Can Food Allergies Be Prevented?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2022

If someone in your family has allergies, the risk of food allergies goes up for you and your children. But things other than genetics affect whether people develop food allergies. How you live, what you eat, and what surrounds you may all impact food allergies. You may be able to make choices today to help prevent food allergies in the future.1

Build your immune system

A strong immune system can protect us from food allergies. Research has found that some people have stronger immune systems. This includes those who:2,3

  • Came into the world through the birth canal instead of a C-section
  • Had siblings
  • Grew up on a farm
  • Had a pet with fur
  • Went to a daycare between ages 0 and 2

No matter how your life started, you can still take action to avert food allergies. To help boost your immune system:2,3

  • Eat an array of healthy foods that contain vital nutrients
  • Get enough vitamin D
  • Take prebiotics and probiotics that improve gut health
  • Limit the use of antibiotics

Breastfeed if possible

What children consume is vital from the moment they are born. Food is the main source of the nutrients their bodies need to grow and function well. Their intake early on can help steer them away from food allergies.

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Breast milk is the best first food. This natural liquid is full of nutrients that nourish the body and strengthen the immune system. Studies have shown decreased asthma, eczema, and wheezing in babies who drank only breastmilk in their first 6 months of life.1,3,4

Babies can drink infant formula if breastmilk cannot be given. But these lab-made formulas do not offer all the protective benefits of breastmilk. Among infant formulas, hydrolyzed versions may be a better choice. These are easier to digest. They are also less likely to trigger the allergic responses that cow’s milk and soy formulas sometimes do.1,2

Feed children allergenic foods early

For years, people thought shielding babies from allergenic foods would lower their risk of developing food allergies. This idea also applied to babies in the womb. But research has proven otherwise.1,2,4

In fact, eating common allergenic foods early on may protect against some food allergies. This pertains to both mothers and their babies. Studies show that women who are pregnant and breastfeeding can eat foods such as fish and nuts that tend to induce allergies. Avoiding such foods during these formative times does not lessen their baby’s risk of food allergies.1,2,4

Waiting a year to give allergenic foods to babies does not lower their risk of food allergies either. Babies can start eating the foods that often cause allergies at the same time as other solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests offering solid foods to babies around 4 to 6 months of age. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases agrees with this guidance.1,2,4

Research has proven that giving allergenic foods to babies after (but not before) 4 months of age can in fact lower the risk of developing food allergies.3,5

One study found fewer egg allergies in babies who ate cooked eggs between 6 to 8 months of age. The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) trial in the United Kingdom found that early introduction of peanuts in babies aged 4 to 12 months who had egg allergy or severe eczema reduced the rate of developing peanut allergy by age 5.3,5

If food allergies concern you, talk with your doctor. A medical expert with knowledge of allergies, asthma, and the immune system can order allergy tests for you and your children. They can explain the results and then advise on treatment and prevention of food and other allergies.