Avoiding Grains for the First Year
By Sarah Axtell, ND • July 24, 2014
It is best to introduce solid food at 6 months. It is optimal to avoid grains and cow dairy for the first year of your child’s life.
Why, you ask?
It really comes down to human physiology and anatomical (intestinal) development. Babies GI systems are immature. On a physical level, they are immature because they have wide gaps in between their cells lining their intestines. This is termed “leaky gut.” Over time, the junctions start to narrow and eventually become tight gap junction. If you introduce food too early (before 6 months and some foods before 2 years of age), undigested food particles can cross the lining of the GI (through the gap junctions) and enter the blood stream. This then initiates an immune response that the baby’s immune cells will start attacking food particles–> leading to allergies, both environmental and food.
On a more chemical or physiological level, babies have insufficient enzymes to digest food before 6 months (and again with some foods until 2 years of age). We know that humans do not start producing amylase (enzyme that breaks down carbs) until 2 years of age. This is why in the introduction to solids there is a delayed introduction of grains! Ironically, grains are often the first food that is introduced- rice cereal. We waited to introduce grains with Cece until 12 months (brown rice, quinoa, millet) and then wheat until 18 months.
Speaking of rice cereal, there are several reasons to avoid feeding it to your child as a first food:
1. see above- it a grain and insufficient enzyme production.
2. rice cereals are fortified with Iron, which is smart because at 6 months of age, the iron in mom’s breastmilk is not enough for baby’s needs. The baby’s placenta stores of Iron is also insufficient by 6 months of age. Unfortunetely, it is a cheap, difficult to digest form of iron. This can cause GI distress. I suggest introducing a bioavaliable form (ie. form that baby can digest) of Iron, such as egg YOLKS (not whites until 12 months) and spinach combined. See my post on eggs to see how to make this. This was one of Cece’s favorite first solids! Meat (lamb and grass fed beef) is also an appropriate form of Iron to introduce early on. Blackstrap molasses is also a good source of iron (mix with cooked apricots). Broccoli is also an excellent source of iron.
It all comes down to REAL FOOD. Feed your child a diet rich in vegetables, meat, beans, and fruit.
If you are curious about dairy, see my post on cow dairy vs. goat dairy. Goat is definitely the way to go!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.