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Peanut Allergies on the Rise, but Can They Be Prevented?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Peanut allergies have tripled in children, and health researchers say they’re at a loss when it comes to pinpointing a single factor responsible for it. So far, scientists theorize that the peanut allergy epidemic could be caused by a wide range of things, from being too hygienic to using too many antibiotics, to environmental pollutants like tobacco smoke and more. Whatever the cause, Medical Daily reports, something is causing children’s immune systems to become oversensitive and more prone to developing allergies.

When you’re allergic to a substance, your immune system mistakenly believes it is dangerous and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in an attempt to neutralize it. The symptoms can be immediate and even life-threatening, or can crop up over a period of hours. And, as the featured article notes, science is stymied as to what is causing this increase in food allergies.

When it comes to peanuts, or nuts in general, some evidence suggests that gradually introducing your infant to peanut products can help allay an allergy, possibly cutting the risk by as much as 80 percent. However, if your child has a known peanut allergy, you would embark on this kind of desensitization program only under the guidance of a knowledgeable doctor to avoid a potentially life threatening situation.

On a broader scope, one way to avoid allergy triggers is to not eat processed foods, which are laden with additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings and other chemicals that may increase your risk of an allergic reaction, or at the least put you in danger of developing an intolerance for certain foods. This is especially important to know, since preliminary data from a national study show that nearly 52 percent of Americans who have food allergies developed them after the age of 18.

These same results showed that shellfish is the most common food allergy, followed by peanuts and tree nuts, such as walnuts, cashews and pecans. Another common allergen that is added to many processed and packaged foods is soy. Although many Asian cultures eat soy each day in their diet, the soy they eat is fermented and quite unlike the soy fillers used in Western food with soy that’s been genetically engineered and grown saturated in herbicides like Roundup.

Interestingly, when children are allergic to eggs, milk or wheat products, they may grow out of the reaction as they age. However, adults who develop a food allergy usually continue to suffer for the remainder of their life.

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