NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A handful of nuts every day could keep some allergies away.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study shows pregnant women can help prevent peanut allergies in their unborn babies by eating more nuts.

The research highlighted a variation on what doctors call the hygiene theory of allergies.

The theory holds that children develop allergies and asthma because they are protected from dirt, germs and other bacteria that their immune systems don’t know how to respond to certain potential allergens. As a result, according to the theory, a child’s immune system overreacts and causes allergies or asthma.

The study found that exposing your unborn child to nuts may prepare their immune system to handle nuts after they’re born.

Shanice Young, 27, is three months pregnant with her second child eats some form of nuts just about every day.

The study finds mothers who eat nuts while pregnant are less likely to have children with peanut or tree nut allergies.

“Women who ate peanuts and tree nuts more than five times a week, they had children that had 30 percent reduction in the risk of developing peanut and tree nut allergies,” Dr. Michael Young of Harvard Medical School said.

LINK: Read The Study Here

The number of kids with peanut allergies in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past two decades, Gomez reported.

Those allergies cause everything from skin reactions to abdominal issues to severe respiratory problems and even death.

While nuts are a good source of protein and folic acid to prevent birth defects, doctors want more proof before they recommend pregnant women eat more of them.

“We need more evidence before we can say with certainty that women should eat nuts during pregnancy to prevent a nut allergy in their children,” Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said.

Shanice Young’s first child, who is 3, has no known allergies.

“If my normal diet is preventing my unborn child from getting a nut allergy, great!” said Young.

While it’s not definitive that eating nuts while pregnant will prevent nut allergies in your child, it also won’t do you any harm unless you yourself are allergic to nuts, Gomez reported.

In that case, doctors say you should continue to avoid them while pregnant.

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