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Is the incidence of food allergy rising?

Food allergies are on the increase and that is a fact. Walk into any classroom in America and you will find a paper posted listing children and their various food related allergies. Milk and nuts are but a few of these troublesome things that can cause today’s child a lot of trouble. Those who grew up in a different era may well wonder what happened to caus this change?

Where once, back in the 60’s and 70’s these lists were shorter and contained things like bee stings, dust, and mold, there are now some alarming things. Lists of allergies now include nuts, meat, milk and any number of other food products. Those in their 40’s or so cannot be blamed for thinking, “This was never the case when I was a kid”?

Well if this was your thought process at all, guess what, you are right. It appears that things have changed over the past four decades and where you might expect things to improve in terms of allergies, they are actually getting worse. With all the technology and advancements these days, one might wonder how the devil this is happening. Well, doctors, scientists and researchers have been putting their heads together in an attempt to unravel the mystery and have come up with some theories, but at this point that is really all they are, theories.

CNN published a piece that contained some scary numbers regarding this topic. The number of kids with food allergies is up 18 percent from years 1997-2007. Factored into this data is the fact that In 2007 there were around 3 million kids who were age 18 or younger that had a food allergy. Another study found that the number of food allergies coming into the ER have doubled.

Finally, an older report (done around 10 years ago) showed there were an average of around 30,000 incidents of ER visits by children and adults that were food allergy related. Mind you that was ten years ago, imagine what the numbers might be now. It all leads down a similar path. As each year goes by, more children are becoming allergic to some type of food related product and regardless of technological advances, the trend seems to be continually heading upward.

So what are the possible theories behind this. The first seems to hit at a dietary issue brought on by folks living in the Western Hemisphere. For those in this part of the world, there is no disputing that they consume better tasting, higher quality food than those folks in say Africa might be eating. This would seem to be a good thing, but looks can be deceiving.

When you examine these foods, you notice that Westerners eat more things that are rich in sugar, fats and calorie content. Sure does taste good, but it might be causing a lot more issues besides weight gain. These other countries are eating more natural things that they grow and not eating much of the same things that Westerners do. Why is this important? In a word, bacteria.

That’s right, the cultured palates of the western hemisphere are so refined that we have managed to refine a number of organisms right out of our bodies. Sounds positive right? Wrong. What happens is that because our guts do not need to fight off organisms from those natural vegetables and such, they stop worrying about them and start going after others things they would not normally go after, hence the emergence of allergies.

It also maybe possible, according to these researchers, that society has become so advanced in how it deals with bugs and things like cleanliness that these things may also be causing the up tick in allergy cases. Certainly vaccines are great and save children’s lives all over the world, but it might just be that they are having another effect. When children are getting these shots, it is certainly lowering their risks of getting sick, but it also maybe limiting their exposure to bacteria that would be helpful in preventing allergies from springing up. Also, the clean freak, disinfecting ways of the West have the same effect and eliminate some things baby boomers were exposed to as youngsters.

Finally, one other theory has been expounded. Perhaps society has become way too cautious. Too cautious, what the heck does that mean? Well, simply put, we baby our babies far too much. Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea that children should not be exposed to certain foods at young ages due to the fear of having an allergic reaction. Again, the forty something set would ask, “When did this happen?”

In the past parents fed their children all types of things to give them a more well rounded diet, not dealing with an edict put out by someone saying “No Nuts”. Thus the children of today are being exposed to certain foods at a later age, and with their limited exposure to these things, well, the body reacts in kind. Regardless of which way you lean on this subject, the facts remain the same. Kids are more allergic to foods these days.

Until a study comes out saying otherwise, parents will continue to coddle their young and not expose them to things that might cause no real problems anyway. Perhaps one day things will return to the way they used to be, but given technological advances and scare tactics like the Internet, you better not hold your breath.