In the past couple of decades most of us have heard of an increasing number of our friends, co-workers and family members whose lives are being affected by food allergies and sensitivities. It seems that every week someone was just diagnosed with lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivities, corn or soy allergies, digestive issues, various autoimmune conditions and the list goes on. This might leave us wondering,“What exactly is a food allergy? Is this new allergy frequency all in my imagination? Has it always been this way? How did they figure this out? Am I next?”
No, it’s certainly not just in your imagination. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, between 1997 and 2011 the number of food allergies increased by 50% and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by a shocking 265 percent. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, one out of 13 children now has some form of food allergy. And allergy rates are still rising. While some individuals have food allergies others have food sensitivities. A food sensitivity or intolerance will cause symptoms without an immune system response. These can include gas and bloating, indigestion, stuffy nose, acid reflux and GERD, gallbladder issues, joint pain, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and migraines. A true allergy to a food antigen (protein) involves an activation of the immune system, along with the symptoms. These allergies are a main culprit for anaphylactic reactions, as well as many chronic autoimmune issues including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, eczema, psoriasis, celiac disease, lupus, Hashimoto’s, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, neurological disorders and several more. The top 8 food allergens are the cause of 90% of allergic reactions. These include dairy, wheat (gluten), soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
Why the dramatic increase in frequency? There are several factors that have been associated with the sharp increase of food intolerance and allergies.
• Lack of the proper digestive enzymes to break down the given protein properly.
• Compromised gut microbiome. Antibiotics, pesticides, hormones,herbicides and GMO foods can destroy good gut bacteria, which can affect overall gut health and balance. 80% of our immune system is in our gut. There are many studies linking improper gut bacteria and obesity.
• Vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to increased incidence of leaky gut syndrome.
• Lack of sufficient dietary fiber, which is the home for our beneficial bacteria.
The good news is there is a growing population of individuals and groups who are making huge efforts to educate people and their communities on ways to help minimize exposures to some of the most common dietary triggers. Another positive sign is seeing the organic selections in most local grocery stores getting bigger over the last few years. Although it sometimes may seem that we have no control over the quality of our foods, we have tremendous power through our daily choices that can and will change what is put on the shelves. Additionally, new research has discovered there are choices and protocols which can halt or even reverse symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Lisa Y. Mitchell is the owner of Down 2 Earth, a 100% dedicated gluten-free health food store and kitchen located at 1 Meadow Rd. in Florida. For more information, contact 508-6755 or visit Down2EarthMarket.com.