Fox News: "Giving peanut-based foods to babies early prevents allergies"
USA Today: "Peanut allergy: Everything they told you was wrong."
The Washington Post: "New NIH guidelines on infants and peanuts may contradict everything you’ve heard before."
Time: "How to prevent peanut allergies"
The Scientist: "Allergen-Exposure strategy can prevent peanut allergy"
Welcome to the Modern Family
The advice for decades has been for babies to avoid things like eggs, seafood, honey, and peanuts because they are allergenic to some. But this advice has caused more food allergies than it prevented. For the last several years, studies were showing that when babies were fed peanuts at an earlier age, they were less prone to peanut allergies, and that even by feeding kids with peanut allergies small bits of peanuts, the allergies could be reversed. There's even an FDA-approved skin patch to deliver peanut allergens for parents who can't be bothered feeding their kids peanuts.
But this is not news to us, here at the VeggiePharm. Dr. Art Ayers wrote about this on his Cooling Inflammation blog in 2014.
The cure for peanut allergy should follow naturally from knowledge of the cause. Since most allergies and autoimmune diseases result from the combination of 1) inflammation, 2) breakdown of immunological tolerance and 3) presentation of a primary immunogen, it follows that some types of peanut allergy are based on a continued problem with immune tolerance and fixing that defect should eliminate an allergic response to peanuts. The current cure to resurrect immune tolerance is by enhancing regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the gut using resistant starch to improve the growth of Clostridia in the gut.
The new federally-approved advice comes in three flavors:
Guideline 1 focuses on infants deemed at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both. The expert panel recommends that these infants have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets as early as 4 to 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.
Guideline 2 suggests that infants with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.
Guideline 3 suggests that infants without eczema or any food allergy have peanut-containing foods freely introduced into their diets.
So many kids nowadays with eczema is a huge clue that we are not doing right. Back in the day, kids were weaned on chewed up yams, tiger nuts, or other starchy tubers. Now it's strained peas and carrots. Where's the fiber? The resistant starch? Even baby formula uses a fake fiber substitute (GOS) to mimic the fiber found in mama's milk.
Hopefully this advice from the National Institutes of Health is a step in the right direction. Wouldn't it be great to see baby food supplemented with potato starch, Hi-Maize, or banana flour? I'm confident that baby food manufacturers can come up with something similar that they can patent and protect. It's all about the money for these guys.
Too late for the rest?
And what about those that were raised, or are raising kids, on the advice to avoid all potential allergens as babies, to sterilize every surface, and to megadose on antibiotics at every sniffle?
The immune system is a complicated thing. I believe that some allergies and autoimmune diseases can be turned around with a concerted effort to eat right and get some exposure to the things we're allergic to. A sustained diet high in fiber and resistant starch is the first step to regaining immune function. If you made it into adulthood without any serious allergies or immune dysfunction, consider yourself lucky! If you have young ones in the house, or plan to, make sure you feed them some immune system builders like green bananas, raw potato, peanuts, etc...