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Could what mom eats prevent food allergies in baby?

As a new mama, I seem to have landed smack dab in the middle of confusion over whether to delay or introduce common allergens to baby. Enviable position?

Not so much. You see, my son had a bad reaction to dairy proteins that I ate and he subsequently got through my breast milk. It wasn’t the colic that clued me in. Nor the excessive spitting up. Or the diarrhea. As a first-time mom, I just thought that babies cried, vomited and pooped. A lot. But when he got eczema at 3-months-old, I finally got suspicious. A quick elimination diet led to the answer: no more dairy for me or baby.

I wish I had caught on earlier. That’s why I’m excited to see more research on this issue. And you should be, too, because moms—and soon-to-be moms—will likely come to natural products retailers for guidance on what to eat and what to take during this period of their lives. By offering sound advice, you can turn them into lifelong customers.

A new study in The Journal of Physiology found that if a pregnant woman eats a particular fatty acid—in this case, linseed oil, but the fats are also found in more palatable foods like fish, flaxseed, walnuts, avocados and soybeans—the baby’s gut becomes more permeable. This porousness apparently allows bacteria to pass through the gut lining into the bloodstream, thereby triggering baby’s immune response and antibody production. The potential end result? A more mature immune system to ward off food allergies.

But wait a second. Before you guarantee this outcome to your customers, beware that this study was done on pigs. Will the outcome convert to humans? We don't know yet. And will any digestive benefits extend into later life?

Regardless, flaxseed, walnuts and avocados all contain essential fats for pregnant women—and anyone. Fish also have healthy fats, but because of potential contamination, pregnant women should eat only certain species and should take only supplements that are free of pollutants.

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