Peanut allergies appear more prevalent now than at any time in the world's history, and still on the rise. The most obvious question is, "Why?"
Why are peanut allergies suddenly so explosive? What has changed? Is the problem genetic, chemical, environmental? Why do so many people's immune systems suddenly regard the humble peanut as the enemy?
We are certainly exposed to far more synthetic and concentrated chemicals on a daily basis than human beings have ever been. This is one possible explanation, but it is difficult to verify through research since these chemicals affect everybody. Example: If only a small population of individuals were affected by Chemical A (for example) and also had a higher than normal incidence of peanut allergy, then we might be able to say that Chemical A and peanut allergy are correlated. We wouldn't be able to say that Chemical A causes peanut allergy, but simply that there seems to be a connection between the two. But if everyone is affected by Chemical A and Chemical B and Chemical C, then it's almost impossible to figure out which one of the chemicals might have a relationship with a peanut allergy.
That's what makes a new study so interesting. Researchers claim that they've found a subset of the population who has a higher incidence of peanut allergies: the middle class. The upshot of the article is that the wealthier a family tends to be... then the cleaner their house and environment is kept... then the children growing up in these houses encounter fewer bacteria and viruses... then these children have underdeveloped immune systems which are itching for a fight... then these immune systems erroneously identify peanuts as an allergen (enemy).
Sounds to me like chiropractic theory in practice!
It is definitely possible that the rise in other types of food allergies, such as gluten, corn, shellfish, milk, and so on, could be attributed to the same cause: excessive household cleanliness.
From an article in The Telegraph, and with a H/T to the good folks at Chiro.org (emphases mine):
Scientists say that this backs up the hygiene hypothesis that cleaner homes tend to increase the risk of childhood allergies.
They found that high income and hygiene habits could be increasing susceptibility as they discovered a link between peanut allergy in children and their families socio-economic status.
With the number of peanut allergies among children increasing the team from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) believe that one reason might be due to the wealth of their families.
The theory suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to germs increases the chance for allergic diseases, that over sanitisation might suppress the natural development of the immune system. [snip]
Allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakes proteins in food as threatening and reacts as if there was an infection invading.
Common food allergies in children are milk, eggs, peanuts, fish and shellfish but almost any food, including fruits and vegetables can cause a reaction.
Study author Dr Sandy Yip said: "Overall household income is only associated with peanut sensitisation in children aged one to nine years.
"This may indicate that development of peanut sensitisation at a young age is related to affluence, but those developed later in life are not." [click above to read more]
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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