Q&A: Does diet affect my baby's allergies?
I have an 11-month-old daughter who has severe eczema. I found out that I was feeding her wheat in the "cheerio" type organic Heritage Os from Whole Foods, and have now stopped that. I know you should avoid wheat and dairy for the first year. How much damage can that do to her system?
I am also still nursing and she seems to be allergic to the dairy that I eat. Does this mean that she will never be able to eat dairy or wheat products, or is it just until her system develops? And is there anything else you can suggest to help the eczema heal faster? I am using natural baby lotion several times a day, giving her tons of water and trying to avoid the many allergens!
The foods that parents are advised to delay until after a child’s first birthday are citrus, nuts and nut butters, shellfish, and egg whites. Sometimes chocolate is included as well. The reasoning is that these are highly ‘allergenic’ foods and early exposure before the gut matures can prime the immune system to develop early allergies. This, and the possibility of bloody stools, is the potential damage done. Wheat isn’t on this list.
Though the first cereals recommended are the low-allergy rice and barley grains, by seven to nine months most infants have tasted wheat-based breads and cereals. A true allergy to wheat (or a component of wheat) leads to celiac disease, in which children fail to gain weight and become quite sick.
Though it is true that eczema can be part of a food allergy, it is rarely the only symptom. Most affected children have rashes around the mouth, blood in the stools, and don’t gain weight properly. If you truly suspect that your daughter has milk and wheat allergies, have this tested with a blood test called a RAST test at your pediatrician’s office before significantly limiting her diet or yours. (Even if she does have a dairy allergy, children usually outgrow this as toddlers).
Lastly, if her eczema is severe, she’ll need some medicated ointment. Use of a natural moisturizer and hydration is a good start, but severe eczema also needs a medicine that will dampen the abnormal immune reaction leading to the rash. This, for the most part, means a steroid-based ointment. When used in the right strength and for no more than two weeks of every four, steroids provide great eczema relief without the serious side effects that can be seen with oral steroids.