by Randall Neustaedter OMD
Children’s allergies to nuts have dramatically increased in recent years. Several theories have been proposed for this increased sensitivity.
The role of vaccines
The first theory concerns childhood vaccinations. Vaccines have been suspected of causing an increase in allergic disease because their purpose is to increase antibody production and trigger antibody responses. This shift of the immune system to excessive antibody reactions is often cited by vaccine critics as a possible cause of the increasing childhood allergies. Several studies have confirmed that vaccinated children have a much higher incidence of allergies, at least double the risk, compared to unvaccinated children (Enriquez, 2005). Peanut oil used in vaccine production has also been proposed as a possible cause of peanut allergies in children (Fraser, 2011).
The role of bacteria
A second theory about the cause of increasing allergies is the “hygiene hypothesis”. Lack of exposure to pathogens including intestinal parasites and environmental bacteria has been proposed as a cause of the increase in allergies (Velasquez-Manoff, 2012). This theory postulates that bacteria and parasites educate the immune system. Ridding the body of these pathogens and other healthy bacteria through antibiotic use, sanitation, and deworming medicines causes disruption in the small intestine and the immune system that resides there. The result is an overactive and unregulated immune system with resultant allergic responses. Taking probiotics and other supplements to support intestinal health have been proposed as solutions to this problem of disrupted intestinal ecology.
Nut consumption during pregnancy
A third suggested cause of nut allergies is the exposure to nuts ingested by mothers during pregnancy, which could result in more allergies in their children. This theory was recently tested in a controlled study (Maslova, 2012). According to the results of this study, the opposite seems to be true. Peanut and tree nut consumption during pregnancy was associated with a decreased incidence of allergies and asthma in their children. The children of mothers who ate nuts once a week during pregnancy were a third less likely to have asthma compared to children whose mothers ate no nuts. This confirmed previous studies that had led the American Academy of Pediatrics to reverse their recommendation that pregnant women avoid eating peanuts.
How to prevent nut allergies in children
To prevent nut allergies parents can follow a few simple recommendations based on this research.
- Eat nuts during pregnancy to prevent nut allergies
- Avoid vaccinations whenever possible and sensible
- Use holistic methods of treatment to avoid the use of antibiotics
- Give children a probiotic supplement
- Expose children to common sources of environmental bacteria