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The Evolution of Allergies - Why Allergies Are On The Rise

If there is one question I have been asked more often, it would have to be “Why are food allergies on the rise?” The most prevalent of the 9 food allergy categories is shellfish. However, in the past 10 years, peanut and tree nut anaphylaxis allergies have been in the media. The conflict has escalated between parents who want to pack a PB&J for lunch and complain that their child can’t bring snacks into the classroom and those parents with the fear that even an airborne exposure to an allergen may kill their child. When we started the allergy support group at Edgewood Elementary in 2002, there were only 2 students with known peanut allergies. Just a few years later, there were 17 students with known life threatening allergies. According to FARE, in 2014, 1 in 13 American children have food allergies.

To fully understand the health of our current allergy crisis, let’s look at the entire picture of our world today. From food distribution and production, vaccinations, cosmetics, and cleaning products, the majority of Americans are bombarded with millions of new chemicals in our food and environment on a daily basis.

Nut butters were first invented by the Aztec civilization around 1352 by roasting and then grinding the peanuts into a paste. Archaeologists speculate how the Aztec civilization was destroyed, but peanut anaphylaxis allergies are most likely not the case. Nut butters were also used for centuries in Indonesia and the Philippines. So why have have such severe reactions become so numerous in just a few decades?

In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson, a chemist from Montreal Quebec, patented the first manufacturing process of peanut butter. The process involved milling the nuts to a fluid state and adding sugar to harden the paste. Peanut butter was set into mass production thereafter and served to people living in sanitariums or to people who could not eat solid foods. Peanuts are not really nuts, in fact, peanuts are legumes which is why some people who are allergic to peanuts may not be allergic to tree nuts.

Beginning in the 14th century, the first Grocery stores were opened. The term Grocery, derives from the Medieval latin word “grossarius” meaning a quantity of 12 dozen. Mostly coffee, flour, sugar, and legumes were sold in bulk behind a counter. In 1933, the first SuperMarket opened in Memphis, Tennessee. The Piggly Wiggly grocery store was a novelty because it sold packaged items, formerly sold in gross, The packages were displayed on tables and shoppers were able to help themselves. Items would last longer, and could be imported from further distances to the consumer. Today’s supermarkets are stocked with foods from all corners of our planet.

Coinciding with an increase in allergies, I believe the crisis also aligns with the addition of chemicals manufacturers have been using to produce and preserve our food. 100 years ago we didn’t drink diet drinks nor were foods made with “natural flavorings” or as I call it, fake chemical flavoring! Fresh vegetables were eaten farm to table, and livestock was killed locally. And here’s a little fact that will blow your mind. Those wonderful aromas of freshly baked pizza, and cookies, and fast food you smell at your local mall that makes your mouth water, they’re actually chemical scents that are piped into the food court! Let’s say you prefer to cook at home? The beautifully designed Italian labeled virgin olive oil that you splurged on because the bottle screams authentic, was actually olive oil from Argentina, Chile and Guatemala which was shipped through the port of Italy just so it can say it was from Italy. But here is where I completely lose it and throw my hands in the air. The FDA laws currently do not make food manufacturers disclose if a chemical was used in the production of the food. For example, fresh shrimp is often dipped in a preservative before being frozen, however, the label simply states the ingredient “Shrimp” from China. With a country that has had huge problems with baby formula and pet food, who knows what they are using to preserve that shrimp! For those with life threatening food or preservative allergies it is imperative that they know not only what is in their food but also what chemicals were used in the processing of the food, I would bet that the food manufacturing laws and regulations are not as stringent as those set in the US, especially with cross contamination. The multiple countries and manufacturing processes are probably the reason you may have had an allergic reaction to a food when you read the label and the ingredients appeared safe!

In 1901 the United States began giving vaccinations. According to research, the first vaccinations included a derivative from cow’s milk. Uncoincidentally, the first anaphylaxis reaction was reported in the same year. Vaccines are specifically designed to stimulate our bodies immune system. An allergic reaction is the body's Over-Reaction of our immune system to a foreign substance. Charles Richet, a French Physiologist, coined the term, anaphylaxis in 1901. He won the Nobel Peace prize for his work in anaphylaxis, which was a term that described the sensitivity developed to an organism after being injected by a foreign protein, specifically from vaccinations. I believe there is a direct correlation to vaccinations and the increase of allergies. In 1901 the vaccinations were comprised of cow protein and again, not coincidentally, the first anaphylaxis reaction to milk was reported. In the same year only 1 vaccination, was recommended per person per year. Today, 13 vaccinations are recommended for children as well as flu, chickenpox, and shingles vaccinations. As each new vaccine was combined with another preservative, allergic reactions followed. We began introducing foreign substances into our genetics through vaccinations, specifically designed to make our immune system over-react!

Further adding to the chemical overload, we have a plethora of cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos and lotions with ingredients we’ve never heard of being absorbed into our skin on a daily basis. Add this to pharmaceuticals used to treat ailments and products used to make our houses shine and our lawns green and we are exposed to thousands of chemicals. 100 years ago, there were only 2-3 known chemical substances found in our bodies that we were not born with. According to the Center for Disease Control’s report August 2014, the average American body has over 120 foreign chemical compounds. www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/fourthreport_updatedtables_aug2014.pdf

Remember the hygiene theory that we were using too much anti bacterial soaps and we were too clean as a culture? My belief is that we are NOT clean enough, not by washing our hands per say, but what we put in our bodies and what we are exposed to chemically from vaccinations, food manufacturing, air and land chemical pollution. We should adhere by the Clean Eating trend of eating non-processed whole foods and go back to the simpler cleaning solutions such as vinegar and water. As for vaccinations, I do believe they are essential, however, I also believe there is a link to such diseases as allergies and perhaps autism.

Look at the lack of allergies and autism in underdeveloped countries who have simple lives with no exposure to vaccines, processed foods, makeup or pollution nor use soap, and it is crystal clear why Americans, exposed to toxic chemicals, are suffering. I also feel we opened Pandora’s Box and there is no simple solution to remedy the problem. Furthermore, I do not recommend your family stop getting vaccinations, it is a personal decision that must be discussed with your doctor. I do however, urge that more research is done studying the overall benefits of reducing all of these foreign chemicals in our daily lives and preventing diseases, rather than just fixing them with more chemical drugs. It goes to the old adage of the cup is filled to the top, and one more drop makes the glass overflow. Our bodies are filled with chemicals not only from what we have eaten and been exposed to, but by our ancestors in the recent century. Vaccinations given 100 years ago were, also found in vitro, are changing our DNA by overstimulating our immune systems to the point that the body perceives the most basic proteins as a threat.

God help us when those genetically altered vegetables, spliced with frog dna to prevent bugs from eating the vegetables, get into our diets! What then? I say, we start to croak.

Janet Haliday

Founder, Project Allergy