My 2-year-old son has been diagnosed with multiple food allergies that require the exclusion of peanuts, most dairy products and certain fruits from his diet. I’m concerned that he does not receive all the nutrients he needs to grow up healthy. What can I do to optimize his diet while managing his allergies?
You are not the only parent facing this dilemma. There are more than 3 million children in this country who suffer from food allergies and, according to the Center for Disease Control, the numbers are rising. Allergies to nuts, milk and shellfish are the most common, but certain meats, rice, corn and even wheat are also found to be intolerable for an ever-increasing number of young people. There are many theories why this is happening.
Among others, one possible reason may be that the diagnosis of food allergies itself is wanting. Most allergies are diagnosed by a blood test to determine the presence of antibodies which the body builds as a reaction to certain foods. However, a blood test that finds allergies to particular food items does not necessarily determine the extension of the allergies it detects. The reason is that similar proteins exist in different foods which are indistinguishable through a simple blood test. Consequently, children who test positive for allergies to peanuts may also test positive for soy or beans; allergies to milk may also show allergies to beef, etc..
A better way to diagnose food allergies would be to have your child try foods that may be “suspicious” but have not yet been proven to cause allergic reactions – under the supervision of a doctor or allergist. Keep in mind that some allergies may worsen if children are overprotected from certain foods and then develop a higher sensitization than they would have with normal exposure. Many allergies are not lifetime conditions. Some become more tolerable in limited amounts, some can be outgrown altogether with age.
In the case of your child, I would recommend that you have additional allergies tests done if the diagnosis to date has only been based on blood tests.