Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Are Allergies on the Rise?

Food allergies around the world are on the rise. Growing up, a peanut allergy was an anomaly, today it is common place. In her book, The Unhealthy Truth, Robyn O'brien talks about how peanut allergies in children in the US doubled in just five years and that experts have seen allergies in general skyrocket (1). "In the UK, there was a 50 percent increase in soy allergies reported when genetically modified soy imports began. And in Russia, the number of people with marked symptoms of allergies tripled in three years..." (2) What is going on?

Is it the environmental toxins we're exposed to? What about the toxins in our household and personal care products? Is it from the pesticide residues in our food? How about the fact that we have increasingly more genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply, exposing us to new proteins that our body does not recognize? Is it that we're eating more food additives and preservatives? Perhaps we're consuming too much of certain common allergens - like soy, wheat and corn - because we don't realize that one or more are ingredients to be found in the majority of processed foods? Is it because we are eating more food that is nothing like its natural state? Are we eating too much of certain foods that our paleolithic ancestors would have eaten very little of?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but there is enough correlative evidence to suggest that the answer is 'all of the above'. Our world today is completely different from that of our ancestors. Food was eaten in its whole state, locally and seasonally and that affected the quantity we could consume. Today, the food we eat contain ingredients such as soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, and xanthan gum.  Food was not grown with pesticides or herbicides or fungicides or synthetic fertilizers - they did not exist. Neither did GMOs.

I believe that in order to find our way back to health, we need to look back in time for guidance. Food should come from the garden, not from a box. We should use seasonality as our guide in order to ensure that we don't over-consume certain foods to the exclusion of others. We should avoid food with ingredients we don't know or that didn't exist 100 years ago. We should stand against the foods that are so contaminated as a GMO that their safety cannot be assured. We should opt for organic or bio-dynamic certification as often as possible to reduce the chemical burden we are placing on our bodies. Allergies are on the rise because we're eating and living in a world that is completely different from the one our bodies evolved in - and the symptoms we're experiencing are telling us that something needs to change.

(1) The Unhealthy Truth, by Robyn O'brien, pg 15
(2) Genetically Modified Food: A Short Guide for the Confused, by Andy Rees, pg 48

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