Cause of Allergies

By Heather Legg

I came across a recent article the other day about the causes of food allergies. Why are they so prevalent now? Why are they so much more frequent than what they used to be?

I know that one theory is that our Western diet is so different than a natural diet that our children develop allergies because they do not have the good bacterias that are needed. Here is what I read in an article in cnn.com:

One theory is that the Western diet has made people more susceptible to developing allergies and other illnesses.
A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the gut bacteria from 15 children in Florence, Italy, with gut bacteria in 14 children in a rural African village in Burkina Faso. They found that the variety of flora in these two groups was substantially different.
The children in the African village live in a community that produces its own food. The study authors say this is closer to how humans ate 10,000 years ago. Their diet is mostly vegetarian. By contrast, the local diet of European children contains more sugar, animal fat and calorie-dense foods. The study authors posit that these factors result in less biodiversity in the organisms found inside the gut of European children.
The decrease in richness of gut bacteria in Westerners may have something to do with the rise in allergies in industrialized countries, said Dr. Paolo Lionetti of the department of pediatrics at Meyer Children Hospital at the University of Florence. Sanitation measures and vaccines in the West may have controlled infectious disease, but they decreased exposure to a variety of bacteria may have opened the door to these other ailments.

But when I read this, I think (as I bet so many other moms do) that that wasn’t me when my daughter was young. I made her baby food from scratch, she didn’t eat sweets or any processed food until she was a year or two old, and even than very minimally. I didn’t add salt or butter to her veggies and to this day she likes them plain. We eat very low fat except for the foods high in good fat.

However, the second part of the aforementioned article does ring a bit of a bell…”the hygiene theory.” Though I can’t say my house is spotless, I am a big hand washer and did carry around the personal high chair and disposable place mats to restaurants. I’d rather her sit in my lap than in a restaurant high chair. She was a very healthy infant and toddler and didn’t even really get sick until preschool. Maybe she should have had a few more germs…

The next theory is that children should be exposed to high allergen foods at an earlier age, and it is our lack of exposure that plays a part in high allergy numbers. Some doctors are advising don’t wait on things like nuts and shellfish, but you can be sure I waited. Who knows, maybe babies should eat shrimp and peanut butter and we’d have a lot less allergies.

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