I recently read an article that researchers believe that food allergies in children have increased in the past two decades by nearly 20%. i was happy to see that someone is catching on to what I see in my practice as one of the leading causes of childhood illness. If we can take the theory that most, if not all, illness and disease is based on inflammation, as we are now doing more and more for heart disease and diabetes, we can see that food allergies contribute to childhood health problems too. The illnesses that children show up with are asthma, eczema, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and generally poor immune function. Not to mention a host of behavioral problems, from just being difficult to things like ADD/ADHD and autism. (I want to be careful not to suggest that autism is caused by food allergies, although it may be. What I am saying is that food allergies contribute to worsening of nearly every symptoms a child may present with, including autism.)
For me, the question is not whether or not more children have food allergies. The question is why and what can we do to change it.
This requires looking openly and honestly and what we have been doing over the past 50-75 years that has changed our ability to utilize the food we eat to just nourish our bodies, rather than kick up our immune system. I have given this a good deal of thought, and while there is no good research that I know of on the subject, here are the contributing pieces in my theory. The basic premise is that we have caused damage to our digestive tracts. Factors include:
- Toxic chemicals in our foods (pesticides, herbicides)
- Toxic chemicals in our environment in general
- Processed foods
- Decreased nutrients in our food supply
- Antibiotic overuse
- Chemicals in medications in general
- Chlorinated water
- Decreased production of digestive enzymes due to a variety of factors
- Decreased digestive function due to use of medications (antacids as “band aids” for stomach problems is a huge culprit)
What can we do now?
Demand that our food supply is free of dangerous chemicals. (This will take some effort as we are up against big money lobbying in Washington from the factory farm chemical and seed manufacturers.)
Buy organic whenever we can.
Take control of your health care. Don’t buy into the fact that when you have acid indigestion that you need soem chemical that decreases your stomach acid. Seek care that enables you to find and treat the cause.
Eat whole foods rather than processed (nutrient-less) foods.
I frequently remind my patients that every cell of their body – including all of the skin, muscles, neurotransmitters, hormones, and blood are fueld and kept alive and healthy by what we put in our mouths. So if you are eating donuts and popcorn rather than a large organic salad of dark, leafy greens, your body’s cells are at a disadvantage in our world.