What Causes Food Allergies?

It didn’t used to be like this.  The CDC reports the number of cases of food allergies in children spiked 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Think about that.  Twenty years ago only half as many kids had food allergies as do today.  Why the sharp spike?

Houston allergist Dr. Dat Tran of Innovative Allergy Clinic says it’s because we’ve messed with the natural order of things by processing the foods we eat in the modern world today.  It’s why people who come to the U.S. from countries with a diet of fresh foods often develop allergies here.

In the millions of years of developing, humans consumed foods loaded with microbes and bacteria.  Immune systems developed to fight those pathogens and destroy them.  In a modern world, foods are highly processed to remove microbes that would cause the food to spoil faster and have a shorter shelf life.  Absent those microbes, bored with little to do, our human immune systems are now attacking foods like the common peanut.

 “Our food has a lot of preservatives so it has really decreased the bacteria.  Our environment is very clean.  Basically, the immune system now has the time to react to the peanut,” says Dr. Tran.  “Our food, the way we process it, the way we add hormones and antibiotics, while it gives us safety from bacterial infections it allows allergy to then manifest itself.”

Researchers today estimate that as many as 15 million Americans today have food allergies.  30% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.

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