One in five of us suffer from allergies, a problem that is increasing especially among children. The rise in allergies worldwide has been ongoing and documented for 50 years according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).
There is no clear answer why but a whole body health view may help understand—and heal—allergies.
Food Allergies on the Rise
- About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, according to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
- 15 million people in the US are affected just by food allergies.
- A new CDC study released in 2013 showed that food allergies among children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- More than 17 million Europeans have a food allergy, and hospital admissions for severe reactions in children have risen seven-fold over the past decade, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
- The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.
- The percent of us with asthma increased from 3.1% in 1980 to 5.5% in 1996 and 7.3% in 2001 to 8.4% in 2010.
- Hay fever affects 8% of us worldwide—but your chance of developing hayfever increases dramatically if you live in industrialized settings.
- The direct medical costs of asthma and hay fever are nearly $20 billion according to the AAAAI. Other studies estimate the direct medical costs of eczema approach $6 billion per year.
Could these be related?
Allergy is caused when the body’s immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, food, or house dust mite. The body identifies the substance as a threat and produces an inappropriate, exaggerated response to
The pattern of developing allergies is changing—initially, asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) rose. Now food allergies, in particular amongst children are soaring. In the US and UK both, up to 50% of children will be diagnosed with an allergic condition.
Perhaps the biggest clue is that these staggering increases in allergies are only being seen in industrialized countries such as the United States and Europe.
What causes an immune system to run amok? to go on allergic, attack everything, hyperdrive?
Genetics? my second cousin distantly related…
Simple genetics can never explain a change that occurs in a few decades—it takes many hundreds of years or longer to make meaningful change to the gene pool. But it is clear that many genes can be ‘turned on or off’ by environmental factors. Through ways we don’t fully understand, allergic tendency includes switching certain genes on or off in immune cells—a switch that makes them go from stealth mode to hyperdrive.
What also happens, also through ways we do not understand, is that the environment of the parent is somehow communicated through these mechanisms to the future unborn child. In other words, the fact that a parent lives on a standard commercialized diet or lives in a polluted or too clean world changes gene expression—not the gene code—and appears to change gene expression to prepare future immune systems for either a hostile or healthful world; the McDonalds or home-cooked meal.
Speaking of too clean… the hygiene hypothesis
We sterilize, immunize, bactericide, wipe, wash and otherwise avoid contact with anything “germ”. We’ve come to think of all bacteria as bad. Some research indicates this may under-develop immune function in children and do so in such a way that promotes allergies. Children who grow up on farms and around animals have a different population of gut microbes and also are less likely to develop allergies.
Interestingly, parents who avoid feeding their infants potentially allergenic foods also have a greater chance of dealing with child allergies as their children grow. We have no idea why.
C-Sections and Formula
In 2013, researchers at Henry Ford hospital in Detroit evaluated more than 1,200 newborns at 1 month, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years old. By age 2, babies born by cesarean section were five times more likely to have allergies than those born naturally. “We believe a baby’s exposure to bacteria in the birth canal is a major influence on their immune system.” says lead author Dr. Christine Cole Johnson. C-section babies have a different pattern of bacteria in their intestines—one that is associated with an allergic response.
Not only that, the western habit of raising babies on formula contributes to faster body growth which leads to both obesity and allergies. Plain cow’s milk has a protective effect on these symptoms when compared with infant formula, but nursing is by far the healthiest. Breast-fed babies get sick less, and don’t develop allergies as often. A study at Duke University showed that breast milk, but not infant formula, fosters colonies of microbiotic flora in a newborn’s intestinal tract that aid nutrient absorption and immune system development. An infant’s early diet determines their internal microbial universe which in turn determines allergies, autoimmune, and a host of inflammatory problems.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is not what our gut needs
The SAD diet causes obesity, type II diabetes and also a rise in allergies. Youth who were overweight at age 6-8 had a higher rate of asthma by the time they reached their 20’s. Looking at data from 50 countries, teenagers who eat junk food more than three times per week are 39 percent more likely to get severe asthma. Younger children are 27 percent more likely.
Allergies are an overreaction where the immune system reads something as foreign and dangerous that really isn’t—except we may be calling things “food” that are not and expecting our bodies to deal with that.
Additives and pesticides change our gut flora so that our bodies can no longer handle certain foods, creating both mild intolerance and severe allergies.
GMOs are everywhere, especially in commercialized foods we eat every day. We intentionally put unknown quantities of modified proteins into our bodies every time we choose a processed food. Today, 93 percent of all soy, 86 percent of corn, and 93 percent of canola seeds are now genetically modified. But it’s not just that so many foods are modified (165 million acres and counting), it’s that there’s currently no labeling system in place so that we even know what they’re buying. Additional to working our immune systems overtime, GMO foods change the microbes in our intestines favoring unwanted yeast and bacteria.
New proteins added to our milk supply make digestion very difficult.
And sugar, dare I go a whole article without mentioning sugar? If it weren’t inflammatory enough on its own, sugar signals the body to gain weight. Excess fat produces hormones that alter our immune profile and also alter our digestive tract.
Connect the allergy dots:
In high-income countries, unwarranted fear of dirt or germs, overuse of antibiotics and medical procedures, and key changes in diet have eliminated healthful “partners” in our intestine; microbes we need for balanced immune function. Scientists now propose that this accounts for much of the dramatic rise in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in parts of the world where our symbiotic relationship with the microbiota have been the most affected.
The rise in allergies, obesity, type II diabetes and more is a chronic inflammation that has to do with improper gut flora.
I’ve obviously ruined my gut, I also have allergies, what can I do?
While eating allergenic foods like peanuts doesn’t give you a greater chance of developing allergies, once you have developed allergies you’ll need to remove allergens from your environment (or change your body’s response to them with AACT) and then take key steps to restore as much immune balance as possible.
“All disease begins in the gut” –Hippocrates
These things determine survival and growth of a healthy gut.
- Give it a break from inflammatory foods, allow your gut to heal.
- Restore balance to your inner ecosystem:
Probiotics: viable microorganisms, sufficient amounts of which reach the intestine in an active state and thus exert positive health effects (aka beneficial bacteria).
Prebiotics: nondigestible dietary fibers that promote the growth and/or activity of the beneficial gastrointestinal microflora thereby improving our well being and health (aka food for beneficial bacteria).
Synbiotics: designed nutrition that contains both probiotics and prebiotics: A great example is this Coconut Milk Kefir recipe with both living probiotics plus nutrients that keep them happily living through your pH=2 gastric stomach juices. Or try this amazing Healing Ginger Miso Soup, children love it!
Get the many benefits of restoring gut health using prebiotics and probiotics through a careful, gut-friendly nutritional plan:
- sooth and calm diarrhea associated with antibiotics, rotavirus infection, chemotherapy, and, even traveler’s diarrhea;
- balance both antibody and cellular immunities;
- decrease in toxic componds in the colon;
- reduce Helicobacter pylori infection;
- reduce allergy symptoms;
- relief from constipation;
- relief from irritable bowel syndrome;
- improve mineral absorption and metabolism, particularly bone density and stability;
- prevent cancer; and
- reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides (weak evidence).
In time, you can calm down the allergic “I want to attack everything” response. No one should be allergic to 50 foods and you probably aren’t. You more likely have such an imbalanced system that anything will set it off.
Take charge of your health. Please ask about a guided plan to finally address your allergies.
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