Why We Started Mission MightyMe
Why We Started Mission MightyMe
By Catherine & JJ Jaxon, Co-Founders, Mission MightyMe
We are the proud parents of 3 wonderful kiddos and our oldest daughter is allergic to most nuts.
When she was born, the common medical guidance was to avoid giving nuts, eggs and other potential food allergens to babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued these guidelines in the year 2000, and even though 8 years later they rescinded them, most pediatricians continued to recommend avoidance out of caution. As first-time parents, we followed our pediatrician's instructions and kept our daughter away from nuts and other allergenic foods.
But when she had her first walnut at age 3, she had a violent allergic reaction. It was a terrifying and helpless feeling to see our sweet toddler suddenly covered in hives, eyes swollen shut and vomiting from something as simple as a bite of food. Thankfully she was ok, but little did we know how much a food allergy would change our lives. At the time we knew very little about food allergies. She didn't have any obvious risk factors like eczema, and we were caught totally off guard.
Well we've learned a lot since that scary day, including that in the two decades since avoiding nuts and other food allergens in infancy became the norm, food allergies have increased by 50% and nut allergies have tripled (yes, tripled)! There are lots of theories as to why, but many experts now point to those old avoidance guidelines that we followed.
Our daughter is now 9 years old, and she’s an incredible little girl, but that fear of food is always there, and she will likely have to carry an epi-pen for life.
If there was anything we could have done to prevent this, we would have done it in a heartbeat. We felt helpless against a condition that could be thrust on our child one day, out of nowhere, without warning, and stay with her for life.
But by the time our third child was born in 2015, there was really good news. The LEAP Study by Dr. Gideon Lack was a groundbreaking clinical trial that found that actually including peanut protein in babies’ diets – early in the first year of life (between 4-11 months) and regularly until age 5 – reduced the rate of peanut allergy by more than 80 percent.
What Dr. Lack discovered is that most babies are not born with food allergies. They develop over time and there's a magic window when the immune system can actually learn to tolerate peanut protein before an allergy develops. Emerging research indicates this proactive approach may work for other foods as well.
This was huge news. When the LEAP Study was published, I remember reading a quote from the Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease Dr. Anthony Fauci, that said, "For a study to show a benefit of this magnitude in the prevention of peanut allergy is without precedent. The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.” He went on to say, "We're talking about saving thousands and thousands of kids from peanut allergies."
Thousands and thousands of kids...
This statement really rocked my world. It made sense that we might have inadvertently increased our daughter's risk of a food allergy by not letting her immune system learn to tolerate nuts early-on. And that there might be a window to introduce nuts to our new son, and potentially prevent another food allergy in our family….and that if this was done on a large scale it could change the lives of an entire generation!
Well, since then, those old avoidance guidelines have been completely reversed around the globe. The US, UK, Canada, Australia, The National Institutes of Allergy & Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other organizations now encourage parents to introduce and regularly feed babies peanut protein, starting in infancy - and not to withhold other potentially allergenic foods.
We were determined to try this with our 3rd child, but found that it can be really difficult to do. Nuts and nut butters are a choking hazard for babies in their natural form -- and the entire baby food industry in the US was allergen free. So we decided to make our own and Mission MightyMe was born!
We partnered with the author of the LEAP Study, Dr. Gideon Lack, whose research has revolutionized food allergy prevention and was the inspiration for our company. Dr. Lack joined us as a co-founder, along with food allergy advocate and pioneer, Todd Slotkin. Todd was one of the original creators and a former Chairman of the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). He is also the father of two sons with life-threatening nut allergies.
When we first approached Dr. Lack, he was frustrated by the slow pace of adoption and understood that until there was better awareness of the research and consumer products that made it doable and easy, we weren't really going to be able move the needle on food allergy prevention.
So with Dr. Lack's expertise, that's exactly what we've created –a nutritious line of foods for children that makes it simple to include nuts and other common food allergens in little one's diets -- without the choking hazards of nuts or nut butters, or the hassle of preparing special foods.
We believe that by making it easy and enjoyable for parents to regularly feed these types of foods to their children we can help raise a generation of kids who are free from the burden of food allergies, so all kids can reach their mighty potential!