Food allergy anyone? The daunting facts:
- Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.
- According to a 2013 study by the CDC, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- Eight (8) foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
Peanut and tree nut allergies, which also tend to develop in childhood, usually are lifelong. Cow’s milk, egg and soy allergies typically begin in childhood and eventually may be outgrown. Fish and shellfish allergies also tend to be lifelong, with more than 6.5 million adults allergic to finned fish and shellfish.
As researchers continue to search for solutions, as well as rationale for the surge in food-related allergies, a few theories are being considered, according to Dr. Stephen Taylor:
The hygiene hypothesis: We are too clean and, therefore, our immune system does not have very much to be concerned about. Instead, it becomes mischievous and gives us allergies. It is well-noted that consumers in societies with poorer hygiene have lower prevalence of food allergies.
Caesarean Birth: Another theory demonstrated is the increase in prevalence of birth by caesarean section because the baby does not acquire their mother’s gastrointestinal bacteria during the birthing process. The immunities the baby might acquire during the birthing process may be important in preventing the development of food allergies.
Late solid-food introduction: Another theory, with little proof, is the change in weaning practices occurring over the last three decades. Avoiding solid foods and weaning babies later, sometimes at 2-to-3 years old, seems like a good idea to avoid allergens in food, but that may not be the best course. There is evidence that suggests early introduction of certain kinds of solid foods into the baby’s diet may actually promote tolerance of those foods, rather than the development of food allergies.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Matthew Smith reports that during the middle part of the twentieth century,[allergies were] often seen as a psychosomatic illness, a physical manifestation of psychological problems… In the case of food
[allergies], the relationship between mental illness and food allergy symptoms were even more complicated, and controversial. Many prominent food allergists stressed that food allergy could trigger mental disturbances, ranging from depressive and psychotic episodes to hyperactivity in children. The solution to many a person’s mental illness, argued the food allergist, was a thorough elimination diet to determine the food that was at fault.
Perhaps our recent ancestors were not far off? Whether we follow Food Babe, check our Fooducate app, input to My Fitness Pal, or enjoy Food Network, consuming food is inevitable. Recognizing how food directly affects our health, even our emotional health, is vital.
Just the tip of the iceberg, pun intended, a few reasons to be conscious of the foods we consume:
Diet and Depression
Long-term exposure to an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression, according to the findings of a 2014 study in the online journal PLoS One. What constituted an unhealthy diet, for purposes of the study, was one that was high in sugar and processed foods.
Sugar and [Eating] Disorders
Research hints at a link between sugar and addictive eating. In a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that, of 81 obese people seeking treatment for binge eating, 57 percent met the criteria for food addiction. Foods that [subjects] were addicted to were high in sugar [and fat].
“Not surprising,” says Pagoto. “When people crave foods, they don’t reach for carrot sticks. Sweets and fats trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain [as] addictive drugs.”
Stress causes your body to seek sugar as quick fuel for a surge of energy, according to the American Psychological Association. “That may be why many people [seek] sweets when they are under stress,” Pagoto says. “We teach people to use healthy behaviors to reduce stress instead of [turning to] food. One of the best ways to reduce stress is with exercise. You can start to think of exercise as not just a chore but a way to feel better.”
“We are what we eat… so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.” Unknown
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