1 in 13 kids may have food allergies: Is the hygiene hypothesis responsible?


Recent studies on food allergy show that almost 1 in 13 kids in the US may have food allergy. Food allergy is becoming more dangerous and more widespread than previously thought. Nearly 6 million children in the US suffer from food allergies and nearly 40 percent of these youngsters have suffered a severe reaction to certain foods. More than 30 percent of these children are allergic to multiple foods. Peanut allergies are the most common, followed by allergies to milk, egg and to shellfish. The parents of these children are living in a world of constant danger. They want to know what is causing this in their precious children.

So, what is the reason for food allergy? What has changed in our environment and our lifestyles that is causing increased incidence of food allergies? Is it the Hygiene Hypothesis?

Well, hygiene hypothesis may not be the only reason, however, it is an interesting concept to explain it. The hygiene hypothesis states that excessive cleanliness interrupts the normal development of the immune system. Our "developed" lifestyles has caused lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g. gut flora or probiotics), and parasites. This has suppressed the natural development of the immune system. The lack of exposure has eliminated the natural variation in the types and quantity of germs our immune systems needs for it to develop into a less allergic, better regulated state of being. Several other reasons for increasing food allergy are possible, including delayed introduction of the food as well as heightened awareness about the symptoms and potential consequences of food allergies, which have led to increased reporting of food allergies! However, none of these are proven and hence ongoing research work in the field of food allergy would decipher more explanations for this growing problem. More research will be needed to determine whether this novel hygiene hypothesis is true.

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