Why are there so many more food allergies today?

Dr. Alan Greene discussing the increase in food allergies in children

Dr. Greene discusses food allergiesYou probably already know that our kids are growing up in a pretty tough world, and part of the challenge is being certain what to feed your young ones.

Since the mid-1990s, food allergies have gone from a relative rarity to becoming increasingly commonplace.

What is responsible? Well, it just so happens that in 1996 GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were introduced into our food supply. In 2000, 1% of the corn planted in the US had been genetically engineered; today it’s 90% – and 93% of all soy. These show up as ingredients in an enormous number of foods and sodas, under one name or another (think high fructose corn syrup or dextrose, for instance).

Does this mean GMOs are to blame? There is research indicates that this may be the case, but it’s not conclusive (details in the video below).

Of course, GMOs aren’t the only thing that has changed in our diets over the last 15-20 years. Many of our food choices these days are pretty questionable.

In fact, lots of our food practices are downright backward!

For instance, one nutrient widely known for its health benefits in adults has been all but eradicated from children’s diets, even though it is tremendously for helping kids to build healthy immune systems.

Watch the video below to learn which foods are best to avoid during your child’s first year of life – and what foods your kids should be getting more of.

What do you think – are GMOs to blame for the increase in food allergies?

Or could these allergies be part of a broad shift in our culture towards less healthy lifestyles?

And perhaps most importantly, what steps can you take to keep yourself and your family eating right? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

Comments

  • Tammy Manocchio

    I have switched to organic baby foods and organic produce for my son. I feel the use of GMO’s should be banned in the US. It doesn’t help that big agribusiness is so heavily entrenched in our lawmaker’s pockets. Hopefully economic pressure from consumers will move the needle.

    • Mr Stay Healthy

      That is awesome Tammy!
      We did the same. We also started to make our own baby food which we learned was so easy! It cost less and the quantity of baby food increased tremendously as compared to buying it in the store! We can see the difference in our daughters physical appearance and development against kids her age when she goes to day care (and yes, I know, all kids are different but our kid is vibrant and growing extremely well…or at least, with minimum GMO food).

    • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

      I agree — it’s as consumers demand change that change will really happen. The “Just Label It” campaign is essential so consumers will know which products NOT to buy. Once that happens, big companies will change. Of course, all organic is grown and packaged without GMOs so buying organic is a great way to vote with your $.

  • Stacie Miller

    I struggled so much knowing what to feed my fourth baby as the first three developed food allergies before their first birthday. Having since changed our diets to accommodate those allergies we are a gluten free, little dairy and peanut free household. In the past year we have become very aware of GMOs and in our small town trying to eat as organic as possible. I think just feeding our families as raw of a diet as possible is one of the best things we can do. Making sure we know where our food is coming from, local family farms, grassfed meats and little to no processed foods. Let’s go back to our roots. I have conflicting information as I’ve been told not to feed my subsequent children gluten, dairy or peanuts until they’re older (two or later). My one and three year old haven’t had any gluten and baby number 5 is on the way. What should I do differently? I will definitely incorporate some wild caught alaskan salmon and locally caught walleye into their diets, I didn’t think I could before one. Thank you!

    • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

      Eating whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) is one of the best ways to eat healthy. So often it’s the hidden ingredients in food that sneak up on us.

  • Lacy Bridge

    I think vitamin D deficiency plays a stronger roll than GMOs. The GMO “research” is simply BAD SCIENCE: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/06/17/bad-science-about-gmos-it-reminds-me-of-the-antivaccine-movement-revisited/

  • laura carrots

    I suppose I did all the things I should not have – let them sleep on their tummies, introduced fish before age 1, skipped rice and added oatmeal in their diets, withheld juice and colors, peanut butter by age 2. So far, my 3 boys ages 7,9,11 have no allergies, but so many of their school mates do. I think some is genetic and some from what is consumed. The only part I can really monitor is the consumption.

    • Alan Greene

      Laura – I’m a big fan of skipping white rice for babies altogether (see http://www.drgreene.com/whiteout/) as well as skipping the coal-based artificial colors — and introducing common food allergens early (after 6 months old). Yes, heredity plays a big role in allergies – but the cool thing is that healthy habits can help turn on and off different genes we inherit. Often, heredity influences the outcome, but doesn’t determine it.

  • Andrea Pinkston

    My boyfriend and I did a lot of reading about GMO this week and learned enough to scare us right to organic non-GMO foods. After reading articles on many different websites (and getting a couple of computer viruses along the way), we both believe that GMO foods (including HFC) could easily be responsible for many of the diseases and obesity that we face here in the US. We had no clue how much GMO is in our food supply and had never thought about how seriously wrong GMO really was. The FDA and the US Government have not been doing their jobs to keep our citizens safe from foods that are hurting us. People need to get educated like we did so they can make informed decisions about what foods they consume. I had surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer last year and I can’t help but wonder what part GMO might have played in my cancer.

    • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

      Hi Andrea, I had breast cancer with no family history. I can’t help believe what we eat and what we’re being exposed to in the environment played a big part. We changed our diets after that diagnosis. We eat largely organic foods now and that really helps to avoid GMOs.

  • Jules

    Maybe…but I will say heredity, vaccinations making our immune systems hyper sensitive and vitamin D deficiency have a more powerful link between food allergies than GMO’s! I completely support good eating and non- GMO foods but as a mother of two anaphylactic food allergy children, who both reacted to foods before age three months via my breast milk, that food allergies are much bigger than GMO’s! Food allergies SUCK and the person who finds the direct link will make millions! But I honestly do NOT believe that something I ate during pregnancy caused my children’s food allergies! Not critisizing you, I’m just very passionate about this topic!

    • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

      Jules,

      Good points. I wonder if it’s a combination of things? And perhaps some things for some people and other things for other people?

      My biggest issue with GMOs is that we don’t know what the long term impact will be. Some GMOs may prove in the end to be benign while others have huge consequences. But right now we don’t have the information to know which ones are safe (if any) and which ones are not (if any). We just don’t know, so do we want our kids to be the guinea pigs?

    • Alan Greene

      I also agree, Jules, that heredity plays a big role in allergies (though not in their rapid increase) and that foods eaten during pregnancy have not been proven to be an allergy problem for the baby (though other exposures, like tobacco smoke, have). There has been some research, though, showing some foods that might decrease the allergy risk, including eating fish – and choosing organic over conventional milk.

      Changes in the healthy, beneficial bacteria in our children’s guts is likely another significant factor in the increase of food allergies, as well as other allergies. Here’s a bit I wrote foreshadowing this a decade ago (and the research keeps getting stronger) http://www.drgreene.com/qa-articles/surprising-benefits-yogurt/.

      • http://DrGreene.com/ Cheryl Greene

        Aprrove

        C~

        Cheryl Greene
        Co-Founder & Executive Producer, DrGreene.com & KidGlyphs
        925.964.1793 Office
        925.639.5517 Cell

  • Morgan Morrison

    Has there been any research on eliminating GMOs from the diet and the allergy going away? I ate pretty healthy during my pregnancy- mostly organic fruits, avoided HFCS, ate peanuts/PB regularly and took fish oil, but at 15 months I allowed my daughter to try PB and she immediately broke out in hives. We won’t get in to see an allergist for official testing until November, but I’m so sad that she seems to be allergic to peanuts! I’ve never paid much attention to GMOs, but I’m definitely going to start looking into it now. My husband and I have no allergies at all aside from slight seasonal allergies (which is pretty well managed just by taking local honey) but since my daughter started solids, she’s primarily (probably 9o-95% of her diet) had local & organic fruits/veggies and local & organic milk.

    • Alan Greene

      I haven’t seen that type of research, Morgan, but agree it would be interesting and valuable information to have. My colleague and friend Dr. Kari Nadeau at Stanford has been doing some promising work on reversing peanut allergies. There was a big NY Times article about this not long ago (calling her the Allergy Buster). Here is her letter in response to that article, a gracious reality check: http://foodallergies.stanford.edu/letter.html. Peanut allergies have gotten much more common since 1996 – but some children became allergic to peanuts long before GMOs.

  • Shelby Oxenford

    Both my pregnancies with my two girls (3 years old and 4 months old), were developed while I took a regimen of homeopathic pre natal care. My first born I didn’t start the regimen until I first knew at almost 10 weeks along, and my second I knew at roughly 3 weeks along and immediately raided the cupboards for the regimen again. Just about everything I took was made by Standard Process (https://www.standardprocess.com/Home). So far, neither of my kiddos has a food allergy :-) It costs about $1,500-$2,000 in pre natal care per kiddo, however I have been very impressed by their overall development and health!

  • Laura

    I highly recommend the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell McBride, M.D. I learned a plethora of information regarding the link between our gut health and psychological and physiological disorders, including food allergies. One of the points I found so fascinating in the book is that babies inherit their gut flora from their mothers. The mother’s gut flora, in conjunction with a vaginal birth (vaginal birth is very important in establishing healthy gut flora in the newborn) and exclusive breastfeeding (also very important in colonizing healthy gut flora and “sealing” the gut wall) set the stage for healthy gut flora in the newborn baby and can do wonders in preventing food allergies and other ailments. Without these crucial steps, many parents will have to “undo” the damage that occurred to the gut wall and a lengthy healing time will need to take place before food allergies can be remedied.

  • Sonia

    It is really sad to see GMO’s in food and the Government being ok with
    this. I am disgusted with how little value we put on human life. GMO’s
    need to stop immediately. It should not be allowed. Ingredients
    should be mandatory and ALL spices should be marked as well, not
    generally labelled as “spices”. I say this because, as you may already
    know, MSG can be labelled under; spices, hydrolyzed proteins, and more.
    Always trying to cover bad ingredients at the cost of human life
    because people worship money. I find it rather difficult to buy organic
    foods because they are so darn expensive. It should be mandatory that
    EVERYONE grow non GMO foods, all ingredients should be labelled right
    down to every spice used, and no messing around with the foods
    capability of reproducing more of its kind. Who’s bright idea was it to
    make more money at the cost of human life. The next generation is
    sick, dying, or dead all because people want to be rich to have a “good”
    life, buy healthy foods which wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t
    genetically mess around with food in the first place. Our system, in many ways, is definitely backwards. With many attempts to stay healthy and teach my kids how to be healthy as well, I am discouraged by the fact that it gets worse as the years go by. And grocery shopping takes me 2 hours because I have to read every single ingredient and then try to choose something better (if there is something better). So, after all my complaining ;), how do we fix it?