It seems everyone around is having to avoid certain foods due to allergic reactions. Whether its peanuts or milk, gluten or eggs, food allergies have become more common then ever. Food allergies used to be rare but now everyone is talking about making sure you have an Epi Pen in case someone has an anaphylactic reaction. As recent as the 1980’s, few children had allergies. However in the 1990’s more and more children’s immune systems began to overact to certain foods causing severely increased inflammation and sometimes life-threatening reactions. So why are food allergies increasing?
More than 4 million American children and their families live with food allergies. Allergies are an over reaction of the body’s natural defense system that helps fight infections. The body thinks it’s being attacked by these harmless substances and the immune system starts fighting. Food allergies can cause reactions such as itchy eyes, breathing issues, diarrhea, skin rashes and nausea. According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the numbers pf people developing food allergies are on the rise. The FDA has identified 8 common allergenic foods, milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and soybean. In 1999, 3.4 percent of kids had a food allergy. In 2011, 5.1 percent of kids had a food allergy and in 2015, 5.7 percent of kids had a food allergy. The one allergy that has most noticeably been on the rise is the peanut allergy. Between 1997-2008, the peanut allergy tripled. There are many theories and studies out about the potential causes of food allergies and why more and more people are becoming allergic to certain foods.
Potential Reasons Why Food Allergies are Increasing:
The “Hygiene Hypothesis” or Microbial Hypothesis
This is currently the leading theory behind why food allergies are increasing. The idea is that an infant’s immune system needs to be exposed to germs to train itself to not overreact to things such as food, pollen or pollution. Children need to get dirty in order to build their immune systems. The environment impacts our micro-biome and those microbes interact with our immune system. In the increasingly sanitized world we currently live in, our immune systems are not educated at distinguishing between good and bad germs, leading to the increase in food allergies.
Around 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations to avoid common food allergens. They said to delay dairy products until 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts tree nuts and fish until age 3. There was a big push to encourage parents to avoid certain foods at a young age in case they were allergic. This ended up backfiring and increasing the amount of people with food allergies. Now there are studies that have found results that say early introduction of allergenic foods may prevent food allergies in children. A 2008 study, found that those that were introduced to peanuts early in life were less likely to get allergies. In the study, a group of Jewish people in the UK where peanut allergies were high were advised to avoid peanuts. Those that were asked not to consume peanuts were 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies then a group in Israel where rates of peanut allergies were low and who were fed peanut butter from a very young age. By Pediatricians shifting to a place of recommending that parents avoid these now common food allergens caused the increase of food allergies.
Dual Allergen Exposure
The hypothesis that sensitivities to allergens may occur during skin exposure to allergenic proteins. For example, if an infant had eczema and peanut oil absorbed into the broken skin, then later on when peanuts were ingested, the immune system would attack the proteins full force thinking they are an enemy. The LEAP study further found that out of 600 children between 4 and 11 months who were instructed whether to consume peanuts or not, the ones that regularly consumed peanuts were highly effective at preventing a peanut allergy. Thus, eating peanuts early on will elicit a protective immune response rather than an allergic immune response.
This hypothesis suggests that there are nutrimental deficiencies that might play a role in food allergies. Some of these might include, Vitamin D, Omegas and Folate. In one study, peanut and egg allergies were 3 times higher in children who were lacking Vitamin D. There is an increase in obesity and lack of nutrition and the rate of food allergies keeps increasing.
The use of antibiotics could also contribute to food allergies. A study published in Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology has linked the use of antibiotics in infancy with increased odds in developing a food allergy. In another study, the data was collected for 7 years of 30,060 patients who had at least 2 uses of antibiotics in the first 3 months of life. The results concluded that antibiotic use in early life was linked to disruptions in the health of the micro-biome and a higher risk of developing allergies. Antibiotics have increasing been over prescribed and food allergies is on the rise.
Genetics could play a roll for some with allergies. A recent study pinpointed five regions of DNA that were more highly mutated in kids with food allergies. In about 24 percent of food allergy cases, the abnormalities were mostly tied to immune regulation and genetics.
Obesity and Diabetes
There is ongoing research of the connection between obesity and the development of food allergies. Obesity and Diabetes have also been on the rise in alignment with food allergies. There are some that suggest that there might be a connection between food additives, preservatives, processed foods, genetically modified foods, foods sprayed with glyphosate, eating more fast foods and food allergies. As of now there have been no studies on this topic.
Food Proteins in Vaccinations
There are others that suggest that food allergies are connected to the increase in vaccinations and the food proteins in the vaccines. There are studies that have demonstrated that food proteins that are in vaccinations induce food allergies. In the CDC’c, Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices it states that those with allergies to egg proteins should avoid certain vaccines. Some vaccines include gelatin like the MMR, Chicken Pox, Flu Shot and DTaP. Anyone that has experienced an allergic reaction after eating gelatin should avoid gelatin-containing vaccines. The same goes for the vaccines that include bakers yeast, eggs and peanut oil. The number of vaccines suggested we give our children has tripled since 1980 and so have food allergies.
Remember even if you do have food allergies you can still be healthy. It all goes back to building our immune systems to be as strong as possible. If you have had vaccines, antibiotics at a young age, you haven’t been eating healthy and you have been too clean, you can still make changes and support your health. Walk barefoot on the ground outside in the sun while eating an apple and drinking a kombucha. The dirt, the sun, the food and the probiotics can help build your immune system back up and heal.
Do you have food allergies?
I would love to hear how you live with them and why you might think that food allergies are increasing!
Sources for this article include: