A large number of patients in my practice present with allergy related problems: eczema, hay fever, sinusitis, ear infections, asthma, arthritis, headaches, and various digestive problems. Many of these patients are children. One of the best ways to prevent the development of allergies in children is to introduce solid foods according to a schedule which corresponds with the ability of the digestive system to fully digest and tolerate them.
The purpose of digestion is to break foods into non-allergic simple sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. Babies are unable to do this efficiently until the age of six months or so, and the notion that solids help them sleep better at night is just a myth. They will sleep well when their digestive system is healthy. The more mature the infant’s digestive system is at the time of introduction of solid foods, the more likely they will be able to tolerate them. It is now well established that breast feeding is the best food for infants and should be continued until either the mother or infant wants to wean. The introduction of solid foods, especially those which have been shown to create many food reactions, should be delayed as long as possible. Foods should be introduced in small amounts, one at a time. New foods should be given not more than once every four days, while observing for any reactions such as sneezing, rashes, a change in stool, or a behavioral change. Give only a bite the first time, increasing the amount with each feeding if no adverse effects are observed.
Further research needs to be conducted to determine the best schedule for the introduction of solids, but until this is available it would be prudent to go by the following guidelines which are based on the collective experience of numerous naturopathic physicians who work extensively with infants and children.
- Carrots, poi, yams, squash, and zucchini are vegetables which are generally well tolerated. Beans, spinach, and peas should not be given before 12 months of age. Tomato and corn should be withheld until 24 months.
- Raw fruit, other than very ripe bananas, should not be introduced before 12 months of age. Apples, peaches, and citrus fruits should be the last fruits introduced. Pears, plums and apricots are believed to be among the least sensitizing and best tolerated.
- Rice or oats cereal, mixed with water or breast milk, may be the best grain to start the infant on at about nine months of age. Wheat, eggs and cow’s milk should not be given to an infant before 21 months of age.
The following schedule includes some healthy foods and their approximate time of introduction.
6 months: hypoallergenic, pureed, mashed foods containing iron; 1-2 tablespoons per day
carrots, poi, squash, yam, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, Jerusalem artichoke, sprouts (blended in water)
7 1/2 months: cooked fruits; 2-3 T/day
kiwi, pears, prunes, cherries , banana blackberries, grapes, applesauce
9 months: foods high in zinc and good for the immune system; 2-4 T/day
sweet potato, cabbage, oatmeal, papaya, potato, blueberries, lima beans, string beans, nectarine, peach, black strap molasses, split pea soup, millet, plum, rice cereal, beets
12 months: foods high in zinc and bulk; 4-10 T/day
acorn squash, barley, chard, tofu, yogurt, parsnips, asparagus, avocado, egg yolk, rice, goat’s milk, quinoa ( a grain), barley, buckwheat
18 months: foods high in B vitamins and calcium
tahini, lamb, greens, kelp, eggplant, rye, beet greens, chicken, rutabaga, beans, fish, buckwheat, spinach, spelt & teff (grains)
21 months: foods high in protein, almond butter, egg, turkey, walnuts, wheat, cornish hen, beef liver, cashew butter, pineapple, orange, brewer’s yeast, cow’s milk
2 – 3 years old: sunflower seeds, corn, peanut butter, clams, soy, cottage cheese, lentils, tomato, cheese, beef