Allergy Bites: Tasty Nuggets for Preventing Allergies

Dr. Greene’s take on preventing allergies…

Many parents still hear the advice that it’s better to wait to introduce fish to babies until their first birthdays, or even their second. I disagree! And a growing body of evidence suggests that starting fish between 6 and 12 months results in fewer allergies – both in the short run and by the time they become teens.

Giving babies and toddlers fish a couple of times a week, or even a couple of times a month, may be one of the best tips for preventing allergies.

And perhaps today’s babies and toddlers eating less fish is even one of the reasons allergies have been going up in kids overall, potentially from a decrease of omega-3 fats in the diet. This includes food allergies, pet allergies, and pollen allergies.

Babies’ regularly eating fish before the first birthday could also result in less eczema at age 4. Who doesn’t want better skin?

Another study last year found a window from 6-12 months (earlier or later wasn’t as good), where if babies were introduced to eating fish, they were less likely to have asthma or wheezing symptoms later in preschool. Who doesn’t want to breathe easier?

The longest study I’ve seen yet followed thousands of children from their first birthdays all the way until they were 12 years old. It will appear in the June 2013 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Those kids who were already enjoying fish at least twice a month by the first birthday were less likely to have allergies every year thereafter.

My favorite fish for kids is wild (or sockeye, or Alaska, or Pacific) salmon, fresh or even canned, twice a week. You can prepare the pouched or canned salmon as if it were tuna. But check out the NRDC pocket seafood guide for lots of great suggestions. And here are some some recipes.

Bon appetit!

Bonus tip: Reduced tobacco exposure and increased eating of oily fish during pregnancy and early childhood are all linked to fewer allergies.

Jarvinen KM and Sicherer SH. Prediction, Prevention, and the “Hygiene Hypothesis”: Fish Consumption during the First Year of Life and Development of Allergic Diseases during Childhood. Pediatrics. Nov 2007; 120:S109.

Kiefte-de Jong JC, de Vries JH, Franco OH, Jaddoe VW, Hofman A, Raat H, de Jongste JC and Moll HA. Fish Consumption in Infancy and Asthma-like Symptoms at Preschool Age. Pediatrics. Dec 2012; 130(6):1060-8.

Magnusson J, Kull I, Rosenlund H, Hakansson N, Wolk A, Melen E, Wickman M, and Bergstrom A. Fish Cosumption in Infancy and Development of Allergic Disease up to Age 12Y. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jun 2013. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.045377

Oien T, Storro O, and Johnsen R. Do Early Intake of Fish and Fish Oil Protect Against Eczema and Doctor-Diagnosed Asthma at 2 Years of Age? A Doctor Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Feb 2010; 64(2):124-9.

Published on: May 04, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
Add your comment

Recent Comments

Thank you for this information. As a feeding therapist who deals with clinically picky and selective eaters this will be valuable information to pass along. I will also pass along to the parents in my “Learning to Feed for Success” seminars.

I tend to prefer whole foods, where possible, because they often contain other co-factors we have yet to understand. But having said that, high quality fermented cod liver oil could correct some of the imbalances in the modern diet – and may have similar benefits to whole fish.