Research shows that more kids than ever before have allergies and I don’t mean a sniffly nose or a rash, I mean seriously debilitating allergies that are in many cases, deadly.
Of the 40,000 families surveyed, 8 percent have food allergies of some sort, according to Dr. Ruchi Gupta, of Children's Memorial Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's School of Medicine on PBS.
Of those with allergies, 37 percent have severe or life threatening allergies and 30 percent have sensitivities to more than one food group. Researchers looked at the type of food allergy, the type of reaction, and how the allergy was diagnosed.
The most common food allergy was to peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish. Many were highly allergic, meaning that they would react to even touching a food. Why are more kids than ever before allergic to peanuts, soy, shellfish, milk, and so many more food products? Why do so many children have asthma? Researchers still have a lot of work to do, but these are some of the reasons that doctors point to in their quest to figure out why childhood allergies have become so severe and so prevalent.
1. The Hygiene Hypothesis
We are too clean. In fact, the sterile environments we put our kids in mean their immune systems don’t come in contact with allergens so their bodies aren’t able to fight them. Modern life may be too clean; we don’t live on farms and we’re never in touch with dirt. And we love antibacterial everything.
"We’ve developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past," said Marc McMorris, a pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Health System. "As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies."
2. The Western Diet
There may also be a connection to the Western Diet. Additives and pesticides may be changing our gut flora so that our bodies can no longer handle certain foods, creating sensitivity, both mild and severe. Junk food may also contribute to childhood asthma.
3. GMOs in Our Diet
According to The Unhealthy Truth, by Robyn O’Brien, allergies are an overreaction to a protein in the body so that the immune system reads foods as foreign and dangerous. 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 consumers know what they're buying. Soy, corn, and canola are in so many of the processed foods we eat everyday, they're difficult to avoid and may be causing our immune systems to work overtime, reading these foods as foreign and dangerous.
4. New Milk Proteins
As I said above, milk is the number two food allergy because new proteins have been added to our milk supply, making more children than ever before unable to digest it.
5. Chemical Cleaners
One of the requests that doctors dealing with childhood asthma will make is that parents stop using toxic chemical cleaners and replace them with natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. This is because childhood asthma can be set off with strong cleaners. Bleach, ammonia, and antibacterial cleaners may do damage to a child’s respiratory system.
6. Food Avoidance
Nervous parents may avoid these foods, making the problem even worse. A research team from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that maternal intake of peanuts in mice can bring about protection against peanut allergies in offspring. Further, breast feeding can help matters. According to Food Navigator:
"[M]aternal transmission of these peanut-specific antibodies through breast milk may be, at least in part, responsible for this protection."
Babies born through c-sections may have different immune systems. According to the National Institutes of Health, "Researchers evaluated more than 1,200 newborns when they were 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 when exposed to high levels of common household allergens such as pet dander and dust mites."
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Read More: Eating Peanuts During Pregnancy Could Reduce the Deadly Allergy in Your Baby