Monday, September 12, 2011

Moms: Cut Kids' Food Allergy Risk with Prenatal Diet

Over the past few decades, especially in the last one, the rates of food allergies in kids have seemingly skyrocketed. Peanut allergies in particular are an issue everywhere you turn; the issue simply can't be avoided any longer if it ever could before. Whether it is the case that this rate has really risen or simply that more awareness has been placed on the issue is unclear, but it's fair to say that food allergies are an issue that plagues parents, kids and teachers across North America.

Anyone thinking about starting a family, especially if they have or their partner has a family history of allergies, can't escape worrying about potential future food allergies in their child. What is an expectant or new mother to do to avoid the dangers of potentially fatal allergies in their child? There are existing guidelines and feeding schedules for introducing new foods for infants and toddlers so as to minimize their risk of allergies, but is there anything that can be done to help protect them prior to them consuming the foods? The answer may be closer than ever, thanks to new research.

According to researchers from France's National Agricultural Research Institute (INRA), moms who consume omega-3 rich foods during their pregnancies can potentially boost the immune systems of their babies' developing digestive systems. Many people aren't aware of this, but one of the the biggest immune organs in our bodies is our digestive system, or gut. The gut associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT for short, is the body's largest mass of lymphoid tissue that helps protect it from invasion by foreign substances or pathogens. If this huge component of the immune system can be strengthened, it follows that one's risk of illness or potentially developing allergies may be reduced.

In the study, pregnant and lactating pigs were examined since their digestive systems closely mimic our own. When the mother pigs in the study consumed lots of omega-3 PUFAs from oily fish as well as nuts and seeds, the digestive systems of their babies became more porous, allowing for more broken down particles to pass through into their blood streams. This, in turn, allowed the babies' immune systems to create antibodies to the particles, allowing for a quicker than normal development and maturation of their immune systems and less potential risk of future allergies.

It is still unclear as to why the incidence of food allergies is rising worldwide, but many researchers believe it is because we are consuming fewer omega-3 fatty acids and poorer quality foods over all. Whatever the true reasons may be, consuming a safe, healthy, nutrient-dense diet with a large focus on omega-3 fatty acids can only do good for your baby's health and development, according to loads of research. Some great sources of omega 3s are oily fish including salmon, mackerel and tuna as well as almonds, walnuts, flax, hemp and chia seeds.