A study published in Pediatrics, 2011 suggests that food allergies affect a significant number of children in the US. This study, the largest of its kind, surveyed nearly 40,000 US households with one or more children less than 18 years of age. Based on the data collected, the researchers found that food allergies affect 8.0% of US children or about 6 million. Of those children, 30.4% had multiple food allergies and 38.7% had a history of severe reactions. The most common allergies reported in the survey were peanut (25.2%), milk (21.1%) and shellfish (17.2%).
A well-known hallmark of food allergy is the production of IgE or IgG antibodies to a protein of the problem food. An allergy of this type develops when food-specific antibodies, bound to mast cells and basophils, present in the skin, gut and respiratory tract, come into contact with, and bind the circulating allergen. This binding activates these cells to release inflammatory mediators. This results in discomfort associated with allergy including stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, hives, itching and swelling.
The prevalence of food allergies has shown a remarkable upswing over the past 10 to 20 years across all ages. There can be a genetic influence to developing allergies. Allergic parents are more likely to have allergic children. But certainly this cannot account wholly for the epidemic rise that we have seen over the decades. The manifestations of allergy are the result of the complex interaction between genetics, nutrition, immunity and environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke and pollutants that can increase the antigenic response.
Sound laboratory testing remains an essential clinical tool to identify food sensitivities, which may be the underlying causes of many conditions. For more information on food allergy testing, please contact Dr. Lee at 206-319-5322 or visit www.seattlenaturopathiccenter.com