Are Food Allergies on the Rise?

A recent report from Children’s Hospital Boston indicates that food allergies in children are becoming more common and more severe.  In fact, the number of food allergy cases at this hospital doubled in 2006. In addition, the number of kids with food allergies went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, the CDC said.  There are many theories as to why more and more children are becoming allergic.  This rise in allergies could be due to our Western diet, making us more susceptible to developing allergies and other illnesses. CNN further explores this possibility in their article “Why are food allergies on the rise?“:

The children in the African village live in a community that produces its own food. The study authors say this is closer to how humans ate 10,000 years ago. Their diet is mostly vegetarian. By contrast, the local diet of European children contains more sugar, animal fat and calorie-dense foods. The study authors posit that these factors result in less biodiversity in the organisms found inside the gut of European children.

The decrease in richness of gut bacteria in Westerners may have something to do with the rise in allergies in industrialized countries, said Dr. Paolo Lionetti of the department of pediatrics at Meyer Children Hospital at the University of Florence. Sanitation measures and vaccines in the West may have controlled infectious disease, but they decreased exposure to a variety of bacteria may have opened the door to these other ailments.

“In a place where you can die [from] infectious diseases, but you don’t get allergy, obesity, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disease, the flora is different,” Lionetti said.

This study only looked at a small number of children, but the findings support the widespread notion of the “hygiene hypothesis” — the idea that cases of allergies are increasing in number and severity because children grow up in environments that are simply too clean.

“That our immune system is skewed away from fighting infections, and toward fight things that it’s not supposed to be fighting, like things in the environment or foods — that’s one thing that people think may be in play,” Rudders said.

Another reason presented for this rapid increase in food allergies and food sensitivities in children is the idea of delayed introduction of high allergen foods. A study published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics, “Age at First Introduction of Cow Milk Products and Other Food Products in Relation to Infant Atopic Manifestations in the First 2 Years of Life: The KOALA Birth Cohort Study” has found that delaying the introduction of certain common allergen foods, particularly cow’s milk, is not favorable and does not prevent the development of allergic response such as eczema, wheezing or atopic dermatitis. They studied data from 2558 infants in the Netherlands to come to this conclusion, through questionnaires administered at 34 weeks of gestation and 3, 7, 12, and 24 months postpartum. They then measured allergic sensitivity at age 2, through blood sampling. They determined that delaying introduction of common allergens may actually increase the risk of eczema at age 2 and beyond.

Another study involving Jewish children in the United Kingdom and Israel has found that the Israeli children who were exposed to peanuts frequently during infancy were 10 times LESS likely to develop a peanut allergy than their UK counterparts.

“The most obvious difference in the diet of infants in both populations occurs in the introduction of peanut. Israeli infants are introduced to peanut during early weaning and continue to eat peanut more frequently and in higher amounts than UK infants, who avoid peanut, as per Department of Health recommendations.  The observed differences in Peanut Allergies between the UK and Israel are unlikely to be explained by genetic differences. Our findings raise the question of whether early and frequent ingestion of high-dose peanut protein during infancy might prevent the development of Peanut Allergies through tolerance induction. Paradoxically, past recommendations in the United States and current recommendations in the UK and Australia might be promoting the development of Peanut Allergies and could explain the continued increase in the prevalence of Peanut Allergies observed in these countries.”

Whatever the reason for the increase, it’s time to look at alternative methods of addressing these allergies in children.  BioVeda Health & Wellness Centers offer a variety of holistic therapies that can help reduce or eliminate symptoms related to food allergies.  Contact a BioVeda Health & Wellness Center to learn more!

~Results may vary from patient to patient. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If pregnant or nursing, ask a health professional before use. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek advice of physician.