Question: I am in dire need of some help. I have a 4-month-old who is covered with eczema, which the doctors are saying is allergy related. She has been tested, and her allergies are wheat, soy, milk and egg white. We have tried all the infant formulas available in stores to no avail, so now I am looking for alternatives.
Dr. Linda Folden Palmer responds: The store formulas that are designed for allergic babies are Alimentum and Nutramigen. The milk protein in these formulas is hydrolyzed, meaning it’s broken down into smaller pieces that the body no longer recognizes as cow protein. These work for many allergic formula-fed babies, but not all. These formulas are only partially hydrolyzed and some small allergenic pieces still remain. The most highly reactive babies still have problems with these incompletely hydrolyzed formulas.
Most formulas, including the above allergy formulas, contain corn products. Corn is another common allergen in babies. Formulas are typically sweetened with dextrose, maltodextrin or corn syrup solids, all of which are derived from corn. You likely don’t know whether your baby is reacting to corn, as it’s often not tested for in allergy testing. Allergy testing is only about 70 percent accurate anyway. Only the liquid Alimentum has no corn products. Even if your baby has reacted to the powdered Alimentum, do try the liquid version. You just might be successful.
Sucrose is a safe (non-allergenic) formula sweetener. Lactose is actually the healthiest sweetener for infant formula, but it is not used in allergy formulas because of common misunderstanding about lactose tolerance in babies. Also, an intestine that is highly irritated from allergy reactions or illness may actually become temporarily lactose intolerant.
If the liquid Alimentum does not work for your baby, you will want to ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend the most extensively hydrolyzed formula available. This effort may be futile, however, and the formula may still contain corn. I don’t believe there are actually any better ones available in North America these days. There are good ones available in Europe and other parts of the world. I do know a couple of mothers who have formula shipped to them from Europe. There are also meat-based formulas available in Europe that prove to be successful for some highly allergic babies.
Metagenics makes a completely allergen-free medical food for children: www.ultrabalance.com..... This is not a complete formula for an infant. It needs to be supplemented with some protein and fat. A medical doctor, chiropractor or possibly nutritionist can order this product for you.
Some mothers ask about goat’s milk formula recipes for their babies who are allergic to other formulas. Typically, a baby who develops an allergy to cow’s milk proteins eventually develops allergy to goat proteins as well, but not all do. Especially before the age of 4 months, goat’s milk formula is a very risky choice, as the goat’s milk is very inappropriate for babies in many ways - allowing baby to suffer kidney damage or other severe conditions. There are a few recipes online for goat’s milk formulas. None of them are ideal nutritionally, but may be an option now that your baby is 4 months old. I discuss goat’s milk further here.
Your only other option is to attempt to considerably reduce the amount of formula in your 4-month-old baby’s diet by carefully selecting a healthy solid food diet. The diet should be based chiefly on baby food vegetables and meats, with fortified rice cereal for grains and some deep-colored fruits. I know that some families are vegetarian; however, at this age, if your baby cannot have milk or egg then she needs to have meat for proper development. Your baby then needs water to drink. Don’t give juice. The sugar load is too high and there is no fiber. An added multi-vitamin supplement is a good idea if formula consumption is low.
Every new food needs to be introduced one at a time. Watch for allergic reactions with four consecutive introductions of a new food before another new food is given with it. Because you already know your child is prone to food reactions, you will want to wait for a few years before attempting to introduce peanuts, shellfish or foods containing sulfites. Wait for at least two years before trying citrus fruits, chocolate, strawberries or tomatoes. If your baby is allergic to wheat, there is a possibility that she will have a problem with other gluten-containing grains: barley, rye and oats. Wait to try any of these grains and watch carefully after many introductions of these to see if baby has any stool changes or other symptoms. If she does, you will need to report these to your doctor.
Give your baby dairy-free probiotics, a combination of acidophilus, bifidus and other good natural bacteria. These will help your baby’s intestines heal from the allergic reactions and may help her overcome the allergic reactions slightly. Omega-3 oils are helpful with the inflammatory reaction in the intestine and are highly valuable to baby’s diet anyway. Your best options are cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, salmon (watch for allergies) or walnut butter.
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