The Truth Behind the Allergy Epidemic

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Chances are you were scolded by a preschool teacher for packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your child’s lunchbox this year… Last week your coworker told you a story about a friend who accidentally consumed some fish sauce and went into anaphylactic shock … Just the other day some pollen drifted through your open bathroom window, which caused a sneezing attack that lasted a good 10 minutes.

We are in the midst of an allergy epidemic. One in every three people in the US have allergies and the rates are increasing. Humans are rapidly becoming allergic to everything in sight; nuts, strawberries, trees, mustard, pets, carrots, this list goes on! The sudden rise in allergies begs the question, why are we becoming allergic to the modern world?
If you are looking for an answer from the experts, immunologists would simply say they don’t know but if you do some of your own digging you’ll find that allergies are repeatedly  linked to GMO foods, herbicides, vaccines, antibacterial products, antibiotics and vehicular pollution. Perhaps, the experts are unwilling to recognize the real culprits.allegic-to-everything

Understanding The Allergic Reaction

Allergies are generally misunderstood. An allergy appears to be a misdirected immune response to a normally harmless substance. We must remember that the body only generates intelligent responses: an allergy is no mistake. All that itching, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing is an attempt by the body to keep unwanted irritants out. Perhaps, those “harmless substances” may not be so harmless for our body.

Let’s take a look at what happens when the immune system is stimulated by an allergen:

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The immune system is stimulated by an allergen (e.g. pollen)—>    IgE antibodies recognize antigen (pollen)—>     IgE antibodies activate mast cells—>    Mast cells set forth a cascade of chemical mediators that cause inflammation (symptoms) —> Allergic reaction

What an intelligently designed response to a toxin!

What type of allergy are you experiencing?

There are two types of allergies: immediate and late stage response allergies. The immediate response to an allergen can occur within seconds, while the late stage response can take up to 12 hours to develop. The immediate response involves immune cells such as histamines, which cause rapid increased permeability of blood vessels. The increased permeability of blood vessels allows white blood cells and proteins to engage in the immune response. The late phase response is characterized by the release of leukotrienes, chemokines, and cytokines leading to the production of mucous and edema (swelling). The  presence and accumulation of immune cells contributes to tissue damage and chronic long-term illnesses such as asthma.

The Hidden Truth Behind Allergies

We know a lot more about the immune system than we did 20 years, however, the immune system still perplexes the smartest scientists. Experts in the medical field tend to blame the occurrence of allergies on gene expression, however, DNA has a lot less to do with disease than we originally thought. We must remember that we weren’t always allergic to the natural world. This is a recent epidemic. In the last 2o years, something must have changed within our environment and our immune system is recognizing this change.

Our environment is too sterile 

strengthen-immune-systemAt a very young age we are taught that germs are bad and germs make us sick. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Being exposed to what many would consider unfit conditions is actually good for a child’s immune systm. Children who encounter a multitude of bacteria develop a highly primed immune system. Children who are raised in sterile environments, with lots of antibiotics soap and windex, are not exposed to enough bacteria biodiversity. The idea that a lack of early childhood exposure to bacteria is called the Hygiene Hypothesis.

How is the Hygiene Hypothesis related to allergies?

The immune system is made up of sophisticated defense pathways that evolved over many thousands of years. The immune system expects continual exposure to harmful substances such as viruses and parasites. When the immune system is not exposed to these substances due to sterility, the immune system is weakened, resulting in abnormal responses to things found in nature. This means exposure to infectious disease is beneficial for immunity (as long as it doesn’t kill you). The hygiene hypothesis makes more sense once we compare the prevalence of allergies in urban and rural areas. Asthma is more prevalent in children that reside in industrialized, urban environments compared to children who grew up on farms.

Chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment 

Chemicals are omnipresent in our personal lives: we come into contact with over 100,000 per day. Chemicals are found in cleaning products, personal care products, drinking water, plastic containers, air fresheners, etc. As we observe the detrimental effects that chemicals have on the environment, it would be naive to think that these chemicals are not impacting our health as well.  Our bodies are incredibly resilient in tolerating these chemicals, however, our bodies have no clue how to eliminate them. As a result, these chemicals wipe out good bacteria and generate a low-grade inflammatory response. BPA, Triclosan, Hydrochloric Acid, Ammonia and Formaldehyde are the most common culprits.

Genetically modified foods and glyphosate are disrupting the immune system 

allergies joke.jpgPeanuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts. It’s no wonder 90% of all food allergies are caused by these foods. These foods are the most commonly grown, most heavily sprayed, and most genetically modified in the US. Currently, 60 GM crops have been approved by the FDA, including corn, soy, and cotton. GM crops such as potato, sugar beet, flax, and tomato have been recently taken off the market for reasons the FDA has not disclosed. No studies have been done to test the association between genetically modified foods and allergies because of “the unethical considerations of feeding high-risk GM crops” says microbiologists from the FDA. Sounds fishy to me.

GM foods are causing a big stir lately but do we really understand why GM foods are so controversial? Let me explain. The genetic makeup of a genetically modified food has been altered using recombinant DNA technology. Essentially, we are introducing new proteins into the DNA makeup of the crop. Our immune system does not recognize the imported proteins from GM crops, which triggers an immune response (an allergy).

The FDA claims that GM foods are no different nutritionally than organically grown foods, however, we have 20 year-old evidence that GM foods trigger allergies. In the 1990’s, soybeans were outfitted with DNA from the brazil nut. An attempt to create a healthier, more resilient soybean backfired on scientists when people who tested positive for the brazil nut allergy also became allergic to soybeans. 89% of soy in this country is genetically modified, usually with bacteria or parts of a virus (yikes!).

Are you eating genetically modified foods? Learn how to identify them

Salmon Confidential: The documentary 

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Glyphosate is also a huge problem among crops grown on industrial farms. Glyphosate is a pesticide that kills weeds. The reason glyphosate does not kills crops is because the crops are generically modified to resist this chemical. That means the foods that you consume are contaminated with glyphosate. What’s the harm? Glyphosate is linked to IBS, acne, headaches, hormone disruption, cancer, celiac, infertility… the list goes on. Glyphosate contributes to the development of allergies by disturbing the bacteria in the digestive system and causing inflammation. As we learned, the bacteria in your digestive tract primes the immune system. Not to mention, 70% of the functional immune system is located in your digestive tract! I cannot emphasize it enough, organic food is a must!

The use of peanut oil in vaccines 

peanut oil.jpgOh boy. The dreaded vaccine debate. Perhaps you believe that vaccines are safe. I have always been skeptical. Just take a look at the ingredient label on a vaccine. You might be surprised to find peanut oil among the ingredients. Peanut oil was introduced as an adjuvant (enhances the strength of the immune response) to the flu vaccine in the 1960s. The vaccine industry was thrilled because peanuts are relatively inexpensive to grow and no law existed that demanded the vaccine industry to disclose vaccine ingredients. By the 1980s peanut oil found its way into the majority of vaccines. Perhaps adding peanut oil to vaccines wouldn’t be an issue if peanuts weren’t the most heavily sprayed crop and most highly genetically modified crop in the US. Peanuts, unlike other nuts, have a soft skin that absorbs chemical fertilizer quite easily. With the sudden wave of peanut related anaphylaxis cases in the 1990s, it’s hard to dismiss the use of peanut oil in vaccines as a contributor to high allergy rates.

Fix your gut, fix your allergies

The digestive systems of Americans are probably among the most damaged in the world. The typical American diet, consisting of sugar, processed products, damaged meat, and fried foods, is a large contributor to the development of allergies. What is the connection? Junk food is not easy for our body to break down, resulting in large food particles roaming around the digestive tract. These undigested food particles causes inflammation, which attract immune system molecules to the site of damage. This causes the digestive lining to become porous and permeable, allowing large food particles, bacteria and toxins to enter the sterile blood stream. The foreign molecules in the blood stream trigger a violent immune reaction, leading to allergies, autoimmune disease, joint pain, infection, and more inflammation. Remember, most diseases start in gut!

We must not forget that antibiotics destroys a lot of the good bacteria in the gut, promoting an unbalanced microbiome and poor interaction with the immune system.

How to fix your allergies

Instead of stowing away in your basement during spring time, get outside and enjoy nature! It’s not about finding relief from allergies, it’s about fixing them!

  1. Most importantly, only buy ORGANIC foods. Avoid genetically modified and pesticide laden crops. If the PLU on the food is 81022, it’s genetically modified. Avoid seedless fruits and vegetables.
  2. Avoid the allergenic foods. Everyone should follow this rule, allergies or no allergies. These foods are toxic: peanuts, soy, corn, wheat, dairy, farmed fish.
  3. Clean up your digestive tract: use herbs such as aloe, slippery elm, marshmallow root, and apple cider vinegar to heal your gut lining.
  4. Stop using antibiotics. Replace lost bacteria with probiotics and fermented foods.
  5. Reduce inflammation using these herbs: tumeric, ginger, garlic, goldenseal, stinging nettles and eyebright.
  6. Supplement with vitamin D. Deficiency will result in a dysfunctional immune system.
  7. Purchase a local bee pollen supplement or fresh pods. Local is best because it protects from local allergens.
  8. Detox, detox, detox! Remove unwanted allergens from your blood stream.
  9. Go for acupuncture and use homeopathic remedies for allergy relief and treatment.

 

Resources:

A great list of documentaries that educate about our food system

Learn how to cure allergy fast with this lecture from John Bergman (he’s my idol)

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One thought on “The Truth Behind the Allergy Epidemic

  1. Yet another excellent post that personally affects me!

    Growing up I never had any environmental allergies, and if I had food allergies, they were mild and were in the ‘itching lips and the roof of the mouth’ variety. Then suddenly, at the age of 35, I’ve developed horrible spring pollen allergy that has only gotten progressively worse. It turned my favorite time of the year into something I would gladly remove from the calendar or spent time traveling.

    These days I cope by having an air filter at my desk at work, by my bed at home, by wearing nose filters, _and_ taking Claritin. It got to a point that my pollen allergies now last nearly 3 months. One especially bad season knocked out my running routine and I never got back to it.

    I’ve heart about the hygiene hypothesis. But it doesn’t mesh well with mine an experience of other immigrants who suddenly developed allergies. I’m not alone in this, I know several similarly affected individuals.

    Another theory I’ve heard is widespread use of diesel fuel. Looking at your map and seeing Brazil and Peru affected almost as much as the US, it doesn’t make sense either.

    In 2008 I had to travel to Russia during my allergy season. My symptoms stopped several hours into the flight and didn’t come back while I was there, despite of the same types of trees I’m allergic to being clearly in bloom.

    Russia under Putin (however much I dislike the man) had been on the forefront of anti pesticide and GMO fight, including passing of the landmark bill last year that essentially banned growing, selling, or even transit of GMO crops through the Russian territory.

    Here is one of the English article about that law that Google returns:
    http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/12/03/putin-russia-will-be-worlds-largest-supplier-of-healthy-organic-food/

    There might be something to the GMO theory then. Brazil is also one of the early and enthusiastic embraces of GMO. Most of the country’s corn and beans are GM-ed.

    Like

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