Food allergies are on the rise - here's (maybe) why
March 3rd, 2014
06:00 PM ET
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Editor's note: Mireille Schwartz is the founder and executive director of the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board, an organization that promotes education and awareness, and provides no-cost medical care and medication to San Francisco Bay Area families with severely allergic children. She is the author of "The Family Food Allergy Book."

Food allergies are on the rise, and are currently the fifth leading chronic illness in the United States.

Since the mid-1990s, food allergies have shifted into high gear; what used to be a relative rarity has become increasingly commonplace, with scientists estimating that the problem is getting worse.

My own fish allergy is so severe that even aerosolized fish in the air - just a whiff - can cause my body to overreact. I have become so overwhelmed by just the vapors of airborne fish proteins I've been forced to rush to emergency rooms for immediate, life-saving medical help. Fortunately, my own daughter Charlotte's allergy to peanuts and tree nuts is slightly less pronounced.

There are three main theories to explain why there are so many food allergies in the first place, and what's responsible:


Allergic diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis (or "hay fever"), atopic dermatitis ("eczema"), and food allergy tend to run in families. So the tendency to have food allergies is definitely inherited.

The hygiene hypothesis

This popular premise suggests that the overly sanitized state of our modern environment is upsetting the normal development of the immune system, leading to a possible overproduction of specific allergy-causing antibodies.

The main idea is that decreased exposure to germs and other disease-causing substances due to characteristics of our modern, Western lifestyles has affected our immune system's opportunity to develop standard immune responses. Because of this lack of opportunity, the immune system becomes prone to respond by reacting to otherwise harmless substances - in other words, by developing allergies.

Read - Family food allergies 101

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. ??? BALLY ??????? ??? ??????? ?

    ??? BALLY ??????? ??? ??????? ?

    May 13, 2014 at 9:17 am |
  2. ????? marimekko ??? ?????? ???? ?????

    Five leaves
    ????? marimekko ??? ?????? ???? ?????

    May 8, 2014 at 5:24 am |
  3. Mark T.

    Hey everyone, the full article on CNN here:

    March 6, 2014 at 9:37 am |
  4. JIm

    "There are three main theories to explain why there are so many food allergies in the first place, and what's responsible:"
    1 – Heredity
    2 – Hygiene Hypothesis
    3 – ????????

    March 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  5. foodfight

    Are autoimmune diseases also on the rise?

    March 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
    • Information Highway

      Nope. Detection is.

      March 5, 2014 at 7:23 am |
      • foodfight

        The increase in type I diabetes over the past 5 years is probably more than detetction.

        March 5, 2014 at 7:38 am |
    • Over Simplification-izing

      Germ-o-phobes won't listen to their elders telling them they need to eat a peck of dirt before they die. That "dirt" helps build strong immune systems early in development. That's why there are more & more cases of allergies & asthma, too. Quit bathing your kids in antibacterial soap and let 'em eat off the floor once in a while. We NEED germs.

      What do you think is in that yogurt you're eating because Jamie Curtis told you to? It's not just to make you poo better...

      March 5, 2014 at 8:59 am |
  6. Arturo FĂ©liz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Mr. Feliz's Blog (Teacher Arturo).

    March 4, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
  7. RIta

    The elephant in the room, vaccinations, have been shown to cause allergies in research, for instance, Dr. Charles Richet won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1913 for his research into anaphylaxis. He injected animals to create anaphylaxis. There are hundreds of anaphylaxis and allergy animal models all using injection including vaccine ingredients. Here's one from 1959 showing pertussis (whooping cough) inoculation increased the lethal effects of rye grass pollen in mice.
    Enhanced Susceptibility of Pertussis Inoculated Mice to Pollen Extract.
    "Pertussis inoculated mice have an enhanced susceptibility to lethal effects of water soluble extract of rye grass pollen. A mixture of this pollen extract with specific immune rabbit serum or normal rabbit serum will kill more pertussis inoculated mice than pollen extract alone."

    March 4, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      I HAD measles as a child. I am told I barely survived. I will take an allergic outcome over death. (No, not all vaccinations are necessary but those folks who want you to cut them all out, are just wrong.)

      They gave the vaccine, which had just come out, to my baby brother - he didn't contract my measles, and he has NO allergies. Of course, this is a result pertaining to a small number of clients, but... I am glad he got his vaccine!

      March 4, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Xira

    Don't forget geriatric pregnancies and older childbearing.

    A 40 year old has roughly 4 times the genetic mutations as a 14 year old in her eggs. Two generations later that's 12 times as many because those mutations stay in the genome forever. Four generations later that's 24 times as many, and probably a drooling imbecile of a human being produced because of the accumulated mutation load.

    You can't fight nature, have your babies when you are young or else.

    March 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
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