Americans are becoming increasingly aware of food allergies, and with good merit. According to the John Hopkins University, about 7.5 million people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with clinical food allergies.
Researchers at the university not only confirmed that the prevalence of food allergies is growing, but they also validated the link between such allergies and the onset of other common maladies like eczema, asthma, and hay fever—particularly in children, where food allergies may take silent root in the body.
Why are more Americans developing these severe, lifelong allergies to common foods? This question is under scrutiny from doctors, journalists, and parents alike.
One theory is that as a country, we’ve lost so much of our gut bacteria (the “good” bacteria you can now buy at the health food store) that our stomachs can no longer properly digest these foods. According to this idea, our immune systems have become depleted from the overabundance of sugar, antibiotics, and processed foods, and our bodies no longer have the defense system capable of digesting foods and fighting off harmful bacteria properly.
It’s a strong theory, actually, when the American population is compared to others around the globe. Our diets are much higher in sugars, processed foods, and prescription drugs than countries not as developed. Our prevalence of diabetes, allergies, and autoimmune diseases correlate to such rates, as well.
Individuals faced with the possibility of food allergies may face another barrier on the way to easing their symptoms: understanding allergy versus intolerance. An allergy, as described by WebMD, is an autoimmune response. The body mistakes the protein in a food for something harmful and creates a defense against it—symptoms arise as the body attempts to “invade” the eaten food.
An intolerance, on the other hand, is more of a purely digestive response to food. When something eaten irritates the gut or intestines and isn’t properly broken down, due to an imbalanced digestive system, intolerance symptoms may arise. It’s incredibly difficult to discern the difference between an allergy and an intolerance, but WebMD has put together a comprehensive article for learning more.
If you think you may have a food allergy, get informed on the types of testing available. The best thing you can do for yourself is track your diet, see a doctor, and take the appropriate tests.
We’re curious, do you suffer from food allergies or intolerances? Do you avoid gluten or wheat, like so many others today? What foods do you react to, and how have you changed your eating habits? Leave us a comment.