By Savitha V
Food allergies among children are on the rise. Statistics show that in America alone, there are over 15 million people allergic to different food items. And among children, that translates to one in 13 kids being affected. Some of the most common culprits are peanuts, milk, eggs and wheat. Reactions to the allergic substance vary from person to person, and range from itching, swellings and hives to life-threatening situations.
Currently, there are only theories on why food allergies are on the rise. It may be because of the increasingly germ-free environments we live in, or that our diets have changed considerably in the last few decades. Research in the past has pointed out that increased use of antibiotics and antimicrobials, as well as genetically engineered foods and agricultural herbicides may lead to allergies. In fact, a new study has linked antibiotic pesticides used in farms to allergies.
Pesticide in your food
Arecent study, published in the medical journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, looks at the case of a 10-year-old girl who developed severe allergic reactions after eating a blueberry pie. Though the girl has a history of allergies, none of the known allergens were present in the pie. After several investigations, doctors concluded that the allergic reaction was due to streptomycin, an antibiotic pesticide that the blueberries were treated with at the farm. Streptomycin is bactericidal and is used on farms to control fire blight and other bacterial diseases.
Researchers do admit that this is a rare allergic reaction, but it has thrown the spotlight on what scientists have long been lobbying for – judicious regulation for the use of antibiotics, be it as pesticides, in animal farms or as medicine.
Why you should be wary
Antibiotics are present in pesticides applied to fruits and vegetables. They are also used in livestock as a growth promoter, and to protect them in the unsanitary living conditions of a farm. Vegetables may get contaminated with it even if the farmer uses manure from cattle treated with antibiotics to fertilize his crops.
Scientists have long argued that unregulated use of agricultural antibiotics could be a major cause for food allergies. Certain antibiotic herbicides have been proved to kill gut bacteria, thus increasing the possibility of food allergies. That’s not all. The rampant use of antibiotics is the main driver for antibiotic resistant diseases – in other words, superbugs.
While these seem reasons enough to eat organic produce, experts also suggest choosing foods that promote gut health and don’t kill the beneficial gut bacteria. This means avoiding gluten, sugar, genetically engineered food, and processed foods and opting for whole, unprocessed and unsweetened food items.
It is becoming increasingly important to approach your family’s dietary needs with care. A little more attention to the food that is placed on the table is necessary today.
Do your children have food allergies? What kind of dietary substitutes do you opt for to make mealtime interesting for them? Share your story with us.