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Early introduction of peanuts could help prevent peanut allergy


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New evidence is challenging delaying introduction of certain food to babies in an attempt to prevent food allergies. In an allergic reaction, the immune system responds to a harmless food as it were a threat, so that one experiences stomach upsets and diarrhea, hives and itching, or sometimes tightening of the throat and trouble breathing.

Peanuts are one of the most common foods causing allergic reactions and the leading cause of anaphylaxis and death due to food allergies. This is one allergy which is also rarely outgrown. So for a long time mums have avoided peanuts during pregnancy and lactation, and delayed giving their children anything peanut until they were three years or more, even though studies have failed to show that elimination of certain foods prevented the development of allergies.

In the results recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, sustained peanut consumption beginning in the first 11 months of life, as compared with peanut avoidance, resulted in a significantly smaller proportion of children with peanut allergy at the age of 60 months. This was done on high risk infants; they had egg allergy or severe eczema. This study provides compelling evidence that discredits food elimination.

So as soon as your baby is 6 months, as you introduce other foods, include peanut butter. Peanuts will choke them so go with the butter. It is not only good for protein, which infants need for growth, but they also provide energy and good fat, as well as zinc which is especially good for immunity.

For variety, use it in food, soups, smoothies, porridge or on snacks and bites like carrot sticks and bread.

Even so, be alert so that incase of any reaction, you can take note. For children already allergic to other proteins, you may need a doctor’s consultation beforehand. And when you introduce any food that can cause an allergic reaction, offer one food at a time, often giving several days before introducing new foods so that you can be able to tell which food the baby is reacting to.

What most experts agree on though, is that breastfeeding offers protection against allergies. So breastfeed for as long as you can: especially if you have a family history of allergies.

Christine Nderitu

Licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through health education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. She writes a weekly (Monday) nutrition column in the People Daily and is experienced in nutrition management, research, health education and promotion in; HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Maternal and Child Health and Non-Communicable Diseases. She has been engaged in these activities since 2011. Christine feels the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour. And humanity-we have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.