish—Give your baby a few portions of the fish/shellfish species that you tend to eat as a family and continue with regular intake. (Don’t give more than 2 portions of fatty fish per week according to the Food and Drug Administration [USA]) and Food Standards Agency [UK] guidance.)

Sesame—Try mixing some hummus and tahini in foods.

Wheat—Softly cooked pasta (which also makes a great finger food), bread fingers (if you already started to give wheat in egg- containing baked goods such as sugar-free cookies/pancakes, feel free to continue with these as well).

 

 

Think of the first 1000 days as the period where your little human's body is busy creating an eating 'blueprint' for their future eating habits and reactions to food.

Ohbaby has developed an eating plan for this period, to help you introduce allergens & proteins into your adventurous eater's diet! 

The Ohbaby Allergen & Protein Introduction Plan:

This plan will expose your baby to over 40 ingredients incl. proteins & other allergen foods. 

What You Get in this Plan: 

  • A four-week meal plan & selection of frozen baby purées for three meals a day
  • Allergen introduction incl. meat protein: Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Nutbutter, Sesame & Sunflower Seeds. Optional guide supplied for Yoghurt & Egg introduction
  • A handbook to help guide you through the process
  • Serving sizes increase from 50g - 120g per meal as the weeks progress
  • 7 x 40g pouches + 60 x 100/120g pouches

Please note: Always consult with a healthcare professional before feeding your baby this plan. These meal plans were designed for babies that have already been exposed to their first solid bites for +1 month & have no known allergies.

Babies that have not started on solids yet would need to start with The Solids Introduction Plan before moving onto the Allergen & Protein Introduction Plan.



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