Remember the simplicity of school lunchtime during the 1980’s? You know, when your mom would pack your celery sticks, apple, and pb&j sandwich for lunch. You’d sit amongst your classmates at the noon hour and swap stories, lunchbox contents, and laughter.
While there may still be stories and laughter exchanged during that lunchtime hour, for several years now, the exchanging of lunchbox contents, and even the packing of a pb&j (and other items) is strictly forbidden.
Why? Because those lunchbox contents may just be deadly for those sitting nearby.
One in four people are said to have a food allergy today. And, due to those allergies, exposure could result in a number of scary effects: from vomiting, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and even death.
So, what’s changed? What has caused the carefree to turn to caution more and more frequently when it comes to serious food allergies?
What Are Food Allergies And How Big Of A Problem Are They?
An allergy to food (or any other substance for that matter) begins in the immune system.
With a food allergy, the immune system sees the proteins that are found in the food as harmful, so it reacts by releasing a number of chemicals which are responsible for the symptoms that someone experiences with an allergic reaction.
In other words, this allergic reaction is truly an immune system overreaction.
Typical symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild to severe.
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing
The most common foods that cause allergic reactions are:
- Tree nuts
- Some fruits and vegetables
Worldwide, food allergies have increased from 3% of the population in 1960 to 7% of the population in 2018.
And, while that doesn’t seem like a large jump simply looking at those numbers, considering the differences in population from 1960 to 2018 (a 4+billion increase in population), that 4% increase is much greater than it sounds.
But, the number of people dealing with food allergies isn’t the only thing that is concerning. The types of foods that people are allergic to today has increased as well.
And, there are a few theories that offer explanations as to why food allergies are both increasing in rate and expanding in range.
1- Lack Of Exposure To The Microbiota Of Our Natural Environment
As our gut encounters fewer microorganisms, the bacteria within our gut (and thus immune system) is less diverse.
Think about it…
As a way of life in today’s day and time, we are consistently exposed less and less to our natural environment.
We consistently spend less time outdoors, meaning we have less exposure to natural microbiota in our environment today.
The materials used to make modern homes are now treated. And, newer materials like plastics are being used in construction. This not only lessens our exposure to the microbiota of our natural environment, but introduces a new microbiota altogether.
The result of this decrease in exposure to microorganisms means that our gut and subsequently our immune systems have fewer T-reg cells. These cells regulate your immune system’s response to foreign substances and keep it from “overreacting.”
When those responses aren’t regulated and your immune system overreacts to otherwise harmless things, allergies and allergic disorders are the result.
Some researchers have found that the more a person is exposed to the microbiota that resembles that of the natural environment, the more diverse their gut microbiota is, and thus the more “educated” their immune system is, preventing it from overreacting to harmless substances.
This is thought to be why food allergies are more likely to occur in urban areas as opposed to rural, why instances of food allergies are less likely in families with cats or dogs as pets, and why keeping a garden can prove to be beneficial when it comes to avoiding such allergies.
2- Decrease In Good Gut Bacteria Due To Overuse Of Antibiotics
Studies conclude that the more antibiotics a child is given, the more likely that child (or later as an adult) is to develop a food allergy.
Antibiotics are given to kill bacteria within the body that is causing illness.
The problem there is that antibiotics can’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria. Antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately. And, your body, specifically your gut and immune system, need that good bacteria.
The use of antibiotics kills those good bacteria needed within your gut that help to regulate immune responses.
As we mentioned in our last point, a lack of good gut bacteria means that your immune system does not react properly. And, these immune system overreactions or improper reactions are at the root of allergic disorders (amongst other complications).
3- Vitamin D Deprivation
We mentioned earlier that the decrease in time spent outdoors in recent years has limited our exposure to the microbiota of our natural environment, thus compromising the health of our gut bacteria and our immune system.
But, a lack of time outside has other negative effects in that area as well.
Your body needs vitamin D for proper immune development, function, and response, the best form of which is D3. And, your body needs exposure to sunlight to make this form of the vitamin.
One common factor in those suffering from autoimmune diseases, another condition characterized by overreactions on the part of the immune system, is vitamin D deficiency.
Studies do, however, show a fine line here where too little vitamin D causes exaggerated immune responses and too much vitamin D can cause the same.
The key word regarding vitamin D (like most other things) is appropriate. Appropriate levels of vitamin D derived from exposure to sunlight are needed for facilitating proper immune response to avoid developing food allergies and allergic disorders.
4- Changes In Food Advice
One other theory regarding the rise in food allergies centers around the fact that when food allergies began to be more prevalent, the advice regarding the introduction to certain foods changed, essentially making the following generations guinea pigs to this new thought.
In the 1990’s, when peanut allergies, in particular, began to appear more frequently, the advice surrounding the timing for introductions of certain foods changed.
One professor of molecular allergology, Clare Mills, actually says that the 1990’s advice to wait until three years of age to introduce foods such as peanuts or peanut butter into a child’s diet wasn’t actually based on any evidence at all, and we should’ve been doing the exact opposite: introducing these foods as early as possible.
No, that doesn’t mean that Gerber should have been seen right alongside jars of Jif on grocery shelves. But, small exposures to such foods have been proven highly beneficial.
Experts are reporting more and more frequently that exposure to foods through weaning from 3-4 months of age is considered “a window of opportunity to establish tolerance.”
One London professor conducted a study finding “that introducing peanuts between 4 and 11 months gave 5-year-old children an 80% lower chance of having peanut allergy.”
So, we know that food allergies are becoming more prevalent. And, we know that those reactions are serious!
But, as these reactions begin as a response from your immune system, remember there are a few things that you can do to potentially aid in this area.
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics
- Increase exposure to your natural environment
- Get appropriate amounts of sunlight exposure
- Consider safe exposure to foods early on to establish tolerance
Why ancient human skeletons rarely show signs of joint pain or arthritis
For years, scientists couldn’t understand why ancient human skeletons rarely show signs of joint pain or arthritis…
But new evidence shows our ancestors used to eat a diet rich in natural inflammation-fighting foods…
Foods that Harvard researchers say protect your body from the root cause of arthritis & inflammation… and can even reverse any damage your arthritis has already done.
These foods were staples in the ancestral diet. But 99% of Americans today don’t eat enough of them… and that’s one reason why millions suffer with chronic pain.
Click the video link below to see which foods free you from pain (and some so-called “healthy” foods you’ll want to avoid).