The Rise Of The Food Allergy
April 28, 2014

The Rise Of The Food Allergy

More and more, it seems, people have food allergies. Whether these be to eggs, dairy, nuts, gluten, or whatever, I feel like we discuss food allergies more than ever before. It turns out that this is not just a feeling I have; in fact, research shows that food allergies are on the rise for both children and adults, as the care2 website identifies in a recently published article.

care2 explains that doctors and scientists have looked into and will continue to look into this rise in food allergies, but at this point they can identify three possible reasons: heredity, GMOs, and an overly sanitized environment.

1) Heredity

As with seasonal allergies and other allergic diseases, food allergies also show a connection to genetics because allergic diseases tend to run in families. And though this certainly provides some explanation to food allergies, the near meteoric rise in the way that food allergies moved from rare conditions to almost commonplace still begs the question of why. Why do more people have food allergies today? Scientists and doctors think it is because of what is being done to food.

2) GMOs

So what is being done to food? Well, for starters more and more foods come from or are themselves genetically modified foods. The care2 article addresses this possible reason best:

“It was back in 1996 that genetically-modified organisms began making their way into the food supply. Eighteen years might seem like a long time, but it’s just a flash in the pan when it comes to determining the effect of GMO consumption on human health. That’s why regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continue to insist that GMOs are safe, even though they know good and well that it could be another 18 years before we’re able to see their full impact. Still, there is compelling evidence to suggest that genetically modified crops are positively linked to food allergies. Especially when you consider that some of the most common genetically engineered foods (soy, corn, milk, peanuts, yeast) are also listed among the most common food allergies. That doesn’t even begin to address all the chemical pesticides and fertilizers we’re spraying on all food, genetically modified or not.”

Since GMOs are still relatively young, and therefore have not truly seen their impact, it may be important to know what foods are typically genetically modified. redOrbit provides some great articles, one of which I wrote about eight months ago. I also wrote a blog at the beginning of this year about some tips to find non-GMO foods. At the very least, it is interesting that food allergies have risen seemingly sympathetically along with the rise in GMO. It’s worth understanding more of, right?

3) An Overly-Sanitized Environment

The last possible reason for the rise in food allergies that care2 states is the way in which we sanitize everything. Because many carry sanitizer, wipe down everything with Lysol, and just kill germs and bacteria pretty constantly, our immune systems may not be growing as strong. This means that they might also be overproducing allergy-causing antibodies. We simply cannot fight diseases, illnesses, germs, and bacteria because we are not exposing our immune systems to these in ways that help to build the immune system. Our protection of the immune system seems to have weakened it.

As someone who has a food allergy issue (of sorts) with gluten, I can tell you that anytime someone finds out I eat gluten-free because of health issues, they either know someone else with a food allergy or have one of their own. And people love to talk about them. Perhaps people always had food allergies, but now we talk about them more. However, research seems to show that the more likely culprit is that more people have food allergies and food sensitivities. Research needs to continue to identify why and possible causes of the rise of the food allergy.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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