Possible causes of food allergies, which have increased rapidly in recent years
It is an undeniable fact that food allergies have increased in recent years. Allergies, which are rapidly spreading in both children and adults, can seriously reduce the quality of life. The USDA estimates that about 2 percent of adults and 4 to 8 percent of children have food allergies. Some scholars believe that this figure rises to 10 percent among the 33 million people in the United States. Some experts even describe food allergies as an epidemic of sorts.
It is known that the number of deaths from allergies, which places a serious burden on the health system and the economy, in the United States is approximately 150-200 people a year. In addition, it can be seen that about 30,000 people a year go to emergency services for allergies. With doctor visits, hospitalizations, medications, care, lost productivity, and special diets, a food allergy can cost about $25 billion a year. And for all these reasons, it is very important to unravel the mystery of rapidly growing allergies. Why is it growing, why are children and adults forced to avoid certain food groups, why do people turn down dinner invitations from their loved ones because they cannot eat their favorite food or are forced to follow a special diet? Alkis Togias, head of department at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: saying “the concept of the inexplicable fits perfectly with this theme” draws attention to the situation.
What makes an allergy an “allergy”?
Peanuts, shellfish, soybeans, wheat, eggs, tree nuts Many foods, such as allergies, the first thing that comes to mind is the word “allergy.” According to scientists, allergies are abnormal reactions of the body with Ige to substances that are normally considered harmless. IgE (immunoglobulin E) is a protein produced to help the immune system detect and resist invaders (substances that detect harm), and when IgE detects a threat, histamine causes blood vessel dilation, tissue inflammation, skin itching and wheezing, coughing or respiratory tract sneezing causes the production of a hormone called In a word, causes the manifestation of allergic symptoms.
Although this defense mechanism was originally developed to fight off parasites or viruses in the body, sometimes it also includes benign substances. (common allergens like peanuts, eggs, etc.) may perceive it as a danger. This may be due to the fact that the immune system is not properly trained, or any potential allergen has a common nature with a harmful substance that can pose a threat. According to experts, although many substances can cause allergies, food allergies are among the most dangerous; because people have to eat every day, and because allergies are severe, the results can be fatal when the body reacts strongly. That’s why unraveling the allergy mystery is crucial to finding ways to fight it.
Theories Behind the Rise of Food Allergies
So why does food allergy continue to rise so rapidly, and why do children born in recent years have higher rates of allergy worldwide? Research and expert opinion on the subject suggests that there may be different theories behind this increase:
1. Hygiene hypothesis
According to scientists, as sanitation, disinfection, in short, cleaning increased, and the tendency towards hygiene increased, food allergy rates increased. As our bodies face fewer germs or parasites to fight off, they begin to attack less harmful components such as allergens. Because as people spend more time in a strictly sterilized environment, they interact with some benign and even beneficial microorganisms that play a critical role in regulating the immune system. -who scientists call “so-called old friends”- The chance of meeting has decreased. And, according to experts, this situation is beginning to be observed all over the world. It has been noted that the highest rates of allergy have been reported, especially in wealthy countries.
In China, food allergy rates rose from 5 percent between 1999 and 2008 to 8 percent between 2009 and 2018. In people who migrated from poorer countries with lower levels of allergies to richer countries, the incidence of allergies increased and their children soon developed allergic reactions; both locals and visitors…
But, despite all this, according to scientists, the hygiene hypothesis does not explain everything that we observe with allergies. Because hygiene has improved over the centuries, but allergies have increased the most in the last decade. But this is not out of the question; some studies place more emphasis on the hygiene hypothesis, while others point out that the solution to the problem is not just getting dirty.
2. Impact hypothesis
According to experts, babies have a flexible immune system; that is, the first months of their lives are critical in adapting the immune system’s response to threats. Douglas Mack, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, McMaster University, “Guidance information suggests that children should avoid food allergens at an early age, but this perception may be misleading or even backfire. This may explain why allergy rates have increased so much over the past 30 years compared to previous years.” He says that one of the causes of allergies that start at an early age is a lack of exposure to allergens. There are also studies in the literature that can support this impact hypothesis.
In a 2015 study of 640 infants, some of them ate foods containing peanuts, while the rest avoided such foods. When children reach age 5, the rate of peanut allergy in children who avoid peanuts is 13.7 percent, while the rate is 1.9 percent in children who consume products containing peanuts. In other words, this study showed that exposure to peanuts, which is an allergen in the early years of life, reduces the incidence of allergies.
On the other hand, similarly to the impact hypothesis ‘double exposureIn other words, another situation called double exposure is considered effective in causing allergies. Namely, according to studies and experts, food allergens can be transmitted through the digestive system as well as through the skin, especially in children with eczema. Therefore, even if a child does not eat foods that cause allergies, such as peanuts, soy, or eggs, they may be susceptible to allergies through skin contact at home. Douglas Mack, clinical professor of pediatrics, notes that health authorities in many countries are now saying that infants should be gradually exposed to potential allergens under the guidance of a pediatrician. And in the updated dietary guidelines “There is no evidence that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods helps prevent food allergies, other than the introduction of other complementary foods.” He says he has information.
Of course, as with many health-related issues, genetics is considered an effective factor when it comes to allergens. Some people are more likely to have an allergic reaction to certain foods, according to experts. While 64% of identical twins with the same genetics share a peanut allergy; This figure is 7% in fraternal twins. However, this is still not enough to explain the exact cause of allergies, like other hypotheses. Because about 100 genes are known to be involved, the genetic roots of allergies are more complex than previously thought. Alkis Togias from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases “Like other explanations, genetics doesn’t explain everything about allergies, but it may shed more light on other ways to prevent allergies.” He draws attention to the subject.
4. Vitamin D deficiency
Another possible cause of allergies is vitamin D deficiency. Because, according to many studies, it turns out that as vitamin D, which plays a critical role in regulating the immune system, decreases, food allergy rates increase. It has also been found that people living in developed, wealthy countries who spend more time indoors have higher rates of food allergies than those who spend more time outdoors. On the other hand, countries farther from the equator also have higher levels of allergies than countries in the sunny central part of the planet. Although the amount of research on this subject is small, based on these findings, researchers continue to work on whether vitamin D supplements can play an effective role in reducing allergy levels.
allergies in adults
It is believed that most of the above possible theories say little about adulthood, since they point to the appearance of allergies in children. Therefore, there are various studies and ideas about allergies that develop in adults. One theory of allergies that begins in adulthood has to do with the aging process of the immune system. It is known that as the immune system weakens with age, adults become more sensitive to allergens over time.
Alkis Togias explains: “Allergies in adults can also be caused by immunological stresses, such as a severe infection that somehow affects the immune system and sends it a signal to start producing IgE antibodies where it was not before.” He points out that various factors may also play a role.
On the other hand, experts believe that people with food allergies need not suffer; notes that it is now easier than ever to live with allergies. It is said to be easy to avoid allergic foods by determining what the body is allergic to through various blood and skin tests. It is also believed that many restaurants or menus now include more food allergy warnings, making it easier to deal with allergens. On the other hand, it is pointed out that the epinephrine injector known as the EpiPen can be used in practice, for example, in severe allergic reactions, and that precautions can be taken in emergencies. The use of drugs that relieve allergy symptoms can also ease this process. Although there is no reliable way to completely cure allergies, taking precautions and relieving symptoms with many different methods makes it easier to deal with allergies, experts say. Finally, by understanding how the microbiome interacts with allergies, scientists hope to develop a way to reduce the severity of food allergies in the long term.
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