The Great Debate

I recently had a discussion with some other food allergy moms about the recent press released studies on breastfeeding and food allergies.  There have been conflicting reports within the past month- 1 claims that Breast-feeding leads to nut allergies; and another one challenges that as hogwash.   Google search tuns up 269 News articles published in the past month linked to this report:  Breastfed Babies Have “Higher Risk of Nut Allergies” ANU Study Reveals ~ based on this report in the International Journal of Pediatrics http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijped/2012/675724/  -To summarize:  a questionnaire answered by parents over 3 years surveyed brought them to the brilliant conclusion that “Children were at an increased risk of developing a parent-reported nut allergy if they were breast fed in the first six months of life.” because  “There was a positive association between parent reported nut allergy and breast feeding (O R = 1 . 5 3; 1.11–2.11) and having a regular general practitioner” ~[ Wait- Does that mean that having a family practitioner = nut allergy?]

On the flip side of this argument we started seeing some reports issued in the last few weeks that challenged these findings.  Study linking breastfeeding to nut allergy ‘ridiculous’  article states:  “Paediatric gastroenterologist and food allergy researcher with Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Professor Katie Allen has concerns about the research and the coverage it has received.  “The conclusions drawn do not match the results of the study, therefore the implications that he has been discussing [in the public domain] are ridiculous and inappropriate,” says Allen.  According to Allen, families with an increased risk of allergies tend to breastfeed longer, and their children more likely to have allergies because of family history.  “So it is true that it looks like mothers who breastfeed for longer are more likely to have [children with] allergies, but it’s the fact that they are more likely to have allergies that makes them breastfeed for longer,” she says. “Breastfeeding is best, there’s absolutely no risk about that. We don’t think it will prevent allergies, but it certainly won’t increase the risk of allergies.”  [also see : Link Between Breastfeeding And Nut Allergies Questioned ]

It would seem logical that breastfeeding would allow for an infant to receive an introduction of minuscule amounts of food proteins which pass through the breastmilk into the childs system, preparing it to identify and process ‘real food’.  If breastfeeding caused food allergies, we would only see breastfed children having food allergies, and formula babies would be healthy.   Our predisposition to develop allergies and other autoimmune dysfunction diseases is set in our DNA, regardless of what we ate, didn’t eat, breast fed or formula, solid food at 4 months or at 12 months old.  I am so sick and tired of this blame game among researchers, media, parents,  about food allergies and breastfeeding!~ New parents struggle enough worrying they are doing something wrong~ guilt, fears, and doubt!~Without us tainting the most natural and perfect act of nourishing your child.

The “Hidden Epidemic”  Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906, and it’s descriptions of the meat-packing industry led to the development of Meat Inspection Act and the “Pure Food and Drug Act” [which later became our current Food and Drug Administration] in that same year.  At what point will modern society care less about “convenience”  and more about  what they are eating, and using daily and how it affects their health?   Everyone has a hypothesis about what is causing the rise in food allergies.  Let’s continue the debate beyond the usual arguments:  natural child birth versus C-Section babies, “The Hygiene Hypothesis”,   Breastfeeding, and eating nuts while pregnant.  We have  heard all of these over the past 5 years.   Realize, I have no scientific research backing me up- but just the sum total of all the reports I see. My impression is something like this:  I think that over the past 50 years we have introduced something[chemicals]  into our diets and environment- something toxic, that has damaged our very DNA, or is damaging our immune systems, building up in our bodies like we’re a toxic holding tank- [How many times have we heard someone say “We never had food allergies when we were kids” ?]  That these toxins and their damage are now “appearing”  [like the Biology 101 experiments with fruit flys and curly wings] The damaged DNA flaws becoming visible with our newer generations and their autoimmune ‘mutations’ evident in the growing numbers of Food Allergies [1 in 12 kids];  Asthma [1 in 10 kids];  Celiac [1 in 133] Type 1 Diabetes,  Lupus, MS,  Eczema,  Crohns, Lyme, EoE, Arthritis, RA, Psoriasis, the list goes on~ NIH estimates up to 23.5 million Americans have an Autoimmune disease. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million. Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening. “Virginia T. Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), explained:  “With the rapid increase in autoimmune diseases, it clearly suggests that environmental factors are at play due to the significant increase in these diseases.  Genes do not change in such a short period of time.” [http://www.flutrackers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=189107]

So, what could it be that is so harmful? What have we so drastically changed in the last say- 40 years? I strongly believe that researchers need to be focusing their energies on the real cause of this “Hidden Epidemic”- as much as some lobbyists with very big pockets will block their efforts!  The fact is we are being poisoned by the rampant pesticide/Genetically modified Frankenfood, loaded with hormones, antibiotics, and toxins that we are assaulted with each and every day- by nearly every product we use.  In the 1970s legislation grandfathered in over 60,000 chemicals that were not safety-tested! [Prevention.com] ~

I strongly believe that much of these diseases will be linked back to toxins in our food, much as Autism is now being linked and examined alongside GI therapy, Celiac disease, and modified diets removing red dye, and other substances.

Quoting from Guardian.co.uk : “In Europe, only 5% of food sold contains GMOs, a figure that continues to shrink. In the US, by contrast, an estimated 70% of the products on supermarket shelves include at least traces of genetically engineered crops – mostly, corn and soy byproducts and canola oil, which are ingredients in many of America’s processed foods. Given their unpopularity with consumers, labeling “Frankenfoods” would undoubtedly hurt sales, possibly even forcing supermarkets to take them off their shelves. In one survey, just over half of those polled said they would not buy food that they knew to be genetically modified.” “The concern is that genetic modification alters the proteins in foods in ways that researchers do not yet fully understand. Substances that have never existed before in nature are entering our food supply untested. While researchers have not yet found a “smoking gun”, which would prove that GM foods as a class are dangerous, there are troubling signs that they may be a factor in the recent epidemic of food allergies. Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, for example, soy allergies escalated by 50%. Rosa Rashall, a nutritionist in Garberville, California, who took part in the petition campaign to get the labeling initiative on the ballot, told the Redwood Times:

“We are all worried for a variety of reasons, from health effects to skyrocketing food sensitivities that have started to come about in the last 20 years. There has been an incredible 400% increase in food sensitivities that coincides pretty well with the unlabeled introduction of GMO food into the marketplace.”

 

Add to this mix the insanely high amount of sodium in our processed foods. ~ Research is linking high sodium to autoimmune dysfunction, cancer and thyroid disease and many other health issues.  [example read: http://glutenfreehealth.net/high-sodium-levels-linked-to-cancer/  ] My grandparents families farmed, they grew their own food, canned veggies, raised and slaughtered poultry, beef; my parents were raised similarly, with the majority of meals being made from scratch. As my mother began her family [the 1970s], we, as a society, started using a lot more ‘pre-packaged’ foods, frozen dinners, hamburger helper, take-out, Mac & ‘cheese’, etc. Many of these foods have excessively high sodium content, and questionable ingredients that we would not expect nor add if we made the product at home.   It’s time we stop the blame game guilting parents that it is their fault that their kids have allergies.  It’s time for society to focus their attention to what is in their shopping cart, on their store shelves, and on their plates~ and voice their concerns loudly to the lobbyists and big businesses who care more for the profit then the COST of quality.

 

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2 Responses to The Great Debate

  1. Homa July 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I am with you, Jenny. We have to stop blaming ourselves and look at what is happening. I read that there used to be this theory that DNA was unchangeable, it is what it is, but now that has, well, changed. I am scrambling to find the link but I don’t remember where I saved it so I apologize if my sum up is off a bit. At any rate, we ARE what we eat to a certain extent and even though you or I can eat what we want (unlike our kids), should we? Food is so processed to the point where a quantity of food can have more fat, sugar, etc. crammed into an inch than would occur “naturally” (quotation marks because what is really natural any more, right?). I do feel guilt sometimes, my kids’ allergies read like a shopping list of all the foods I ate while pregnant but then you’ve got people like The Allergist Mom who has twins with different allergies so that idea goes out the window. I envy people who can eat without reading labels but then I think about how nasty processed food really can be, we are from the generation that had one foot in both eras, the rise of GMO soy in the 90s happened and here we are as parents frantically trying to get a handle on food allergies. I was talking to a mom yesterday and she said she has a relative that knows their child has reacted to peanuts but has never been to a doctor or allergist about it (though she does carry benadryl). There are unreported cases of allergies even amidst what we’re already calling (rightfully) an epidemic. That is mind boggling that there are MORE cases of food allergies than we know. I talked to a friend that recently turned 80 and he said he was allergic to milk as a kid now that he thinks about it, so this isn’t so “new” and I shake my fist in the air sometimes when these studies come out with their headlines. I am sure the study authors rarely intend to become a soundbite but in the 140-characters per thought age that is what happens.

    All we can do as parents is our best and hope it is good enough. I tell my daughter she can become a scientist and find out the answers to her questions about food allergies, who knows? 🙂

    Great post, Jenny.

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