Pregnant and breastfeeding women should include a variety of allergy-sparking foods in their diet in a bid to reduce the risk of food intolerances in their child, the chief of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia says.

The warning comes as new research shows children of mothers who drink cow's milk during breastfeeding are at reduced risk of developing adverse reactions to foods.

Recent Australian data indicates 10 per cent of children aged under one year have a proven food allergy. The most common allergy triggers are egg, cow's milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat.

But Mia Stråvik, co-author of the study published in the journal Nutrients, said parents could affect children's allergy risk through diet.

"Diet is a factor where parents themselves can have direct influence," she said.

"It is quite common nowadays for young women to avoid drinking milk, due in part to prevailing trends and concerns, some of which are linked to myths about diet."

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief executive Maria Said warned cow's milk allergies could be fatal for children.

Rose Alexander with 16-month-old daughter Bronte. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Rose Alexander with 16-month-old daughter Bronte. Picture: Nigel Hallett

"We have lost children in Australia to cow's milk allergies," she said.

"Milk is hidden in so many products and it can be dangerous.

"It is comforting to know that scientists have found that a mother's exposure to dairy milk can help with other allergies too."

The Swedish researchers believe that a possible explanation may be that the milk in the mother's diet contains substances that stimulate the maturity of the immune system.

"In a child's early development, there is a time window where stimulation of the immune system is necessary for the child to develop tolerance to different foods," the researcher said.

The study looked at the children at one year of age and examined for food allergies and they will be followed up again at age four.

Gold Coast mother Rose Alexander is breastfeeding her 16-month-old daughter Bronte.

"I have been eating a wide variety of foods like nuts and fish that might cause allergies and Bronte doesn't seem to have a problem with foods at all," she said.

"She loves her dairy.

"It's good to see that scientists are working in this area as food allergies in children is a difficult thing to live with."

Originally published as The foods pregnant women should be eating