Blog •  11/21/2017

The 411 On Food Allergies

Written By Linzie Dehring 
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Food allergies are on the rise, with more food allergy-related hospitalizations in the US over the last decade. But why? Learn what the main triggers are and if gluten has anything to do with it.

Why does it seem like food allergies are everywhere?

Not only is there a rise in conversation about allergies in today’s society, but there’s a rise in food allergies in general.

According to specialist Dr. Kari Nadeau, who is the director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University, the food allergy trend is doubling every ten years.

In fact, a recent study with investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) went through medical records from more than 2.7 million patients, which identified an excess of 97,000 with one or more documented food allergies or an intolerances.

"Recent reports suggest that food allergies are on the rise, with more food allergy-related hospitalizations in the US over the last decade,” said Li Zhou, MD, Ph.D, of the Division of General Medicine Primary Care at BWH about the study findings. “However, many studies have been based on telephone surveys or have focused on a specific food allergen or allergen group." 

There are eight things that cause about 90 percent of food allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. One of the team’s findings showed that shellfish was the most commonly reported food allergy.

One big focus in the scientific community to mitigate the rise in food allergies is diet. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that certain foods should be introduced to infants to help prevent food allergies. Dr.Nadeau says that by beginning to diversify your child’s diet early on, under supervision of a doctor, you can try to prevent the consequence of having these food allergies.

Another reason for the rise: the high-gluten, refined grain diet most of us have eaten since we were infants was not part of the diet of previous generations. Until the 19th century, wheat was usually mixed with other grains, beans and nuts. Pure wheat flour has been broken up into refined white flour only during the last 200 years.

This hits home for me. I was diagnosed with a high-sensitivity to gluten when I was 25, even though I really can’t think of anyone in my family who has a food allergy let alone a food intolerance.

The media portrays being gluten free as a diet fad when in fact, it’s actually not healthy to stay away from gluten if you don’t need to. You could be missing out on many nutrients that you could easily find in gluten, depending on the food.

The good news is scientists are making progress every day on multiple fronts of this issue. For example, thanks to GMOs, peanuts could become hypoallergenic.