FOOD Allergies- just about everyone either has them or has a loved one that suffers from an abnormally violent reaction to food.
I can remember being in elementary school in the 90's and being given a Snickers bar as a treat without needing a “food allergen” card or parental consent.
Contrast that now with the school my own children attend which has been declared a “Peanut and Tree-Nut Free Zone”.
Why are our bodies at WAR with FOOD?
As the mother of children with food allergies that were definitely NOT inherited from me or my husband, this question has kept me up at night.
I mean, we kind of need to eat to live...so allergies don't seem like a particularly useful genetic adaptation to acquire, much less pass on to the next generation. I also know that our ancestors did NOT suffer from food allergies as we do today...
So what is REALLY going on?
I don't buy the “it's genetic” hypothesis either. How much can the collective human anatomy have changed in the past 70 years? 100 years, even?
On the other hand, our food and health systems have turned traditional knowledge of the natural world on its head...in just the past 75 years!
So, while we are on the topic of human anatomy let us have an extremely rudimentary crash course on immunology...
In high school biology, we learned that the body acquires immunity when the blood stream came in contact with a foreign (not-of-the-body) invader. Our cells send for reinforcements, copy themselves and create a kind of memory so that later on in life if that same (or similar) invader (“allergen”) makes it into your system, your body would launch a full blown search and destroy mission.
When we fall ill, this plays out as “I got really sick earlier this year when I caught that cold, but this time the cold I got didn't last as long and it wasn't as severe”.
(This way of thinking of acquiring immunity is the basis for the vaccination schedule.)
So by now you may be wondering “ok, but how does food get into my blood stream for me to develop an immunological response to it?”.
Let us look at our food, and in particular how modern scientific advances have influenced how we produce it.
After World War II, the United States found itself with tons of War Infrastructure, but with no war to use it. Chemical facilities were no longer needed to make weapons, so well-intentioned scientists with that good ol' American ingenuity decided to channel the once destructive forces of the chemical refining into a way to enhance agricultural practices to feed a nation.
The rationing, preserving and canning complexes that once churned out meals for deployed American forces overseas soon became the foundation for the modern convenience-food industry.
The chemical industries found that some of the same petroleum-based chemicals that were once refined and used to make explosives- Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus- could be used to fertilize crops. (Also known as NPK for all you gardeners out there).
To solve the other bane of farmers -the pest/weed control issue- former chemical-weapon cocktails were sprayed on crops to kill and deter weeds and pests. So a new age of scientifically enlightened agriculture practices began...
...And we LITERALLY ate it all up.
Later, in the late 80's to early 90's, farmers and scientists alike were feeling the financial and health cost of constantly having to spray pesticides on America's crops. Pests and weeds were crowing resistant to the poisons and air and water pollution were becoming a PR nightmare.
Something had to be done.
Scientists began designing and marketing a new kind of corn that wouldn't need to be sprayed with pesticides; it was called BT-Corn. See, BT-Corn ITSELF was labeled as a pesticide USDA because it had been genetically engineered to kill the pests that tried to eat it.
BT-Corn works by tearing open the stomach and intestines of the pests that eat it, thus killing them so they can't come back for more. But the corn doesn't just sit in the fields looking pretty and pest-free...
We eat that up too.
Now if you are thinking “oh, well I don't eat much corn”, I would beg to differ. Corn and its bi-products are in anything and everything you can think of in some iteration: cereal, ketchup, lunch meats, bread, cookies, crackers, sodas, juices, peanut butters....everything. (high-fructose corn syrup)
So if we are eating food that has been genetically modified to tear open holes in the stomach of pests unfortunate enough to dine in a GM cornfield...
...it follows that tears (perhaps smaller) would develop in our bodies as well.
THUS, foods get into our blood streams, our bodies immunological response kicks in and we develop food allergies.
But GM foods are not the only way foods can get into our blood stream and stir up trouble.
Vaccines often contain trace amounts of proteins of foods used to suspend/preserve/incubate the virus. Peanut, soy, caesine(from milk), egg have all been found in trace amounts as additives in vaccine.
Interesting how milk, nuts, soy and egg are also common allergies...
So to answer the question “what is going on with all these allergies?”, clearly a lot of messing around with our food and how our bodies develop immunity.
By no means is this a comprehensive or definitive answer; how we eat and our ideas of health have changed more in the past 100 years than throughout all of human history.
But if you or any of your loved ones suffer from food allergies or intolerance, perhaps looking not only at your body but at what you PUT in it can gain you the insight you deserve.