Symptoms such as a flu or common cold in children often seem
trivial or go unnoticed. Ever wondered why these symptoms keep recurring in a child? The reason could be that a child
maybe allergic to certain foods. If left untreated it can
cause potentially dangerous anaphylactic shock.
But, according to a new study conducted, many children who are
affected can outgrow their allergy. This may be due to the fact that their
immune system develops a tolerable ability towards food which was mistakenly
regarded as "foreign". This research was conducted by La Jolla
Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI), USA and results of which has been
published in the journal,
‘An immune response in the intestines leads to childhood food allergies and also explains why kids often grow out of allergies as they become adults.’
Researcher Charles Surh from La Jolla
Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI), USA suggested that children are more susceptible to food allergies
unlike adults, due to their limited exposure to novel foods. Further, as the immune system evolves it protects the human body against viruses or pathogens.
Further, the study showed that food tolerance
is acquired and specific cells in the body, known as T-cells are triggered
following food consumption. Without these cells, there would be a strong immune
response towards macromolecules (Very large molecules, such as protein, that
are commonly created by polymerization of smaller subunits
(monomers) present in food.
The study performed was first of its kind that illustrated consuming normal diet
kindles cells in the gut that suppresses the rejection of food by the immune system
. The study further goes on to explain how food tolerance emerges over time in normal individuals and why children have limited exposure
to novel foods and are more prone to food allergies.
Similar to pathogens, food too exhibits
macromolecular markers called as antigens that inform the immune system of a foreign entity. "Antigen-free" mice models were fed a novel
test protein, example egg protein ovalbumin. This induced the development of
immunosuppressive T-regulatory, or "Treg" cells, in the gut, which acted as a
block to the immune response to that particular protein. The results were however, un-explanatory
to researchers in real-life terms. To further substantiate, the "antigen-free" models were re-designed and raised
in a germ free environment. The animals were given an "elemental" diet of amino
acids - a protein building block. As the mice were naive, they had little or no
previous contact with antigenic proteins and macromolecules.
By means of molecular marker analysis,
researcher and colleagues found that antigen-free mice used were depleted of
Tregs in the small intestine, but a greater proportion of these Tregs were
present in germ-free counterparts fed a "normal" protein diet. Thus
suggesting that the protein contained in food activates the development of Tregs. It
also showed how gut of normal mice can suppress a dangerous immune response to
Therefore, for prevention of allergic reactions
presence of both food and microbe-induced Tregs population is essential. In other words, when a normal diet is consumed, cells in the gut are activated which suppresses the rejection of food by the immune system. This explains why some children are at risk of contracting allergies, which they tend to outgrow as they grow older.
What is Food
It is an abnormal response of the body to
certain kinds of food. It differs greatly than food tolerance, which does not
affect the immune system, though in both cases symptoms might be similar.
Symptoms of Allergy in
- Atopic dermatitis or eczema (skin rashes or hives)
- Asthma (breathing difficulty)
- Stomach upset
- Sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes or a runny nose
Symptoms of Delayed
- Swelling in the small bowel
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Frequent distress and crying
- Raise of knees to chest with tummy pain
- Poor growth
- Vomiting due to reflux
Common Triggers of
Allergy in Children
- Foods: peanuts, eggs, milk and
- Indoors: pet/normal hair or fur,
mold, dust mites
- Outdoors: plant and tree pollen, insect bites or stings
- Irritants: car exhaust, perfume, cigarette smoke
Prevention of Food Allergies
There is no medication as such to prevent
food allergy. However, the tips below may be useful:
- Avoid foods that your child is
allergic to and also similar foods in that group.
- If breastfeeding, avoid foods that
can cause allergy to infant as small amounts of allergen may be transmitted to child through breast milk causing a reaction.
- Give vitamins and minerals to the child if they are unable to digest certain types of food. But, discuss before with child's physician.
- In some cases, certain foods may be given after one year under physician direction to assess if child has
outgrown the allergy. Allergies may be short lived in children and food may be well tolerated after the
age of 3 to 4 years.
Though developing food allergy maybe inevitable, it can
however be delayed in infants as below:
New Study Indicates Why Children Are Likelier To Develop Food Allergies.
Available from: http://www.liai.org/pages/Charles_Surh?mode=save_and_view.
Accessed Feb 1 2016.
Children & Allergies. Available from:
http://acaai.org/allergies/who-has-allergies/children-allergies. Accessed Feb 2
Food allergies in children. Available from:
Accessed Feb 2 2016.
4. Food Allergy in Babies and Children.
Accessed Feb 2 2016.
to breastfeed your infant for the first six
- During child's first year of life, refrain from using cow's milk, wheat, eggs,
peanuts and fish.
- Abstain from giving solid foods until the child becomes six months or older.