Can we predict a baby’s food allergies?

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A new study says the bacteria in a baby’s cute little tummy could predict if they will grow up to have food allergies.

It would be extremely valuable for parents to know their child had a sensitization before they ever tasted their first solid food, and that’s what researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Manitoba are exploring.

baby's food allergies

The extensive study identified important changes in the babies’ intestinal bacteria. Just under 170 babies were tested, with researchers taking stool samples at birth and at three months — and taking a blood sample with a skin prick at one year.

When researchers tested the samples, they discovered that three-month-old babies with fewer different types of bacteria were more likely to develop sensitization to milk, eggs, and peanuts by the time they were a year old — and some of them will also develop asthma or eczema.

The results don’t mean that those babies will definitely develop allergies, eczema, or asthma, but it is a predictor. 

According to the results, which were published in the February issue of Clinical & Experimental Allergy, the babies who developed sensitivities had higher levels of two types of bacteria: Enterobacteriaceae and Bacteroidceae.

Now that the study has identified the bacterial changes, the goal is to be able to find ways to alter this bacteria — using it to perhaps prevent food allergies from ever developing.

The bacteria in a baby’s gut can be changed by breastfeeding, particularly if the mother is taking antibiotics, and even by the way the baby was born — babies born via C-section have lower levels of certain bacteria. Researchers are hopeful that they will be able to modify the bacteria patterns, and are expanding the study to include babies from other major cities across Canada — with a goal of reaching 2,500 children.

Early exposure is a hot topic right now, as parents of children with food allergies agonize about whether or not they should have introduced potential allergens at a younger age.

H/T Edmonton Sun

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

2 Comments to Can we predict a baby’s food allergies?

  1. Kristin C

    Very interesting! I had a c section and nursed exclusively and my daughter has eczema that is exacerbated by her food allergies (dairy, Wheat and a severe allergy to eggs)… Hmmm

    • It’s super interesting, isn’t it, Kristin? Right now, food allergies seem like such an unknown — either they strike, or they don’t — so it’s awesome to hear that researchers are working on identifying them so early, and working to eradicate them.

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