“We need to start paying more attention to the various aspects of our lives that are affecting our health.”
This part of the Allergy Series will focus on the background that hopefully helps you to navigate better with the huge amount of information in order to make better lifestyle choices when possible. It will help expose the main issues to why the number of allergic people is constantly increasing.
The World Allergy Organization (WAO) estimate of allergy (an “immune response to a substance especially a particular food, pollen, dust or a medicine to which an individual has become hypersensitive to”) prevalence of the entire population by country ranges between 10 and 40%. As the numbers continue rising more and more people are developing allergic reactions despite the fact they have no medical history of this chronic disease. We need to start paying more attention to the various aspects of our lives that are affecting our health. And to question why are we becoming more sensitive and allergic to multiple things?
The rising prevalence of allergies is definitely a complex problem that cannot be traced back to one particular reason. “Some research indicates that increased use of certain medications contribute to the increase in asthma. Studies have shown that increased antibiotic use parallels the rise in allergy and asthma. Researchers suggest that early antibiotic use changes the bacterial flora, which impacts the development of allergic diseases such as asthma.” And why the importance of incorporating probiotic whenever taking antibiotics. Other influencing factors can be lifestyle and diet (obesity has been linked to the prevalence of these diseases), the quality of our food (the toxicity of GMO foods can cause celiac disease and gluten allergies while the hormones and antibiotics in meat are also contributing factors) and water, air pollution or the presence of toxic household items.
Globally, all forms of allergy cases have arisen e.g. food allergy by as much as 50% in the past decade with a 700% rise in hospitalizations due to anaphylaxis. It is thought that allergies and increased sensitivity to foods are probably environmental, and related to Western lifestyles. There are, of course, many possible reasons for that: e.g. the fact that we have become too clean, antimicrobial products for example (the “hygiene hypothesis”), the content of our microbiome, lack of vitamin D, genetics or the highly processed food we eat with the hidden sugars. Research has shown that some food processing methods increase the allergenicity of food proteins […] and they may also compromise the nutritional composition of foods.
Our water is not clean either. One of its additives is fluoride—used synthetically in the municipal water supply, toothpaste, mouthwashes and various chemical products—that could not only contribute to allergic reactions but can also cause problems with bones, teeth, heart and neurological development.
With climate change everything—including hay fever and seasonal allergies—is starting to shift and we still cannot be certain about the health problems it could cause. Recent studies found that pollen production has been increasing around the world. As the average temperatures are climbing there is also an increase in the amount of pollen. The faster the climate changes, the worse it gets; in general, pollen is emerging earlier in the year and the pollen season is stretching out longer.
Also, the change in carbon dioxide concentrations has led to a doubling in pollen production because it turns out that higher carbon dioxide concentrations encourage plants to produce more pollen and it also increases the allergenic peptides of pollen which leads to more severe allergies. It is not just more pollen; the pollen itself is becoming more potent by causing an immune response. It is estimated that the pollen counts of all varieties will double by 2040—at least in some parts of the world—, and depending on what path the world takes concerning greenhouse gas emissions.
As you can see, everything is affected from the food we eat, through the water we drink, to the air we breathe. Our collective choices are one element that either increases or decreases the odds of becoming allergic. The question is: what choices are we willing to make?
- Pawankar R et al. 2013. World Allergy Organization (WAO). White Book on Allergy: Update 2013. https://www.worldallergy.org/UserFiles/file/WhiteBook2-2013-v8.pdf
- Cahill O. 2018. Why has there been a global increase in food allergies? https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2018/1112/1010346-why-has-there-been-a-global-increase-in-food-allergies/
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2019. Increasing Rates of Allergies and Asthma. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/prevalence-of-allergies-and-asthma
 Pawankar R, et al, 2013.
 AAAAI, 2019.
 Cahill O, 2018.