Food Allergies: Prevent Problems With Proper Early Nutrition

Nutrition is very important. It should be foremost on a parent's mind right from the beginning because if you teach your child how to eat properly in early childhood, you'll be able to avoid childhood obesity, now a serious epidemic in the U.S.

It also is important to teach an infant how to eat properly because one of the things you want to prevent is a food allergy.

A food allergy is a hypersensitivity, an abnormal response to food triggered by the immune system. About 6 percent of children under the age of three will have a food allergy. The most common ones are caused by milk, eggs, wheat and peanuts. Peanut allergies can be so severe and hit so fast that if an allergic person encounters a peanut it could mean almost instant death.

Cases of peanut allergies have doubled over the past 10 years. At the moment, the only available treatment is avoidance. But eliminating a specific food is easier said than done. Breast-feeding moms should even avoid putting moisturizers that contain peanut oil on their breasts and nipples. The protein associated with egg allergies is usually albumin, which may be present in pasta and marshmallows. To avoid problems, make sure you read all food and product labels carefully.

An allergic reaction is your immune system reacting to something it thinks is not good for itself by releasing histamines. These histamines produce all the effects of an allergy: the rash, the runny nose, and if the reaction is severe enough, the anaphylactic shock, which is a swelling of the tongue and difficulty breathing. Often, if not treated immediately, anaphylactic shock can lead to death. The good news is that many people simply outgrow their food allergies.

Many food allergies can be avoided with a proper nutrition schedule. All you have to do is follow these simple rules:

--No solid food until the baby is six months old, with the exception of cereals, which should be introduced between four and six months in order to minimize the risk of a wheat allergy.

--No whole milk or dairy products until the age of one.

--No eggs until the age of two.

--No peanuts, or nuts at all for that matter, until the age of three.

Following these few simple rules will not guarantee that your child will grow up allergy-free, however. If you come from an allergic family, you are likely to be allergic, too. But minimizing the premature introduction of these foods will allow your child's immune system to adapt and develop in such a way that it can tolerate these foods and not regard them as poisons.

Click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007).

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.