Allergy PreventionMore and more people develop their first allergy during infancy. The catalyst is ­often a harmless vegetable or animal protein yet those affected may suffer from allergies throughout their whole lives. This cycle might be broken by breastfeeding or using hypoallergenic (HA) infant formula.

HYPOALLERGENIC INFANT FORMULA

As a baby, Lena* suf­fered from stom­ach ache and wind. The lit­tle girl cried fre­quently and for long pe­ri­ods. Her help­less par­ents would spend hours lov­ingly rock­ing their child to sleep. After a few months the wind was gone. But it was re­placed by an itchy rash all over her body, oth­er­wise known as neu­ro­der­mati­tis. Lena’s im­mune sys­tem seemed to be out of bal­ance and the root of the prob­lem ap­peared to be a cow milk pro­tein. Lena suf­fered from chronic neuroder­matitis for ten years – with vary­ing lev­els of sever­ity. At the age of 14, the young girl had a re­ac­tion to birch and hazel pollen. Two years later the pollen ­allergy de­vel­oped into a food al­lergy with hives.

Lena’s ex­pe­ri­ence is shared by many chil­dren. An in­ter­na­tional study shows that 17 per cent of all one to two year olds suf­fer from neu­ro­der­mati­tis, which often de­vel­ops into a suc­ces­sion of al­ler­gies, known as an “al­ler­gic march”. Symp­to­matic of this phe­nom­e­non is the child’s first de­vel­op­ment of neu­ro­der­mati­tis, fre­quently brought on by an­i­mal or veg­etable pro­teins such as cow’s milk, hen’s eggs and wheat. This might be be­cause these pro­teins are the first for­eign anti­gens that an in­fant or small child in­gests. This is fre­quently fol­lowed in pu­berty by al­ler­gic asthma or hay fever and then later, in adult life, by an in­sect venom al­lergy. How­ever, sci­en­tific stud­ies show that this se­quence of ill­nesses only oc­curs in 50 per cent of cases. It did not apply to Lena. She was lucky and did not suf­fer from in­sect venom al­ler­gies.

Lena is cur­rently free of all symp­toms and her own daugh­ter has been healthy for a num­ber of years. This might be be­cause Lena con­sciously opted for pre­ven­tive mea­sures. She breast­fed her child for six months and then moved on to hy­poal­ler­genic for­mula on her doc­tor’s ad­vice. Lena was also cau­tious when start­ing with solids. She in­tro­duced new foods at three to four day in­ter­vals to mon­i­tor any re­ac­tions. It’s pos­si­ble that these pre­cau­tions helped Lena to break her daugh­ter’s own al­ler­gic cycle."

Hered­i­tary fac­tors and changed en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions in­flu­ence the im­mune sys­tem

Sci­en­tists are still un­sure why the im­mune sys­tem some­times has a strong re­ac­tion to harm­less al­ler­gens, de­fend­ing it­self against them. Ex­perts sus­pect that hered­i­tary fac­tors play a role in the dis­po­si­tion to­wards al­ler­gies as the risk of suf­fer­ing from an al­lergy is very un­evenly dis­trib­uted. If both par­ents are healthy the risk is five to fif­teen per cent. If both par­ents are prone to al­ler­gies the risk rises to 80 per cent.

Over the past 20 years, a grow­ing pat­tern has emerged where chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly those from the industri­al­ised na­tions, show greater sen­si­tiv­ity to al­lergy, even where there is no fam­ily his­tory of the prob­lem. A quar­ter of the Swiss pop­u­la­tion now suf­fers from al­ler­gies – and it is a grow­ing trend. Nu­tri­tional spe­cial­ists now sus­pect that im­prove­ments in hy­giene are hav­ing a neg­a­tive ef­fect on our re­sis­tance to al­lergy. If cer­tain bac­te­ria are ab­sent in an en­vi­ron­ment that is too clean, our im­mune sys­tem may feel un­der­used due to a lack of “nat­ural en­e­mies”. It at­tacks harm­less en­vi­ron­men­tal al­ler­gens for no ap­par­ent rea­son. Sci­en­tists are now try­ing to es­tab­lish which bac­te­ria cause a re­ac­tion in the im­mune sys­tem.

Breast­feed­ing or hy­poal­ler­genic in­fant for­mula might break the cycle of the ‘al­ler­gic march’ to some ex­tent.

In­fants more sus­cep­ti­ble to al­ler­gens than adults

A child’s im­mune and di­ges­tive sys­tem plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in food al­ler­gies. The im­mune sys­tem is still im­ma­ture at birth. It has to de­velop and learn to dis­tin­guish be­tween harm­less and life-threat­en­ing sub­stances. Ma­ter­nal al­ler­gens help in this process. The in­fant ab­sorbs a min­i­mum amount of al­ler­gens via breast milk. This helps the di­ges­tive sys­tem to de­velop tol­er­ance for harm­less sub­stances. A child’s in­testi­nal wall is also vul­ner­a­ble to al­ler­gens. It is more porous in the first 24 months than in later life. Up to this point, in­fants and small chil­dren also in­gest larger pro­tein mol­e­cules that have not yet been bro­ken down through the in­testi­nal mu­cosa. This re­sults in an in­creased risk of al­lergy from pro­tein-rich foods such as cow’s milk, hen’s eggs or wheat, which is why breast­feed­ing is the best form of al­lergy pro­tec­tion, at least in the first six months of life.

HA in­fant for­mula helps re­duce al­lergy risk

But what is the so­lu­tion if the in­fant has a fam­ily his­tory of al­ler­gic re­ac­tion and the mother is ei­ther un­able or un­will­ing to con­tinue breast­feed­ing? Or if the in­fant is one of the two to three per cent of chil­dren who have a neg­a­tive re­ac­tion to cow’s milk.

HA in­fant and fol­low-on for­mula can have a pre­ven­tive ef­fect with re­gard to food al­ler­gies. They con­sist of split, eas­ily-di­gestible larger and smaller milk pro­tein com­po­nents, in con­trast to the con­ven­tional in­fant and fol­low-on for­mu­las, which con­tain whole milk pro­teins. The split milk pro­tein com­po­nents con­tained in the HA in­fant for­mula trick the in­fant’s im­mune sys­tem. It no longer iden­ti­fies the in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents as a po­ten­tial threat. This makes it pos­si­ble for chil­dren to avoid the typ­i­cal al­lergy pro­gres­sion as they grow up, al­low­ing their im­mune sys­tems to de­velop with­out inter­ference. HA milk pro­duced by HOCHDORF Swiss Nu­tri­tion also con­tain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty ­acids as well as pre­bi­otics and nu­cleotides: all sub­stances that are im­por­tant for the ideal de­vel­op­ment ­of the im­mune and di­ges­tive sys­tem.

Pro­duc­ing good HA in­fant for­mula is dif­fi­cult

It is hard to pro­duce an HA for­mula that tastes good and has the ideal con­sis­tency. It re­quires ex­per­tise, med­ical know-how and an ex­pe­ri­enced touch. The in­fant for­mula can be­come bit­ter if the milk pro­teins are split in­ap­pro­pri­ately, for in­stance. The milk pro­teins that are split into par­ti­cles can be poorly dis­trib­uted in the for­mula due to their un­even mol­e­c­u­lar weight, which neg­a­tively im­pacts the taste. HOCHDORF’s HA for­mula does not have this prob­lem. The con­stituents are ide­ally dis­trib­uted; the HA in­fant for­mula is there­fore just as creamy as con­ven­tional in­fant for­mula. Reg­u­lar blind tast­ings con­firm: HOCHDORF’s HA in­fant for­mula is pop­u­lar with chil­dren!

So you can give any in­fant HA for­mula with­out a sec­ond thought. To en­sure the best pos­si­ble al­lergy ­therapy and pre­vent the al­ler­gic march, as in the case of Lena’s daugh­ter how­ever, it is still ad­vis­able to ­consult a doc­tor or al­ler­gist first.


 Further Information

 

* Note: Names have been changed

 
Sources Selene K. Bantz, Zhou Zhu, Tao Zheng (2014): Progression from Atopic Dermatitis to Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma M. V. Kopp, H. Ott (2014): Genetik, Epidemiologie und Prävention (Genetics, Epidemiology and Prevention) Deutsche Haut- und Allergiehilfe e.V. (German Skin and Allergy Support), http://www.dha-allergien.de Stiftung aha! Allergiezentrum Schweiz (Swiss Allergy Centre), http://www.aha.ch

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