This is truly the million dollar question! I have had so many people ask me what causes a food allergy, especially because they didn’t seem to be as prevalent before. There have been many theories floating around and I have read so many articles to try to come to one concrete answer. Unfortunately, the only concrete answer that I know is that that I don’t know. Nobody knows. I am hopeful that in the near future, we will figure out the cause and then be able to treat food allergies to avoid any more reactions and deaths.

I have come up with a few basic theories form the bits and pieces of information that have poured out in various ways (not necessarily in any specific order):

Theory 1: The Environment Some people feel that we, as a society, are changing to adapt to our changing environment. That our bodies are starting to mutate and show signs of what our future generations could turn into if we don’t change the world that we live in right now. This could be caused from all of the toxins that we use in our foods and water. It could be from the pesticides that cover our lands. It could be that the earth is simply changing and our bodies are desperately just trying to find a way to change as well, much like the dinosaurs. Change is inevitable but what we do to make the change better is completely up to us.

Theory 2: There are No Food Allergies, Only Allergies to Toxins Some people have researched and found that (possibly) it is not the food that we are eating that causes an allergic reaction but the toxins that are on the foods themselves. Corn is a great example. There has been a lot of attention recently regarding GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and how it has changed the way our foods reproduce. The GMO’s have been made to keep pests away and to grow a heartier food. The thought is that a food allergy is not really an allergy to the corn itself but to the pesticides that have been used to modify the corn, thus changing the corn into a different species of corn that is harder for people to digest. Poor digestion then leads to lower optimal body functions, lower health, etc. The corn produced today is not the corn that our ancestors ate. Google it.

Theory 3: Food is Introduced Far Too Fast There has also been some discussion that perhaps we are being given instruction to introduce foods to our infants before their body is ready to digest them. We are told it is safe but look back and see if this was what was recommended 20 years ago, 30 years ago. Why does an infant need to be solids before they are six months old? Why isn’t breast milk or formula good enough when previous generations used this successfully because they had no other recommendation at that time?  What is the huge rush to force feed our children at such an early age? Yes, we continue to learn and that is why infant recommendations constantly change but this does not always mean it’s the correct recommendation for every baby.

Theory 4: We Can Pass an Allergy To Our Children: I have heard Doctors, mothers, fathers, scientists and so many other types of people speculate and say that parents actually cause a food allergy for our children by eating certain foods during pregnancy or even after birth and then breastfeeding while eating those foods. Is it a gene that is passed on or is it a food? Again, I don’t have an answer that it proven. I think we could be predispositioned to have a weaker tolerance to certain foods and maybe, just maybe it is set off by the addition of digesting that food through our parent. I have met mothers who have both- a child who has food allergies and she DID eat an allergenic food and some who specifically avoided certain foods and still, their child has food allergies. Either way, I don’t think a parent should ever feel guilty or feel as if they were the cause. The important thing is to do the best you can for your child now rather than worry about what might have happened prior to that.

Theory 5: Food Allergies Are a Fad This one just makes me angry, plain and simple. I feel that for someone to say that food allergies are just a passing fad, they are not educated enough about food allergies nor do they know what a person with food allergies has to go through to keep from dying. A food allergy is not a choice- people with food allergies do not choose not to eat certain foods just to be difficult or challenging, they do it because they need to stay alive and healthy. Many are inconvenienced by family or friends because their food allergies make it difficult to eat out. The fact is that we need to understand that people with food allergies don’t like that it either but it cannot be changed to suit everyone else. Next time you know this will be an issue with someone, suggest going to a restaurant that they are comfortable with. I guarantee that you, the non-allergic person, will have no trouble finding a meal to eat.

Food allergies are not a curse, they are not curable and we do not know what initially causes them in people. What we do know is that precautions can be taken and people can be kept safe. There is an entire world of foods out there- do not limit yourself because of your food allergies, embrace them and try out some of those other foods. After all, food does not make the person who they are.





Tracy Bush is the founder and President of Nutrimom, Inc., a consulting business that specializes in food allergies and helps to provide guidance and support for anyone that has been diagnosed with food allergies. She consults with a variety of people of all ages and has previous work experience with a Medical Doctor in New Jersey. Her experience began prior to starting her business when her own son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies that were life-threatening.

One Response to What Causes Food Allergies?

  1. I can add these points to yours !
    1. environmental. more likely that our homes have changed dramtically, due to double glazing, wall to wall carpeting, centrol heating etc. its not just the way we eat thats changed but the homes we live in.Also we are cleaner. But really to understand the hygenie theory you have to grasp the idea of how to stop the development of allergies in children. Before getting pregnant, be a farmer and have close contact, and slight ingestion of all things cow related. (pick yr farm animals with care, as pigs dont have this anti allergy effect. pig farmers have high rate of asthma than normal) when pregnant keep up your close exposure, and once you have baby do the same with them.

    2. Although I am quite interested in this area, and wish there were further studies in this area, the true fact is that a organic peanut will still have the ability to kill my child. Organic food is not magicically any safer than non organic as protein structure still fools my sons mast cells.
    Humans have always had anaphylaxis, and asthma, earlist known cause of anaphylaxis was from egyption king stung by a hornet. Earlist documented asthma attack in 10th century by monk who described symptoms every summer when his straw mattress was changed. Also anaphylaxis was not identified seperately from asthma until early 1900s, so we have no idea of the true rate of allergic disease at that time. Also other diseases at that time led high early childhood death rates in a time before pre NHS.

    3/4. reasons for increase. well it increased 200% since the introduction of the advice to avoid peanuts during pregnancy, this has been removed now from medical guidance. Speculation on the idea that the vast majority of woman with no atopic history avoided peanuts and so have somehow triggered this with ofspring in this group of people. LEAP study is looking in to early introduction to halt this process of allergy development.
    History of early weaning and artifical milk was started during times of war, after all Winston Churchhill wanted to put milk in to the mouths of babes didnt he? So, tinned evaporated milk was exchanged for breast, so granny could look after baby. This can start a atopic history thoughout the generations, and my own research has proven this true with my grandparents, uncles aunts and my mother. Ironically my father came from farming stock so no allergies there or on his side of the family. The change in family structure and taking on modern medical advice contributed to the rise of artificialy fed infants. Although the invention of formula for all its checkered history has saved many many lives. Even those with allergies to mothers milk.

    5 agree with you every word. an allergy avoidance life can be very hard.

    on May 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm sarah

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