As a civilized society, we can no longer pretend like the increase in food allergies is not a terrifying epidemic. I’ll admit, years ago, I was in the wrong about food allergies. I thought that most people with food allergies were exaggerating their risks. There were just suddenly too many people with life-threatening allergies. Many media reports had indicated that better reporting and more cautious diagnosing might be behind the surge in EpiPens at schools. That seemed plausible to me. I even thought that maybe more attentive parenting might be behind the rash of food allergies. It didn’t cross my mind that genuine and severe food allergies might be reaching alarming proportions in our society until they struck my family. In my family, three people are prescribed epinephrine autoinjectors for life-threatening allergies.
When I socialize, I wouldn’t have to worry if I forgot an EpiPen, because there is at least one person with a food allergy living at almost all of the homes I visit. Peanut-free is such a way of life in our community that I was frankly shocked when I went to eat at an Olga’s Kitchen and you could still add peanuts to your sundae. One might think that schools go peanut-free to protect the one allergy-ridden child, but alas, a visit to the peanut-free lunch table will confirm that there are often enough food-allergic children at one school to make up a baseball team.
If this doesn’t alarm you, just wait a little bit, because it won’t be too long before food allergies affect someone you love. There has even been a rise in adult-onset food allergies.
Imagine that one day you are eating eggs in the usual fashion, when suddenly, your lips start swelling up. It actually could happen, because something huge is going, on and a big enough deal is not being made about it. Our media freaks out when a hundred cases of measles pass without incident, while chronic, life-threatening food allergies are still overtly mocked on television.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the prevalence of reported food allergies had increased 18 percent
among children between 1997 to 2007, but that didn’t seem daunting enough. It didn’t specify the severity of the food allergies. One study though, published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, should frighten each of us. This study was reported on by Robin Gelburd, the president of FAIR Health, and featured this week in the Wall Street Journal. Published in 2015, it looked at the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions due to anaphylaxis caused by food between 2008 and 2012. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening, allergic reaction. The analysis found that severe, life-threatening food reactions are increasing in prevalence at an alarming rate. They rose annually by 29.1 percent between 2008 and 2012.
That is not OK.
There is a life-threatening epidemic affecting American children and adults, and it needs to be addressed and discussed with the magnitude of importance that it deserves.
Oh, and no potential cause should be off limits.
If there is a chance that genetically modified foods are causing food allergies, we should be openly discussing it. While a recent Harvard article claimed that “there is no evidence that GMOs are any more or less allergenic than their non-modified counterparts,” isn’t it fair to wonder if genetically modified corn syrup and soy proteins used in baby formula and endless other foods might alter the flora of the gut and indirectly lead to food allergies? We know that changes in gut flora have been implicated in food allergies and autoimmune disease. Plus, in 2015, a veterinary medicine article in Current Microbiology implicated glyphosate, the pesticide used on most genetically engineered corn and soy, with having the ability to dangerously alter the microbiome of the gut. Some have even suggested that since glyphosate affects the microbes in the soil where our food comes from, even non-GMO food may have different microbes than it would have had decades ago. I don’t know if any of this increases food allergies, but the topic should be discussed. Simple safety studies should not end the discussion when food allergies have become a global epidemic.
You know what else should not be off the table? Discussions that link food allergies to vaccines should also not be off the table. In fact, this should be a focused area of research. When researchers at the University of Virginia Health System’s Division of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology reported this new food allergy era might be a response to vaccines containing the adjuvant alum, the medical community should have jumped to explore this possibility in a frenzy. It should have been on the evening news. Alum is usually the name given to potassium aluminum sulfate when used in vaccines and is a known trigger for allergic traits. Aluminum hydroxide (and even other forms of aluminum adjuvants) are sometimes used specifically to create an allergic model for use in allergy studies. Given that an adjuvant (which is also found in many vaccines) is used to make an animal model allergic on purpose, it should not be ridiculous to suspect that the surge in the number of vaccines given to children might directly correlate to the surge in food allergies. Whether a genetic predisposition can be found among people with food allergies doesn’t mean it’s useless to discuss any potential role that vaccines might play in the allergy epidemic.
Many have implicated antibiotics, c-sections, excessive hand-washing, or even not enough eating mud.
Knowing what causes food allergies could prevent future suffering and end the epidemic. We must demand that our scientists determine the causes of food allergies, and no suspect should be off limits for implication, no matter how important or lucrative it might be.
[Featured Image by Aleutie/Shutterstock]