A new study reveals that a sweet tooth during pregnancy significantly raises the child’s risk of allergies, allergic asthma, eczema and total IgE (the stuff involved in allergies). Since histamine and mast cells are both linked to all of these conditions, it’s possible that our mother’s diet played a role in the development of histamine intolerance or mast cell activation.
A number of theories for the dramatic rise in allergies and asthma in the last few decades have been proposed, with particular focus on a decline in antioxidant rich foods. Read more about how antioxidants act as antihistamines here. The over use of antibiotics has also been explored, and linked.
Now the tide is shifting to ask whether it’s actually what we’ve added to the diet that’s causing the problem.
Between 1970 and 2000 there was a twenty five percent increase in US consumption of refined sugar. We have known for some time of a link between overdoing it with sugary drinks and fruit juice and asthma, as revealed most recently by a Danish study which found a link between soft drinks and allergic rhinitis (runny, stuffy nose!).
Now, using data from nearly nine thousand mother-child pairs, the London-based researchers of this latest sugar study found that there was a general correlation between refined sugar and allergies.
Children born to women with the highest intake of sugar during their pregnancy had a nearly 40% higher risk of allergies.
Kids born to these mothers had more than a 70% increased risk of reacting to two or more allergens. Kids with moms in the highest sugar consumption segment were twice as likely to develop allergic asthma.
My mother is a sugar junky, so I wasn’t surprised to see this study.
I’m a sugar junky too (but in recovery). I’d like to think I’d have the strength to stay away from it if pregnant, if only because it really exhausts me. But my mother didn’t have this information when she was pregnant.
There’s no quicker way to completely suck the life out of me than by sneaking some sugar onto my plate.
That doesn’t mean that I totally avoid it.
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transitioning from a high sugar diet
In my experience it’s more of a gentle withdrawal than a sudden yanking of a cornerstone of our modern (unhealthy) diet. The first to go is obviously the highly refined white sugar in processed foods.
Try using some brown sugar instead, or better yet, coconut sugar. Though high in fructose, this sugar is actually a sap from the coconut tree. It has a lower glycemic index (GI), which technically means it has less of an effect on blood sugar, though many would argue against its use because of fructose’s effect on the liver. Read more about the liver, histamine and sugar here.
Agave is so highly processed that I really regret ever having believed it was a healthier alternative. When I need a liquid sweetener I go for raw date syrup nowadays. You can make it at home by soaking dates in water for a few hours, pitting them and then blending with some water or coconut oil. It’s not low GI by any means, but it is a healthier alternative to syrups that have no fiber.
If you’re ready for something a little more hardcore, try using only whole fruits in your baking. There’s some wonderful recipes out there on the internet and I’ll be sharing some in the coming months as I go this route myself.
Interestingly, according to studies, one easy hack to fight insulin spikes may be to eliminate meat (or processed, not grass fed meats). Although there’s plenty of debate surrounding that, I do know that when undergoing treatment for the breast cancer I’m now in remission from, I was advised to stay clear of animal protein for its duration at the very least.
This is because the fasting program I was on is designed to lower insulin growth factor (IGF-1), a driving force in cancer, and meat triggers its release. You can read about my experience in beating triple negative breast cancer here and about fasting’s effect on the histamine degrading diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme here.
NATURAL SWEETENERS, my take on them (but if you’re fine with something, go with it!)
Erythritol/xylitol: make sure they’re not made from corn (highly allergenic). I’m not fond of these zero calorie sweeteners. I worry we’ll find out a few years from now that they have the same detrimental effects as unnatural sweeteners. They taste pretty good though.
Agave: highly processed and super high fructose. I can’t find any nutritional value here at all. Lovely taste though.
Maple syrup: I like that it’s tree sap but the high glycemic index of this one has always been a problem for me.
Date sugar: this is a great and easy to work with whole fruit sugar. It’s not as sweet as real sugar, but works well for baked goods that require more shape.
Banana: yes, it’s supposedly high histamine, but so are a few naughty things I’m sure you work in here and there! This fruit makes an excellent baking sugar and also egg substitute.
Apple: I often use mashed apple in my baked goods to replace sugar, fat and eggs.
Coconut sugar: lower GI than most sugars, but high fructose. Has a lovely caramel flavour.
Monk fruit: hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and tastes pretty good too. Highly anti-inflammatory. Read about it here.
Stevia: way too bitter for my taste but highly anti-inflammatory. It appears to be high in oxalic acid though. Read about oxalates here.
Scutti, Susan. “Sugar during pregnancy may be linked to child’s allergies.” CNN. Cable News Network, 06 July 2017. Web. 25 July 2017.
Bédard, Annabelle, Kate Northstone, A. John Henderson, and Seif O. Shaheen. “Maternal intake of sugar during pregnancy and childhood respiratory and atopic outcomes.” European Respiratory Journal. European Respiratory Society, 01 July 2017. Web. 25 July 2017.