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Your Baby

Homemade or Commercial Baby Food- Which is Best?

1:45

A new study from the U.K. looked at homemade baby food versus commercial baby food bought in grocery stores. They both come up winners in some categories and losers in others.

The researchers wanted to assess how well homemade and commercially available readymade meals designed for infants and young children met age specific national dietary recommendations.

Once thought to be the ideal baby food, homemade meals turned out to be higher in calories and fat and more time-consuming to prepare, but less expensive and higher in nutrients and variety. Commercial baby food came in more convenient, lower in calories, total fats and salt but was more expensive and lacked variety. Sugar content was about the same in both foods.

Each option had upsides and downsides. For example, home-cooked food had higher nutritional content, but 50% of homemade meals also exceed calorie recommendations, and 37% exceeded the recommendations for calories from fat, reported a research team led by Sharon Carstairs, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Only 7% of the commercial baby food evaluated exceeded calorie recommendations, and less than 1% exceeded recommendations for calories from fat, Carstairs and colleagues reported in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Researchers compared the store-bought meals with 408 recipes for home-cooked infant meals obtained from best-selling published cookbooks. The investigators entered the recipe ingredients into dietary analysis software to calculate the nutritional composition of the recipes per 100 grams.

A chief limitation of the study was that it only analyzed the recipes for homemade meals and did not take into account how these meals might be prepared in "real life."

"Parents may use cookbooks prescriptively or only as guidance, and thus the nutritional content of home-cooked recipes can vary greatly, and this can be augmented further by natural variations in the nutritional composition of raw ingredients," Carstairs and colleagues noted.

In addition, "the authors may have overestimated the values for salt within home-cooked recipes as it was often cited as optional; these results should thus be considered with caution."

The study reassures parents that it is okay to give homemade food to babies being weaned from breast milk or formula, Lauri Wright, PhD, of the University of South Florida College of Public Health and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told MedPage Today.

"This is an important study, because in the United States parents think they have to do the commercial foods. Parents are afraid their child will miss out on nutrients if they don't give the specialized baby food."

The greater variety offered by homemade food may result in healthier taste preferences later in life, Wright added. "We used to think that taste preference developed at age 4 or 5, but we now know that taste preferences develop with the introduction of these first solid foods."

The bottom line from this study is that both types of baby food are acceptable; each comes with its own pros and cons. Just like with any other meal, how your homemade baby food is prepared is the key to whether it’s going to be healthy or not for baby. Understanding the guidelines for nourishing infant food and knowing the nutritional values of the foods you use, can help you prepare a wholesome meal for baby. Commercial baby foods also offer convenience and lower calories and fats. A mix of both will probably suit most families very well.

Story source: Medpage Today staff, http://www.medpagetoday.com/pediatrics/generalpediatrics/59228

 

 

Your Teen

Early Puberty and Bone Health

1.50 to read

The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers.A new study suggest the earlier your child starts puberty, the lower the risk he or she will have osteoporosis later in life.

The research was based on 78 girls and 84 boys, who were studied from the time they began puberty until they reached sexual maturity. The investigators found that adult bone mineral density was influenced by age at puberty onset, with greater bone mass linked to early puberty and less bone mass associated with later puberty. However, bone strength did not seem to be affected by how long puberty lasted. "Puberty has a significant role in bone development," study leader Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, director of clinical imaging at the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said in a hospital news release. "During this time, bones lengthen and increase in density. At the end of puberty the epiphyseal plates close, terminating the ability of the bones to lengthen. When this occurs, the teenager has reached their maximum adult height and peak bone mass," Gilsanz explained. Reduced bone mineral density leads to osteoporosis, which affects 55 percent of Americans aged 50 and older. The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers. The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. Pediatricians have long understood the role of pediatric bone development in osteoporosis prevention. The tween and teen years are critical for bone development because most bone mass accumulates during this time. In the years of peak skeletal growth, teenagers accumulate more than 25 percent of adult bone. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 17, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established. Following the teen years, bones continue to increase in density until a person is about age 30. The need for calcium in the diet. Calcium is critical to building bone mass to support physical activity throughout life and to reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially those due to osteoporosis. The onset of osteoporosis later in life is influenced by two important factors: •   Peak bone mass attained in the first two to three decades of life •   The rate at which bone is lost in the later years Although the effects of low calcium consumption may not be visible in childhood, lack of adequate calcium intake puts young people at increased risk for osteoporosis later in life. Other foods, including dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, are also healthy dietary sources of calcium. But, it takes 11 to 14 servings of kale to get the same amount of calcium in 3 or 4 8-ounce glasses of milk. In addition to calcium, milk provides other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development, including: •       Vitamins D, A, and B12 •       Potassium •       Magnesium •       Phosphorous •       Riboflavin •       Protein The role of physical activity in bone development. Weight-bearing physical activity helps to determine the strength, shape, and mass of bone. Activities such as running, dancing, and climbing stairs, as well as those that increase strength, such as weight lifting, can help bone development. For children and teenagers, some of the best weight-bearing activities include team sports, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and softball. Studies show that absence of physical activity results in a loss of bone mass, especially during long periods of immobilization or inactivity.

Your Baby

Benefits of Waiting to Clamp the Umbilical Cord

2:00

Could waiting just three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord after childbirth make a difference in your child’s motor and social skills? According to a new Swedish study, children of mothers that delay cord clamping, reap the benefits later in life – especially for boys.

Delaying cord clamping is already known to benefit babies by increasing iron levels in their blood for the first few months of life, researchers write in the most recent edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

“There is quite a lot of brain development just after birth,” said lead author Dr. Ola Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden. “Iron is needed for that process.”

For the study, researchers followed up on 263 Swedish children born at full term to healthy mothers about four years earlier.

As newborns, the children had been part of a larger study in which a total of 382 babies were randomly assigned to either early cord clamping (within 10 seconds of birth) or late cord clamping (at least three minutes after birth).

Four years later, the children were similarly intelligent regardless of when their cords had been clamped, but there were some notable differences.

“When you just meet a child, you wouldn’t see or notice any differences,” Andersson told Reuters Health. “But we could see the differences in fine motor function.”

The children were tested for IQ, motor skills and behavior. Parents also reported on their children’s communication, problem solving and social skills.

Results of the study showed that overall brain development and behavior scores were similar for both groups, and there was no significant difference in IQ scores.

However, more children in the delayed cord clamping group had a mature pencil grip on the fine motor skills test and better skills on some social aspects compared to those whose cords were clamped early.

Researchers found that boys benefitted much more than girls.

Iron deficiency is much more common among male infants than among females, Andersson said.

“Girls have higher iron stores when they are born,” he said.

Delaying cord clamping by three minutes allows an extra 3.5 ounces of blood to transfuse to the baby, which is equivalent to a half a gallon of blood for an adult, Andersson said.

“There’s a lot of iron in that volume,” he said. “Even three minutes can have quite a lot of effect on the iron in the blood in the body for a long time after birth.”

The new study provides evidence of benefit for full-term babies in a developed country where nutritional deficiency is extremely rare, Andersson said.

“When a baby transitions from inside the womb to outside the womb, if you think about what nature does, it is not to clamp the cord immediately,” said Dr. Heike Rabe of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and University Hospitals in the UK.

Why do doctors traditionally clamp the cord quickly? About 60 years ago, doctors began clamping the cord almost immediately because it was thought that it would reduce the risk of hemorrhage for the mother. Doctors now know that is not the case.

Even though the scientific understanding behind cord clamping has changed, it’s still difficult for some doctors to change how they’ve always done things.  Today, parents can have more say in how their baby is born and whom they choose to deliver their child.

Parents-to-be should discuss their wishes with their OB/GYN or family doctor ahead of time and weigh the pros and cons of delaying cord clamping for their particular birthing process.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/26/us-gynecology-pediatrics-cord-neurodevel-idUSKBN0OB2ET20150526

 

 

Your Toddler

Proof That Reading to Your Child is Good for Them

1:45

Not only do small children love being read to but a new study confirms that it is actually good for them.

Brain scans taken of 19 preschoolers whose parents regularly read to them showed heightened activity in important areas of the brain. Experts have long theorized that reading to young children on a consistent basis has a positive impact on their brain development; researchers say this study provides hard evidence that it does.

 The study’s leader Dr. John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,

 and his team used functional MRI scans to measure real-time brain activity in 19 children, aged 3 to 5 years, as they listened to stories and to sounds other than speech.

Parents were interviewed about "cognitive stimulation" at home, including how often they read to their children. Based on their responses, the number ranged from two nights a week to every night.

Overall, Hutton's team found, the more often children had story time at home, the more brain activity they showed while listening to stories in the research lab.

The impact was largely seen in the area of the brain that is used to obtain meaning from words. There was "particularly robust" activity, the researchers said, in areas where mental images are formed from what is heard.

"When children listen to stories, they have to put it all together in their mind's eye," Hutton explained.

Even though children's books have pictures, he added, that's different from watching all the action play out on a TV or computer screen.

When a child is listening to a story being read to them, they are engaging a different part of the brain than when they are passively sitting in front of a screen with images.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to read to their children every day, starting at birth. That pre-kindergarten time is a critical time for brain development, Hutton said. Other research has found that children with poor reading skills in first grade usually do not "catch up" with their peers.

Hutton believes that a traditional story time provides a critical "back-and-forth" between parents and children.

"It's not just a nice thing to do with your child," he said. "It's important to their cognitive, social and emotional development."

Reading to your child can help him or her build a lifelong relationship with the written word. That skill will help them be able to navigate more easily in school, later on in business and can bring hours of personal pleasure through the stories of gifted writers.

Source: Amy Norton, http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/brain-scans-show-why-reading-to-kids-is-good-for-them-701897.html

 

 

Your Baby

No Link Found Between Induced Labor and Autism

1:30

In 2013, a study suggested there might be a link between induced labor using a medication such as oxytocin, and a higher risk of the baby developing autism.  New research out of Boston, Massachusetts says there is no connection between the two.

"These findings should provide reassurance to women who are about to give birth, that having their labor induced will not increase their child's risk of developing autism spectrum disorders," said senior researcher Dr. Brian Bateman. He's an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Induced labor is sometimes needed when a mother’s labor stalls or the infant is endangered. Because of the former study, many women have had concerns about labor induction and the risk of autism.

Bateman's team of American and Swedish researchers, led by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, decided to investigate the issue.

They used a database on all live births in Sweden from 1992 through 2005, and looked at child outcomes for more than 1 million births through 2013, to identify any children diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition.

They also identified all the children's brothers, sisters and cousins on their mother's side of the family. The health of the children's mothers was also taken into account.

Eleven percent of the inductions were due to health complications such as preeclampsia, diabetes or high blood pressure. Twenty-three percent were induced because of late deliveries (after 40 weeks of pregnancy).

Results showed that 2 percent of the babies in the study were later diagnosed with autism.

When just looking at unrelated children, the researchers did find a link between induced labor and a greater risk for an autism spectrum disorder. This association disappeared, however, once they also considered the women's other children who were not born from an induced labor.

"When we used close relatives, such as siblings or cousins, as the comparison group, we found no association between labor induction and autism risk," said study author Anna Sara Oberg, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School.

Explaining further, she said in a university news release, "many of the factors that could lead to both induction of labor and autism are completely or partially shared by siblings -- such as maternal characteristics or socioeconomic or genetic factors." Therefore, Oberg said, "previously observed associations could have been due to some of these familial factors, not the result of induction."

Other experts have agreed with the new study’s findings.

"Pregnant women have enough things to worry about," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"If a woman's doctor recommends that labor be induced, the expectant mother should not worry about an increased risk of the child having an autism spectrum disorder," Adesman said.

If you have concerns about a connection between labor induction and autism, speak to your OB/GYN to learn more. 

The study was published in  in the July 25th online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/autism-news-51/induced-labor-won-t-raise-autism-risk-in-kids-study-suggests-713155.html

 

Your Child

More PE in School Linked to Higher Math Scores

1:45

Students in the Washington D.C. school system who spent more time doing physical activity also increased their standardized math scores significantly, according to a new study American University study.

A law passed in 2010, requires D.C. students to adhere to certain requirements regarding nutrition and physical activity at school to receive federal funding. They are also obligated to report how they implement these programs.

“This finding demonstrates that students’ academic performance improves when there’s a balance between time spent on physical education and time spent on learning,” said Stacey Snelling, dean of American University’s School of Education.

The study divided the city’s elementary schools into four groups based on how much physical education they offered: the lower 25 percent, lower-middle 25 percent, upper-middle 25 percent and upper 25 percent.

The researchers then took the average DC CAS math proficiency score, from the 2012-2013 school year, for each of these four groups and found that schools offering more physical activity posted higher math scores.

The upper 25 percent had an average of 151 minutes of physical education and saw an average math proficiency rate of 56.66. The lower 25 percent had an average of 29 minutes of physical education per week and an average math proficiency rate of 47.53. Some of the findings also were published in the academic journal Appetite. 

Researchers graded each school on how it implemented various aspects of the legislation — including building school gardens, serving healthy lunches and offering ample physical education time — on a 33-point scale. They found that, despite socioeconomic differences, there were no significant variations in how schools performed on the 33-point-scale across the District’s eight wards.

There were certain limitations pointed out in the findings. Researchers said that the data is based on schools’ self-reporting – which can leave room for errors. Several schools have also closed and opened during the five –year study, yielding inconsistent data.

D. C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who authored the original 2010 legislation, applauded the report’s findings, adding that although schools effectively provided more nutritious lunches, there is still more room for more physical ­activity.

“When children are fed and they are not hopping all around because their hungry, they’re better learners, and that’s translated throughout,” Cheh. “I was impressed with the findings.”

More schools across the country are taking a second look at adding back PE to students’ school week. Many schools have cancelled PE classes in order to use that time to prepare students for testing. As study after study comes in pointing out the benefits, including higher test scores, of children engaging in some sort of physical activity during the school day, school administrations are beginning take notice.

Source: Perry Stein, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/02/09/is-more-physical-education-at-school-linked-to-higher-student-math-scores/

 

Your Teen

Schools Start Too Early, Teens Sleep Deprived

2:00

It’s a battle that is picking up steam, whether to start school a little later so teenagers can get the sleep they need or keeping schedules as they are for the sake of planning before and after school activities.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that teenagers are biologically programmed to go to bed later than most adults and sleep later in the morning.

Last year, the AAP issued a set of guidelines recommending that school schedules are modified across the U.S. to start at 8.30 a.m. This way, children and teens would be able to meet the recommended sleep hours per night during school days.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same recommendations suggested that indeed, the biological rhythm of teenagers particularly is very different than that of adults. While they need 8 and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, their circadian rhythm doesn’t allow them to go to sleep before midnight or a little after.

School nights are particularly difficult for adolescents because in order to get the rest they need, they have to go to bed earlier than their minds and bodies are set to fall asleep.

The CDC released a new study supporting the recommendations of the AAP. According to the findings, 83 percent of U.S. schools still start before 8:30 a.m. On average, the starting time was calculated at 8:03 a.m., based on data collected from 39,700 combined schools, middle schools, and high schools between 2011-2012.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

The issue is driving a heated debate between supporters of later school start times and school administrators.

Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated:

“It makes absolutely no sense. You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake”.

On the other hand, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association stated with regards to changing school starting time:

“It’s a logistical nightmare. This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduation from school and going to college. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years”.

Some experts note that the long-term consequence of sleep deprivation is hurting our teens and has been for quite some time.

Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital suggests that chronically sleep deprivation characterizes the majority of today’s teens. This results in increased risk of onset depression, substance abuse, unhealthy BMIs. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation result in type 2 diabetes or heart diseases.

There are things that parents can do to help their teens at least rest better if they can’t fall asleep earlier. The first and foremost agitator for sleep is viewing or being on a computer or smartphone right before bed.

Recent studies have shown that the use of any electronic device in the hour before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. In particular, the use of a computer, smartphone or MP3 player in the hour before bedtime was strongly linked with taking longer to fall asleep.

Make your teen’s bedroom a quiet place that can be a retreat at night from busy schedules and social media.

Your teen can take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep his or her room cool (about 68 F) to cool down the body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.

Aromatherapy helps some people fall off to sleep. Certain scents are shown to be relaxing such as orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender. You can apply these oils before bed or put them on pillows, sheets or in potpourri. If candles are used, make sure they are put out before getting in bed. 

Having a regular schedule can help the body adjust. Going to bed at the same time each night can assist in adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm.  

More high schools are considering changing their schedules to a later start time, but currently most schools are keeping with the typical earlier schedules. You may not be able to convince the school board to start school at little later, but you can help your teen find what works for them at night to help them get the amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Sources: Bonnie Gleason, http://www.trinitynewsdaily.com/chronically-sleep-deprived-teens-need-schools-starting-time-changed/3209/

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/u-s-teens-start-school-too-early-need-more-sleep-study-1.2506322

http://teens.webmd.com/features/8-ezzz-sleep-tips-teens

 

 

 

Your Child

Pre-teen Cholesterol Check-Up

1.45 to read

Do you know your child’s cholesterol level? Unless you have a family history of high cholesterol, getting your child’s checked probably hasn’t been high on your list of medical exams.

A panel of experts appointed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are recommending that children be tested for high cholesterol by age eleven. They also recommend that children who are overweight, be screened every 2 years for diabetes.

Major medical groups already suggest children, with a family history of high cholesterol or diabetes, be screened early. Children without a family history of heart disease or diabetes have traditionally not been screened until their later years. Times have changed though and because of the childhood obesity epidemic many kids are developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes at a much younger age.

Fats build up in the heart arteries in the first and second decade of life but usually don't start hardening the arteries until people are in their 20s and 30s, said one of the guideline panel members, Dr. Elaine Urbina, director of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"If we screen at age 20, it may be already too late," she said. "To me it's not controversial at all. We should have been doing this for years."

An alarming statistic shows how destructive childhood obesity has become. Autopsy studies show that children already have signs of heart disease, long before they show symptoms. By the fourth grade, 10 percent to 13 percent of U.S. children have high cholesterol, defined as a score of 200 or more.

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program's Expert Panel on Blood Cholesterol in Children and Adolescents, the acceptable level for total cholesterol in kids 2 to 19 years old is less than 170 mg/dL. Their LDL cholesterol should be less than 110 mg/dL, HDL levels should be 35 mg/dL or greater, but preferably over 60, and triglycerides should be 150 mg/dL or less.

Doctors recommend screening between ages 9 and 11 because cholesterol dips during puberty and rises later. They also advise testing again later, between ages 17 and 21.

The rise in Type 2 diabetes, in children, has also increased in the last decade. It is hard to detect type 2 diabetes in children, because it can go undiagnosed for a long time; children may have no symptoms or mild symptoms; and because blood tests are needed for diagnosis. That’s why early screening is so important.

The guidelines also say doctors should:

  • Take yearly blood pressure measurements for children starting at age 3.
  • Start routine anti-smoking advice when kids are ages 5 to 9, and counsel parents of infants not to smoke in the home.
  • Review infants' family history of obesity and start tracking body mass index, or BMI, a measure of obesity, at age 2.

There has been some controversy over doctors using terms like overweight and obese when talking with parents and children about their weight. The panel suggests that these are medically correct terms and should be used so that parents and children understand the importance of the problem.

Children whose BMI is in the 85th to 95th percentile should be called overweight, not "at risk for overweight," and kids whose BMI is in the 95th percentile or higher should be called obese, not "overweight; even kids as young as age 2, the panel said.

"Some might feel that 'obese' is an unacceptable term for children and parents," so doctors should "use descriptive terminology that is appropriate for each child and family," the guidelines recommend.

They were released online by the journal Pediatrics.

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?

2:00

In the never–ending search for an answer as to why more Americans – from children to adults- are experiencing food allergies, several new studies suggest that the culprit could be too little fiber in our diets.  

According to the non-profit organization, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. That’s a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011. About 90 percent of people with food allergies are allergic to one of eight types of foods; peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, shellfish and fish. 

So, what is going on that so many people are suffering from food allergies, particularly children? That’s what researchers around the world are trying to find out.  Many studies are beginning to suggest that it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors.

A lack of dietary fiber in the diet may be one of those factors. The notion is based on the idea that bacteria in the gut have the enzymes needed to digest dietary fiber, and when these bacteria break down fiber, they produce substances that help to prevent an allergic response to foods, said Charles Mackay, an immunologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, the research related to this idea has been done mainly in mice, and dietary factors are unlikely to be the sole explanation for why allergy rates have skyrocketed, researchers say. But if the results were to be replicated in human studies, they would suggest that promoting the growth of good gut bacteria could be one way to protect against, and possibly even reverse, certain allergies, researchers say.

The modern western diet, high in fat, sugar and refined carbs seems to produce a different kind of bacteria in the gut that may be liked to food allergies.  Fiber such as beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, vegetables and brown rice promote the growth of a class of bacteria called Clostridia, which break down fiber and are some of the biggest producers of byproducts called short-chain fatty acids.

In a 2011 study in the journal Nature, researchers found that these short-chain fatty acids normally prevent gut cells from becoming too permeable, and letting food particles, bacteria or other problematic compounds move into the blood.

An overabundance of antibiotic use may also be contributing to food allergies. Not only are people being over-prescribed, we may also be getting extra doses in some of our foods.

Antibiotics, which are widely used in agriculture and for treating ear infections in babies and toddlers, kill the bacteria in the gut. So the combination of antibiotics and low-fiber diets may be a "double whammy," that predisposes people to allergic responses, notes said Cathryn Nagler, a food allergy researcher at the University of Chicago.

The new findings also suggest a way to prevent, or possibly even reverse some allergies. For instance, allergy treatments could use probiotics that recolonize the gut with healthy forms of Clostridia, Nagler said.

In fact, in a small study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that children with peanut allergies who received probiotics were able to eat the nut without having an allergic reaction, and their tolerance to peanuts persisted even after the treatment.

Many factors may contribute to the rise in food allergies, said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Epidemiological studies have found that having pets, going to day care, having a sibling, being born vaginally and even washing dishes by hand can affect the risk of allergies.

As more and more research is being conducted on food allergies, a bigger picture is starting to emerge about possible causes. Pediatricians and family physicians are keeping a close eye on the new findings to better help their patients. Some of those findings are changing the way physicians are treating food allergies.

For years, doctors told parents of children at a high risk of developing allergies to wait until the children were 3 years old before giving them peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods, Wood said.

"We really thought we knew what we were doing, and it turns out it was 100 percent wrong," Wood said.

If your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about adding more dietary fiber or probiotics to your child’s diet. However, it’s not recommended that you “experiment” on your own because some children’s health problems can be made worse from probiotic use or too much fiber. Be sure and check with your doctor first.

Sources: Tia Ghose, http://www.livescience.com/50046-fiber-reduce-allergies.html

http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

What is baby led weaning when it comes to first foods?

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