It is not your imagination; the number of people with food allergies, especially children, is increasing. An estimated 15 million people in the US alone have been diagnosed with food allergies, an increase of 50% between 1997 and 2011. One in 13 children has a food allergy, an average of two per classroom. The days of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch are long gone, and many people are not happy about it.
Some wonder if these allergies are legit, or simply the product of hypochondriacal parents, and it bothers them having to change the way they feed their own children. After all, people have eaten and been eating things like wheat and peanut butter for centuries, so how can so many people suddenly say that these foods are dangerous?
A food allergy is an exaggerated immune response to what the body perceives as a foreign and dangerous substance. Eggs, wheat, peanuts, milk, shellfish, fish, nuts, and soybeans are the top eight culprits and are responsible for 90% of allergic reactions.
Allergies can develop at any age, and reactions can range from mild itching to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Every three minutes a food allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the US, resulting in approximately 200 deaths each year.
The existence and rise of severe food allergies are real, and at this point, experts can only have a hypothesis as to why this is the case.
Why didn’t your grandparents suffer from allergies and you did?
Many people today, when they are told that the allergies suffered by their children or themselves are caused by food, jump out indignantly saying that this has never hurt anyone in their family, especially their grandparents, the most family members and look for other factors such as air, dust, seasons, etc.
It is not to say that these factors are not, but many of these factors cause allergies more easily, because the body is already very immunologically compromised due to a toxic diet.
Our grandparents did not suffer from the tremendous blow that food allergies are hitting us today because:
- They ate organic seasonal foods.
- They did not do restrictive diets; they ate when the body needed it.
- They did not eat industrialized food but homemade food with mostly freshly harvested organic products.
- The meat and eggs they ate did not contain antibiotics or hormones.
- The milk was not pasteurized or from an animal treated with hormones or antibiotics.
- They made medicinal soups, medicinal broths and other foods in the same way with the product of animal and vegetable inputs that today are wasted.
- They spent a lot of time outdoors, in the fields, they did not spend their time on television, computers, the telephone and instead, they spent a lot of time breathing fresh air or working on their tasks that kept them busy most of the day.
- Better explained and with some points of relevance added, are the following points that give us a detailed description of some factors that surely should be considered, when investigating the reason why our grandparents did not suffer from the allergies that today plague us most of us, his descendants.
- The ” hygiene hypothesis” suggests that allergies are the result of today’s cleanliness. Experts theorize that a lack of exposure to microorganisms – infectious agents, bacteria and parasites – during childhood increases susceptibility to allergens later in life by hampering the development of the immune system.
Others point to antibiotics, which kill the microbiome of bacteria that thrive naturally in the gut. In fact, the researchers found a twofold increase in food allergies among children who were exposed to three or more courses of antibiotics during their first year of life.
Gut bacteria play a protective role against food allergens. A recent study compared the reaction to peanut allergens in newborn mice raised in a sterile environment, devoid of gut bacteria, mice treated with antibiotics, and mice with healthy gut biomes. The first two groups produced significantly more antibodies against peanut allergens.
Antibiotics in animal feed can pose a similar risk; Traces remain in the meat and are suspected of being responsible for the development of 22% of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
Also, many crops that are genetically modified (GMO) have been created using genes that are resistant to antibiotics. These genes come to give to the interior of our intestinal tract, direct food to cells or human bacteria, this would lead to the development of strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified foods in agriculture.
Modern agriculture poses another risk for intestinal bacteria and therefore allergy factor from the use of pesticides and herbicides. Dichlorophenols are also used to chlorinate water.
Glyphosate, the chemical used in the popular Roundup herbicide, has recently come under fire, particularly in the development of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the intestinal lining when exposed to gluten.
Scientists were surprised to discover that fish exposed to glyphosate developed the same intestinal characteristics seen in celiac disease, an immune reaction to gluten.
Notably, 1997 was the first year of widespread application of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide to soybeans and cotton – a coincidence hard to ignore.
Diet can also be the culprit. One study compared the population of gut bacteria in African children who ate a primarily vegetarian diet to that of European children whose diets were high in sugar, animal fat, and high-calorie foods. African children had much greater numbers and variety in intestinal flora.
The study authors propose that the lack of diversity in bacteria is the result of nutrition, and is at least partially responsible for the significantly higher numbers of children with food allergies in the Western population. The timing of the introduction of allergenic foods in the diet of babies can also contribute to allergies.
Nutrition affects every cell in our body. The health of our cells depends on diet and lifestyle. Cells create tissues, tissues create organs, and they are made up of an organ system. If your nutrition is inadequate, the integrity of every cell, tissue and organ in your body will suffer, therefore, they may be more sensitive to certain foods.
All these trends are relatively recent factors in the phenomenon of generalized allergy. Our lifestyle and environment have changed a lot since the days of our grandparents. While modern advances have undoubtedly done much to improve living standards, those very advances may be our undoing.
At this time, there is no cure for food allergies, although promising research is underway. Recognize food allergies early, and taking the proper precautions is the best protection.