What causes food allergies?
The World Health Organization lists allergies as the fourth most common chronic disease in the world. And, more worrying still, the number of allergy sufferers has doubled in the last 15 years in industrialized countries. Indeed, many allergists believe that within the next ten years, one in two people will be an allergy sufferer.
Food allergies in children can often be obscure and difficult to manage, and they can manifest in subtle or devastating ways. They do have one thing in common, however: they’re a significant source of stress for children and their parents. But beyond the issue of allergies per se, other types of intolerances are devastating in their own right. While they’re harder to diagnose and often confused with other symptoms, food intolerances are also on the rise. For instance, dairy intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances worldwide.
So, how is it possible to distinguish between allergy and intolerance? Simply put, allergies cause a person’s immune system to react to a particular protein, while intolerances are food sensitivities that don’t trigger an immune response. Nevertheless, intolerances can slowly wreak havoc, leading to such issues as chronic inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders and, in some cases, neurological problems.
Peanuts, eggs, milk, nuts, wheat, soy, sesame, seafood, sulphites and mustard are the source of many allergies and intolerances, but many other “ingredients” can be added to the list of items that cause adverse reactions over the short or long term. These items include refined sugar, food colouring, preservatives and questionable additives found in abundance in most processed products.
Which brings us to this article’s main message: you need to understand the causes of a problem to remedy it. Some contributing factors have led to a dramatic increase in food allergies and intolerances. Let’s take a closer look at some famous processed products popular with consumers.
Some products undergo so much industrial processing that natural molecules contained in their ingredients have likely mutated into allergenic proteins. Moreover, mixing various products can cause cross-reactions or lead to the appearance of new allergens, as English researchers showed in a 2003 study. According to the study, mixing soy with peanut products increases the risk of peanut allergy by a factor of 2.6.
In addition to the ready-made meals invading the shelves of our pantry and refrigerator, food diversification, surprisingly, has provoked some allergies. Many exotic products can cause allergic reactions because the body is exposed to molecules that are still unknown to it. In addition, the mass cultivation of fruits and vegetables fosters the production of stress proteins – profilins – which are extremely allergenic.
Our modern lifestyle also contributes to the increase in allergies and intolerances. As a whole, this lifestyle has completely destabilized our immune response for obvious reasons: the overuse of antibiotics, shorter breastfeeding time and over-sanitized environments.
In short, even if it can be difficult to live outside societal conventions at times, it’s a good idea to take the necessary precautions to avoid increasing the risk of allergies and food intolerances in children. All you need to do is ease up on housecleaning, garden and cook more, eliminate the main allergens and harmful ingredients like sugar, choose organic foods as much as possible and, most importantly, take a big bite out of life!