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Food for Thought During Pregnancy

After more than a decade of research, current findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest expectant mothers should limit their consumption of peanuts in the third trimester to avoid potential food intolerance in their children.

Up to 8 percent of children age 4 and younger have food sensitivities, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Concern about this trend has prompted research into the connection between a mother’s diet and her child’s sensitivity to particular foods.

“After more than a decade of research, results are inconclusive about foods other than peanuts,” says Antonio Asis, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton. “Peanut butter is a great food for pregnancy because it is loaded with the protein and fat necessary for proper growth of a baby’s brain and nerves. Expectant mothers should eat a balanced diet, including any and all foods that help ensure healthy development of their growing children. However, there are studies that recommend the consumption of peanuts in the third trimester should be avoided.”

A healthy diet for expectant mothers is not much different from recommendations other adults should follow. Women who are planning to conceive or who might become pregnant should refrain from drinking alcohol and smoking and take a vitamin supplement that contains 0.4 milligrams of folic acid to reduce the risk for neural tube defects, according to Dr. Asis.

Other features of a healthy diet for pregnancy include:

• Adequate protein sources, including beans, eggs, some fish, poultry, lean beef, legumes and nuts

• Fruit

• Healthy fats and oils found in avocado, nuts, canola oil and olive oil

• Low-fat dairy, including milk, cheese and yogurt

• Vegetables

• Whole grains, including bread, pasta and rice

“Aside from peanuts, eliminating potential allergens that are currently affecting siblings is not recommended for pregnant mothers,” Dr. Asis says.

He also points out that mothers who breastfeed exclusively for at least four months reduce the risk of exposure to food allergens for their infants. In cases where another child has food allergies, breastfeeding mothers should not avoid these allergens unless a physician can confirm a food allergy in the infant. Only then should the allergen be avoided. Lastly, breastfeeding moms may consider a maternal diet low in allergenic content for a colicky infant less than 6 weeks old. Dr. Asis advises women to share their concerns with their physicians regarding appropriate nutrition for optimal weight gain and fetal development when and should they arise.

Although research is inconclusive about the relationship between a mother’s diet and her child’s likelihood of developing allergies to
particular foods (except peanuts), physicians agree that certain foods should be avoided or limited during pregnancy. According to the
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these include:

• Hot dogs and cold cuts (unless served piping hot)

• Soft, unpasteurized cheese and uncooked fish or shellfish, which can harbor listeria, bacteria that can cause stillbirth or miscarriage

• Cold-water fish, such as king mackerel, shark and tuna, which can contain high levels of mercury (however, eating up to 12 ounces
per week has been deemed safe during pregnancy)

To find an obstetrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Denton, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) or visit TexasHealth.org/FindaPhysician.

(Summer 2011)

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