What causes food allergy? | The Food Sensitive ShopperThe Food Sensitive Shopper
Food Allergy is on the rise…why?
When talking to someone about food allergies I have found two common themes. Either the person has food allergies or knows someone who does OR they ask why this disease is happening (and sometimes saying ‘when I was young we didn’t have food allergies). I also want to know why…don’t you?
Today I am sharing what I understand to be some of the theories…in my own words:
1. The ‘Clean’ Theory – This theory has been sensationalized from the media to inform us we wash our hands too much but it is much deeper a theory than that. Ever heard the term ‘helminth’? A helminth is a microscopic worm (yucky right?) found in nature. Going barefoot, playing in the mud, and being out in nature exposes us to them. In theory being exposed to them makes our immune system work harder and like working our muscles it is a strengthening exercise. There are other bacteria outside too that are beneficial for our guts…that’s where much of the immune system resides. So next time your child goes outside without socks and shoes give him or her a high five for being close to nature and helminths.
2. Processed food – Purchasing food in cans, bottles, bags, or other package is now the norm in many countries around the world. Both the increased prevalence in food allergy and processed food production have risen steadily over decades. Let’s add the increased prevalence of genetically modified foods (GMO). Which is the culprit…processed food or GMO? Could they be partners in crime? This area is a very hot topic these days and not only in regards to food allergy. If you eat food from a box then you are most likely eating a food that was genetically modified. We tend to think corn, soy, and wheat but don’t forget canola and other oils, rice, tomatoes, seedless melons, potatoes, chickens, and cows…a lot to think about while we are walking barefoot in our genetically engineered grass.
3. Pregnancy – My friend swears she gave her son a peanut allergy since she ate peanuts during her pregnancy. I told her it was not her fault…then she avoided peanuts and tree nuts when pregnant the second time. She gave birth to twins…both with peanut allergies. Studies have shown mixed results. When pregnant I was told to avoid peanuts. I ate almonds, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, oats, and barley instead. All of these became my sons allergens plus he is allergic to peanut …so the jury is still out in my mind. Best to give detailed family history of allergic disease to your obstetrician to develop your prenatal plan.
4. Pollution – No one likes pollution but we all contribute to it. Some think that pollution is a factor in the rise of food allergies. Pollution does contribute to the cause of diseases…asthma, COPD, cancers, etc… There isn’t a study that absolutely says pollution causes food allergy. Even so, food allergy is more prevalent in developed countries which are the heaviest polluters.
5. Vitamin D – Our bodies manufacture vitamin D after sun exposure. Studies have shown that babies born during the winter are more likely to have food allergy due to less Vitamin D. Our sons were born in late November. My vitamin D level was low and I bet theirs was too. But only one twin, baby ‘B’, has food allergies. What about children born in captivity? Or children born in very cold climates where getting vitamin D from the sun is very difficult? I wonder whether children in these conditions have food allergies. Could there be another nutrient missing? Here is a snapshot of the vitamin D study: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20110225/low-vitamin-d-linked-to-allergy-risk-in-kids
One theory or many?
Ever play ‘Connect the Dots’? Instead of looking at one answer maybe someone should connect the theories that are already out there then dig deeper. Besides, our population has a similar rising trend too…7 billion plus and counting…why isn’t that part of the answer. More people means more incidence of disease. Don’t forget better medical technology also provides better diagnosis. I bet in the old days food allergy was more prevalent than we thought.
In the mean time walk around barefoot in the park, play in the mud, eat fresh nutritious food, and lower your carbon footprint before, during and after pregnancy. Sounds like a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t it?
Want to know more about the theories out there? Here are some interesting and valid links: