Increased Food Allergies and the Hygiene Hypothesis
Why does it seem like food allergies are on the rise?
It’s true that adult food allergies are becoming increasingly prevalent. In fact, about 15 percent of the adult population will develop food allergies at some point in their lives, and there are many reasons why. Eating the same foods regularly, high concentrations of food additives and preservatives in diets, pesticides, genetically modified foods, antibiotics, and overuse of certain medications are identified as some of the causes. In infants, bottle feeding and early weaning, and introducing foods too soon can be to blame. It’s also suspected that c-section deliveries alter intestinal microflora and immune status, which sets the stage for allergies to develop. Experts believe that the theory of hygiene hypothesis can help thwart allergies in children as they grow into adulthood. It’s built on the belief that exposing children to environmental allergens early in life may reduce their chances of developing environmental or food allergies later by increasing the immune system’s activity and development of essential regulatory T-cells. It’s thought that without these types of stimuli, children can become more susceptible to allergies and other autoimmune diseases.