Why are there so many more food allergies today?

Dr. Greene’s take on food allergies…


You 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!

Published on: July 31, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

I read that the reason for peanut allergies is because they use peanut oil as an excipient and that oil contains trace peanut proteins. These create a hypersensitivity in the folks injected, and presto, we have a new epidemic of peanut allergies, capable of causing anaphylactic shock. Also, in 1980 the average number of childhood vaccines was 20. The number of vaccines climbed in 1995 to 45. By 2011, the average number of vaccines kids are injected with is 68! Make vaccines peanut free and see what happens to the peanut allergy epidemic.

Hello 13thGenPatriot,

Great question. Here’s what the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says:

“… a reader might be give the mistaken impression that information about adjuvants in vaccines is unavailable. However, information about vaccine ingredients is readily available to the public, and while research into using peanut oil as an adjuvant was done in the 1960s, this ingredient has never been included in vaccines.

Furthermore, the Federal Code of Regulations has clear and unbending standards when it comes to biologicals: all adjuvants must be listed, as well as any other ingredient that has safety concerns (such as potential allergic reaction). [See CFR Title 21 pertaining to biologicals].

… Sources on the internet providing reassurances about the potential of allergic reaction to vaccines and the ingredients in them abound. The CDC, for example, states: “Aluminum gels or aluminum salts are the only vaccine adjuvants currently licensed for use in the United States”. I would ask that you provide such links to assure parents of children with peanut allergies that they can safely vaccinate their children.

Karen Ernst


You can find the full text here — http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/peanut-antigen-in-vaccines.aspx

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

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?

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.

Why don’t doctors speak up? Maybe because they are making money off our sickness

Vitamin D deficiency is a huge issue. Dr. Greene has written a lot about that on the site. Here’s one piece I really like http://www.drgreene.com/vitamin-benefits/. Also, William Grant, one of the nations leading Vitamin D researchers has a great series on Vitamin D. You can find the links here – http://www.drgreene.com/author/william-grant-phd/

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

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.

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.

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!

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/.


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?

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!

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.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

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.

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 $.


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).