I have always wondered about how a mother’s food sensitivity or allergy affects the unborn child in her womb. I’ve looked for research about it and found little to none. What there is has pretty much cemented my thought that there is a chance that immune systems and babies don’t really mix too well. It also told me that they really need to do more research.
Then I got pregnant. It will be my first child.
Suddenly my absent concern developed into a more immediate desire to know. So I went online and looked up allergy and pregnancy. Would you believe it? There is very little about such a thing. All of the main sites say “oh don’t worry too much.”
I have to take this with a grain of salt. Doctors and experts historically have said “don’t worry” as a matter of course to pregnant women over the years right up until research comes in saying “Oh there is a concern here”: thalidomide, ether, forceps, smoking, drinking and DDT all spring to mind. So I went another route: I looked at the immune system, and then I looked at baby development and made some logical leaps.
The immune system is very important in the body and consists of quite a few organs including (as far as we know) the skin, digestive system, and all of it’s bacteria, brain, mucus membranes, liver, kidneys, adenoids, tonsils, lymph and blood systems, and pancreas. The immune system uses hormones in sophisticated ways to talk to all of the systems and protect the body from almost every threat known to humankind that does not involve sharp objects, falling branches, wild animals, or murder. Research has shown that our immune system when engaged can change how we process vitamins, control our moods and can influence weather we come down with cancer or stay healthy. It looks like there really isn’t an aspect of life, that our immune system doesn’t influence.
There has been considerably more research done into human baby development than I could ever read. Probably because babies are so cute and there is just so much going on in the mother’s body building a little new human. We now know that the way the baby and the mother communicate in utero is via hormones, and that the hormones that a baby encounters in its mother change its development, sometimes substantially– even when in tiny amounts.
Growing a tiny human is an almost magical feat, and everything needs to run along a very complex and very specific course or else the developing baby can be damaged. The results of influencing factors have been dramatic and surprising. Small amounts of chemicals thought to be harmless can have devastating effects, whereas relatively large amounts of the same chemicals can do little damage. While this is fascinating in theory, what about in application to my question about allergies and baby development?
Applying some logic to this situation I think I can safely assume that if the mother’s immune system is triggered by a food sensitivity or allergy there will be consequences for a baby being grown inside her. What those consequences might be are hard to determine. Epigenetics is a tiny field at the moment but it is possible that the changes made to the baby will only be felt by its grandchildren but there could also be changes to it’s immune system or its nervous system development. Those changes could be positive or they could be detrimental; we don’t know.
There is no question that eating foods that set off allergies can compromise health for the mother. Healing from that sort of damage takes energy. The thing we can say for sure is that if the mother’s immune system is triggered when she is pregnant, her need for the basic building blocks of hormones and her energy needs will be increased substantially. This means that she will need more nutrition and calories to successfully perform both the function of healing and growing the baby. Her body will have to make some tough decisions if there isn’t enough to go around. It has been shown that compromising pregnant mothers access to proper nutrition and calories can reduce birth weight, and compromise babies and mothers survival rates during delivery. I don’t know if one exposure can cause enough of a problem to mothers health to increase risks during pregnancy and delivery but it seems to me that any increase in risk is not something a mother wants for herself or her child.
Thus my conclusion. It seems best to avoid any known food or allergen that compromises mother’s health during pregnancy and nursing. If there is a suspected allergy or a known immune system reaction happening during pregnancy, pregnant mothers might want to consider increasing their nutrition and decreasing their allergic and toxic load. For example eating more foods high in vitamins like liver and green leafy vegetables and avoiding toxins that can have a draining effects on the body’s liver and pancreas such as chlorine and fluoride.
I am personally going to not eat anything that I know has a substance that might be toxic for me or my baby. That means no oils of any sort, or oil derivatives. I’m going to be very strict about my no MSG, ‘spices’ or ‘flavoring’ rule too because of the possibility of them being contaminated by an oil derivative. Unfortunately I have already exposed my unborn baby to an oil derivative unknowingly. When I first got pregnant I made a lot of bread from bulk yeast. I only found out that yeast had that derivative in the third month. I stopped eating it immediately. I saw no obvious harm in my own health but I’m afraid I will always wonder about that.
I’ve also been pretty careful about jumping on my allergic reactions by taking extra vitamins and eating well to make sure my body has what it needs to to take care of itself as well as the growing little one. As for the rest of it, I’m taking the mainstream media’s advice and not worrying too much about it because a happy mama makes for a healthy baby and I do want a healthy baby.