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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why are food allergies on the rise???

A new study has come out showing that 1 out of every 20 school age children suffers from allergies, with the most common food allergy (in China at least) being shrimp.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied over 5,000 children between 7 and 12 from the mainland, Hong Kong, Russia and India, and observed the rising trend of food allergy cases.

Obviously there is not one specific reason researchers can point their finger at as being the exact cause, yet they theorize that more children are developing food allergies because they aren't being exposed to enough germs.

That's right, as I discuss in this post, the hygiene hypothesis is an educated guess that says when an infant's immune system is not exposed to certain bacteria in the first three months of life it's immune system gets bored and starts attacking things we'd consider safe, such as allergens.

When we keep our child's environment clean we think we are doing something good, yet the hygiene hypothesis notes we may have taken clean overboard.

Thus, according to the studies experts, " the body's immune system cannot differentiate between bacteria and food enzymes. When antibodies attack food enzymes, it leads to what we know as food allergies."

So what do you do if you suspect your child has a food allergy. It actually depends. First you'll want to identify the food, and this can be done through allergy testing. Yet even if your child comes up positive for a certain food doesn't mean you should eliminate that food from his diet.

I know that some foods showed up on my allergy testing, yet since my doctors observed no significant evidence any foods were triggering asthma, they didn't eliminate any food from my diet. Taking away foods can be challenging, especially if these foods are eggs and wheat or fun foods.

So I was lucky. Yet a few of my asthmatic friends were not so lucky. Evidence showed that certain foods were triggering their asthma and allergy symptoms, and so they had to have certain foods taken out of their diet.

If the reaction to a certain food causes a rash, or difficulty breathing, then it should definitely be taken out of the diet. This might pose a challenge for school aged children because any one responsible for feeding the child must take responsibility for not feeding the child what he is allergic to.

This can pose a problem with school lunches especially if the people preparing the food are not aware of food allergies and prepare food that does not have what your child is allergic to --we'll say peanuts -- in it, for example, on the same surface a food with peanuts was just prepared.

This can also pose a problem in restaurants where food is prepared. You might ask for a food without peanuts, and you might get food with no peanuts in it. Yet you don't know if that food was exposed to peanuts.

Yet with improved vigilance and improved education, no child with a food allergy should come into contact with any food he's allergic to. While this is just one study, it provides evidence to all of us that food allergies are prevalent in our society, and we must do our part to educate ourselves.

Likewise, with the rising number of kids with food allergies, this might provide an incentive for researchers and scientists and those with the power to allocate money to such things, to work to find a cure or at least a better treatment for allergies.


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