author of Feeding Eden

Varied Opinions on “Food Allergies: What Causes Them”

Last week I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post:

"Food Allergies: What Causes Them?"
And 90 people felt compelled to comment. Seems to me that many people with, and without allergies, have an opinion about the cause and increase of allergies in recent years.

Some readers were pro-dirt:
"My kids all grew up on the farm, as did my husband and I. No food allergies or asthma in either generation. I was picky about washing but they all got into their fair share of dirt and hung around our animals."

"Hygiene hypothesis (with a side of helminthes). She is definitely on to something!"

"Hey folks...let your kids play outside, in the dirt. It's something some of us used to do, but more and more, parents are afraid of the germ-boogie man and try to sterilize their child's environment. It doesn't look like that is as good of an idea as the commercials we watch lead us to believe."

Readers had opinions about the Hygiene Hypothesis and antibiotics:

"This is a very interesting study that links antibiotics to the development of transient and chronic allergy. Again, this is largely due to depletion of the bacteria in our guts. These bacteria provide nutrients, maintain integrity of the gut (i.e. prevent the contents from "leaking" into the zones where immune cells are), and regulate the immune system. Depletion at an early age where the gut is fragile and has never been used is a huge problem that will allow food antigens to escape, triggering immune responses against them that are permanent."
And many readers remarked about the growing numbers of childhood food allergies:
"I'm 33 and when I was growing up I can't think of 1 kid in all of my classes that had any life threatening allergies. We could bring any food we wanted to school. Now, my niece and nephew, 10 and 12, have multiple kids in their classes that have food allergies. At my previous job, the women I worked with basically had their own club based around all of their kids' allergies. Why such a huge change in such a small span of time?"

"I love how there are so many comments on allergy articles from people who say something like "I'm 50 (or 40 or something like that) and when I was a kid I didn't know anyone with allergies....We were there, we just didn't tell you about it. We weren't given any help at school or in public...Now there's more understanding because we stand up for ourselves and demand parity...I expect that food should have proper labels so that I can know what ingredients are in there. It is my right not to die simply because a company wants to save money on an ingredient label...Allergies have always been a part of human existence. They have, in the past, led to death at an early age. No more. We are beginning to understand how to treat them now. How to prevent them is next."

I like those last six words.