We occasionally need to remind ourselves that even with an increase in food allergies across many parts of the world, food is not the enemy.
The culprit may be alterations in the human immune system, and to address this we must consider our collective lifestyle.
What is added to or taken out of our foods, the toxins we dump into the air and water, the caustic pesticides sprayed on crops, antibiotics given to livestock, the additives in our vaccines—all this affects overall health, and gut health particularly.
Gut Health and Food Allergy
Gut (intestinal) health, since it influences our immune system responses, is tied to the development of various diseases including allergies to food. Though the causes of food allergy are unknown, research indicates that modern hygiene and dietary practices may play a role by disrupting our gut’s natural bacterial makeup.
For instance, a recent research study involving mice revealed the common gut bacteria Clostridia may be uniquely involved in preventing sensitization to food allergens. Clostridia helps strengthen intestinal linings so allergens cannot easily leak into the bloodstream and trigger an immune system reaction.
Factors such as our Western high-fat, low-fiber diet, and overuse of antibiotics have likely altered the gut bacteria that co-evolved with humans over centuries. A change in microorganisms such as Clostridia may account for the rise of food allergy incidence.
Gut Health and Diet
Processed and pasteurized foods can deplete the good bacteria in our system, as can conventionally-raised meats (CAFO) where animals are given low-dose antibiotics and genetically engineered feed. Eating sugary foods energizes disease causing yeast and other unhealthy fungi in the intestines.
GMOs, or genetically engineered food products, contain high levels of glyphosate, an agricultural herbicide considered toxic by many scientists and The World Health Organization. Glyphosate is known to harm beneficial gut bacteria. Though GMO manufacturers insist their food is safe, it is worth researching GMOs so you can make informed food choices for your family.
As long as people continue buying highly processed, CAFO, pesticide, and additive laced products, our food supply will not improve—and nothing changes the food industry faster than the way consumers spend their money.
The primary way to maintain healthy gut flora is purchasing and preparing whole, unprocessed, unsweetened foods. Fermented vegetables are especially good for gut health. Some individuals benefit from taking a high quality probiotic supplement as well, but this can never replace the effects of a nutrient rich diet.
Another way to keep our internal microbial ecosystem healthy is to spend time outdoors.
The Outdoors Effect
Families today spend much of their time inside—as much as 90 percent. This, too, may be part of the reason allergy statistics have been climbing; we underexpose ourselves to the earth’s beneficial bacteria.
An interesting study found that people with a variety of plants and flowers around their house tend to have a diverse population of bacteria on their skin, and are less likely to have allergies.
“Arguably, the easiest thing for all of us to do to reduce our chances of becoming allergic is to go outside. Whether it is walking the dog or strolling to school, the evidence suggests that being outside and taking a good deep breath of fresh air is good for you,” according to a recent BBC report.