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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Emerging Allergy Epidemic and 3 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Allergic reactions to foods, drugs, plants, and insects are becoming more common and more severe. Food allergies affect about 8% of kids and adults in the US. Since the 1990s, they've increased two- to three-fold among children. Three out of ten kids with food allergies have reactions to multiple foods and almost four out of ten have had severe reactions. Some say it's an epidemic.

What's causing this explosion?

There are three likely answers:

  • Pro-Inflammatory Diet
The standard American diet is full of foods that increase inflammation in the body like processed and deep-fried foods, starchy and flour-based foods, sweet foods and drinks, and pro-inflammatory fats. Excess inflammation may sensitize the immune system against non-threatening things in our environment like food.

  • Altered Gut Microbiome
Scientists are still learning about the complex interactions between our bodies and the microbes that inhabit our bodies, but we already know that they help modulate the immune system. Allergies are more common among kids with altered bacterial balance in their gastrointestinal tract, and studies show that moms who take supplements containing healthy bacteria (probiotics) during pregnancy and breastfeeding have babies with significantly lower rates of allergic diseases.

  • Exposure to Chemicals in the Environment
Every day we are exposed to toxins in air, water, food and our environment, from carpet and upholstery to shower curtains and personal products.  According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of nearly 500 environmental toxins have been identified in human blood and fat tissue, and before babies are even born their bodies are contaminated with more than 350 different chemicals, according to studies done by government, academic, and independent researchers. Chemicals in the environment can promote allergies directly through their toxic effects and also indirectly by triggering inflammation in the body and damaging our gut microbiome.

How can we reduce the risk of developing allergies?

The most effective way to prevent or treat disease is to address the underlying factors, so start with these three strategies.

#1  Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Avoid foods that promote inflammation. These include processed foods, sweet foods and drinks, deep fried foods, pro-inflammatory fats, starchy foods like potatoes and white rice, and foods made from flour like cereal, pasta, and baked goods.

#2  Support your gut microbiome.
This article outlines my top ten strategies.

#3  Detox once or twice each year.
The accumulation of toxins in the body may give rise to general malaise or chronic health problems like allergies. Clearing toxins from the body can relieve symptoms, renew wellness and vitality, and prevent chronic disease from developing in the first place. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about how your family can detox safely.

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