|Why are Allergies on the Rise
The world is becoming increasingly allergic
to common foods, with children in particular likely to develop new allergies.
When analysed on a global basis, the spread of allergies is far from even, with
Western nations increasing at a much faster rate and specific countries much
worse than others. While no-one knows for sure why allergy rates are
increasing, a number of theories are being examined to explain the rising
Allergies are caused by a reaction of the
immune system as it responds to environmental substances. While the immune
system is supposed to identify harmful substances as a form of protection,
sometimes, it also reacts to substances that are harmless to most people. This
can occur in response to a range of stimuli, from foods and flowers through to
pets and medicines. While asthma is not strictly an allergy, it often has
similar symptoms and underlying causes.
Allergy rates are rising across most of the
Western world. According to research from the US Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, food allergies in American children increased by 50 percent
between 1997 and 2011, and now affect almost 8% of children. The situation is
even more pronounced in Australia, which has one of the worst food allergy
rates in the world at 9%. While food allergies also affect 7% of children in
the UK, interestingly, they only affect 2% of children in Europe.
If these allergy rates weren't worrying
enough, consider just how quickly some of them have grown over the last 20
years. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI),
there was a 500% increase in peanut allergies in the UK between 1995 and 2016.
In other NCBI studies, 9% of all Australian one-year-olds had an allergy to
eggs, and 3% had a peanut allergy. This increased sensitivity to food is
probably related to Western lifestyles and environmental factors prevalent in
modern Western societies.
According to the American Academy of
Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), one leading theory behind rising allergy
and asthma diagnosis rates is known as the "hygiene hypothesis."
Basically, this theory suggests that the Western world is too clean, with people
not exposed to enough germs and immune systems failing to differentiate between
harmful and harmful irritants. There may also be other issues at play, however,
with pollution, medication, and dietary factors also likely to have an effect.
According to AAAAI, there is some research
linking antibiotics and acetaminophen with a rise in allergy and asthma rates.
Obesity may also have a contributing factor, with Western nations that
experience high levels of food allergies also experiencing high levels of
obesity. The delayed introduction of allergenic foods like eggs and nuts can
also cause problems, with Western parents sometimes causing harm in an attempt
to protect their children from certain foods.
Altered gut bacteria can also affect how
the body responds to allergens, and once again, this may be closely related to
dietary factors and widespread antibiotic use. Last but not least, there may be
a link between vitamin D and allergies, with children who spend more time
indoors possibly developing a compromised immune system over time. All of these
factors are likely to have an impact, with children who grow up isolated from
the world around them less likely to develop healthy immune system responses.