Allergies on the Rise

Fifteen years ago food allergies were relatively uncommon. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has forecast that by 2020, 50% of people in developed countries will suffer from an allergy of some kind. The incidence of allergies in Australia is among the highest in the world. Peanut allergy, once quite rare, is now a common allergy.

‘Allergies’ are the result of an imbalance in the immune system. Symptoms are hayfever, sneezing, sinusitis, headaches, coughs, asthma, eczema, hives and unexplained skin rashes. In their extreme form, allergies cause an ‘anaphylactic’ response, where breathing becomes difficult and immediate medical attention is needed.

Anaphylactic responses are often caused by nuts, especially peanuts. Parents who have children with severe food allergies must be constantly vigilant in protecting their child from contact with the foods they are allergic to, especially, when they are allergic to several foods.

Why are allergies on the rise?

One theory is that our systems are not exposed to enough bacteria, early in life. Rates of allergies are lower in children who grow up in a farm environment where they're exposed to more good bacteria, including animals and domestic pets. The notion of stimulating the immune system in young children is being held as essential to develop so that immune problems like allergies don’t develop.

Allergies are not always caused by a person’s external environment and there may be an internal reason that is worth investigating.

Studies are showing that giving young babies antibiotics predisposes to asthma. Antibiotics wipe out the natural, protective bacteria in the human gut and affect immune function. In the past 25 years, cases of asthma have doubled. Other studies show that in countries where the use of paracetamol is common, allergy rates are higher.

Many children with allergies, also have digestive problems and learning or behavioural problems. When digestive problems are properly treated, the children’s allergies, behaviour and development improves.

Diet is of huge importance in allergy sufferers. Asthma, it seems, is a ‘disease of affluence’. The more processed, takeaway and junk food that is consumed, the greater the incidence of asthma and allergies is. Where a more natural diet is taken, the lower the incidence of asthma is. Simply eating more fresh fruit and vegetables considerably helps children with asthma, for example.

Also, eating fresh fish, or taking fish oil supplements, helps to reduce the inflammation that accompanies allergic reactions. Many people benefit from switching to goats milk, or avoiding dairy products altogether. Avoiding wheat, or highly processed white bread may also help.

What can you do about allergies?

Firstly, it’s important to identify the allergy and avoid it.  Identifying food intolerance often requires looking closely at the diet and when allergic symptoms flare up. Other allergies can be tested with skin prick or blood tests.

  • Mothers who know they have a food allergy can avoid offending foods as soon as they know they are pregnant.
  • Breast-feed for as long as possible – at least six months.
  • Introduce wheat, cows milk and its products, eggs and   peanuts after 12 months of age.
  • Avoid chemicals –eat organic fruit and vegetables and use natural cleaning products.
  • Increase fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish oils, and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin (pepitas) and sesame seeds.
  • Avoid antibiotics where possible.

 

Treatments

Many allergy sufferers believe they just have to learn to live with the reality of feeling miserable every Spring, or all year round. This is not necessarily the case. With good management, it is possible to reduce or eliminate allergic symptoms.

Treatments are based around strengthening the patient’s immune system. Getting patients off antibiotics is often part of the treatment. Once off the ‘antibiotic treadmill’ and normal digestive function is restored, general health improves. Ask about alternatives to antibiotics at your next appointment.

We have special desensitising drops for many common allergens that include moulds, animal furs, pollens, grasses etc. You can ask about these next time you are in clinic.


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