A good friend of mine is also a to chef and part owner of a local, healthy, independant grocery store in Miami, Norman Brothers. He recently posed a question; he asked "why are food allergies such a thing that we didn't have when we were kids or when our folks were little?". I was to give him a quick off the cusp answer, though realized that this warrants a detailed answer which others may be able to benefit from. So here we go...
In short, there are many reasons why food allergies have become so prevalent. The answer is complicated, and a result of numerous factors. Below are some key insights I've gleaned over the past twenty years, working as a dietitian/nutrition!
Reason #1- Over-consumption of the same foods- When the body is constantly receiving the same foods, it can result in a "Sensitivity" to that food. This may be because our ancestors ate different foods every season, and this was a healthy diversification. Esstentially, when the gastrointestinal tract keeps coming into contact with a certain protein, it can start to feel irritated and that can develop into inflammation which is essentially what it means to be "
sensitive" to a food. It can result in inflammation that can cause any number of symptoms- pain, bowel disturbance, fatigue, etc.
Particularly, most of our population currently suffers from sensitivities to soy, wheat, dairy and corn. It may not be that you're allergic, rather you have an over exposure situation. This is due to the fact that these particular ingredients are found in SO many packaged aka processed foods. So often, people are eating many more sources of these specific foods than what they realize. Sauces, marinades, any mixes in boxes like flavored rice dishes, microwave packages, plus many more foods, are culprits. Essentially, you may be exposed to (let's say) soy protein every day multiple times, but not even know it!!
Reason #2- Underconsumption of probiotic rich and anti-inflammatory foods. Probiotics, or good bacteria, protect our digestive tracts from the occasional ingestion of a foreign food particle, as found in GMO or artificially colored foods. They help eliminate the protein and also provide a protective barrier to keep the tissue from getting inflammed.
Most people are deficient in good bacteria. Now, most people I've met believe that a little kombucha, yogurt, or a bottle of over the counter (OTC) probiotics will be effective at restoring good bacteria. .
But this is not true. Food sources are a great way to "upkeep" your good bacteria, but they will not create a colony, which is what's needed by most of us, after years of consumption of chlorinated water, antibiotics, pesticides, and other bacteria-damaging chemicals.
Aslo, most store bought OTC probiotics are not effective. This is because they are extracted from animals, soil, and non-human sources. So they never adhere to the gut lining, where they can begin to colonize. I have worked with thousands of people and have come to recommend the HLC line of probiotics, because they are sourced from humans, and as a result are effective at impanting and colonizing, so long as you are also working on killing candida or other parastic microbes. Here is a link to my favorite HLC probiotic, which also helps with the gluten and casein inflammatory response.
Anti-inflammatory foods are vast, and range from ginger and turmeric, to cherries, berries and dark chocolate. So a great anti-inflammatory snack in the afternoon or evening could easily consist of ginger tea with some raspberries and dark chocolate. That's doable, right?
Reason #3- Chlorinated water & pesticides - Chlorine was added to water to kill bacteria and it does. Pesticides do the same. These chemicals are the best and cheapest way our society was able to grow, and not cause massive outbreaks of disease, so it's not to be knocked. However, the long term effects of these additives are simply still in the stages of being discovered. We do know however that they kill our good bacteria and therefore leave us vulnerable to allergic reactions to other foods.
4- Antibiotics in meats, dairy and cheese - The same antibiotics that kill bateria in meats and cheeses, protecting you from some terrible disease, also happen to kill YOUR bacteria when ingested. As a culture, as food production increased and we as a society could no longer allow for major bacterial illness due to food consumption, we began giving anti-biotics to our animals. This is good for food production, but bad for the human body. It kills our good bacteria, and I believe it's a root cause of "dysbiosis", the imbalance of good bacteria in our intestinal tracts. This actually also applies to pesticides found in so many fruits and vegetables, which is the main reason I recommend going organic, if possible. Also, organic produce is typically higher in nutrition.
5- Immune stress - Stress can come from so many places, but all of it affects the immune system. If you are living a high stress lifestyle, you're more vulnerable to food sensitivities and intolerances. In my clinical experience, I've had patients who have had severe and ongoing food intolerances for years. Yet, when they've taken a vacation (often to Europe, where GMOs and pesticides are not standard practice), they've not reacted to anything. Is it a lack of GMOs or a preservatives and other chemicals, or is it because stress is relieved. It's tough to know for sure, but I definitely believe stress plays a role in inflammation and food intolerances.
6- GMOs - Otherwise known as genetically modified organisms, most of our crops in the United States are now genetically modified. Modification of seeds were made in this country to create more resilient crops that are less susceptable to insects, and therefor produce bigger yields. Yet, as a scientific and nutrition community, we still do not know the long terms effects of these Genetically modified foods. However theoretically, GMOs may be causing inflammation and therefor presenting issues around food allergies.
I realize it's complicated and no one wants to fuss over their food, but there comes a point when we can't afford to feel lousy any more. If that's you, and you need some assistance, these recommendations could help you. As well, we are availabe for private consultations as needed.
All the best,
Rachael, the "raw RD"