10 warning signs of a food allergy in children and adults

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environmental-toxins-allergies(NaturalHealth365) Food allergy is on the rise – in a big way.  According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by a whopping 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.  As it stands now, 1 in 13 American kids and 1 in 10 American adults have at least one food allergy.

Now, new research published in Cell adds to the mounting pile of evidence that shows environmental toxins, processed food, and other modern-day factors are partly to blame for this growing public health concern.

Too much of the ‘bad” and not enough of the “good” cause the food allergy epidemic among children

A food allergy is an inappropriate immune system response to proteins in food that are normally harmless.  Common foods known to trigger allergic reactions include wheat, soy, sesame, egg, tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish.

Why are so many more people suffering allergic reactions to food these days?  A team of Yale researchers recently investigated this very question.  Based on immunobiological data, they’ve proposed several concepts.

First, modern Americans are exposed to a significant amount of environmental chemicals, like pesticides, additives in processed foods, and even dishwashing detergent.  These toxins, the researchers say, naturally trigger protective reactions from the immune system.

Unfortunately, since compounds are frequently in or on the food we eat, the immune system may also begin mistakenly attacking proteins in food as if the proteins themselves were toxic – a phenomenon that the study’s co-author Ruslan Medzhitov has referred to as “guilt by association.”

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Second, many Americans aren’t being exposed to various parasites, and bacteria normally present in the environment, thanks to the overuse of antibacterial soaps, antibiotics, and other excessive hygiene practices.  But natural microbial exposure is actually an important way for the human immune system to learn how to protect itself and neutralize real threats.  Plus, natural exposure to environmental microorganisms supports a healthy, diverse, and robust gut microbiome, which is closely tied to immune health.

So, in our overly-sterilized environment, many people’s immune systems are becoming hypersensitive, and their gut bacteria are being thrown out of balance – making their immune systems more likely to respond inappropriately to otherwise harmless food proteins.

In other words:

Foods are becoming intolerable to a growing number of people because we are constantly being exposed to more of what isn’t helpful (toxins, chemicals) and less of what is helpful (microorganisms naturally found in the environment).  This suggests, of course, that minimizing our exposure to toxins, avoiding processed foods, and resisting the urge to excessively sterilize our surroundings are all useful strategies for reducing the risk of food allergy.

Know these 10 warning signs and symptoms of a food allergy

Most people who have a food allergy will experience symptoms within a few minutes after consuming the food, although some symptoms take several days to develop. Look out for these symptoms:

  • Hives (raised, itchy, and/or red skin rash)
  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Hay fever-like symptoms (e.g., sneezing, itchy eyes)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Swelling around the mouth and face
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Some of these symptoms – including dizziness, swelling of the mouth or tongue, dizziness, and difficulty breathing – could indicate anaphylaxis.  Anaphylaxis is a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction that affects about 1 in 50 Americans.

Bottom line: Do not take these symptoms lightly.  Call your healthcare provider or, if you must, 911 immediately if you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms.  Remember, fast action can be lifesaving.

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