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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Allergic to Peanuts

It was Thanksgiving recently, and in America we all took in the chance to thank God for small mercies. My diligent work on a decadent German Chocolate cake -I have to admit-surprised even me. As we sat around the dinner table, the topic of food allergies came up. As it turns out, my niece -who has a severe allergy to peanuts- was determined to taste the cake, which has pecans in it. So as the topic of slamming an injection in her chest went on, we diverted to the prevalence of peanut allergies amongst kids. In my daughter's school, parents have been advised not to send their children to school with any peanut products. We are raising children who have severe allergies to peanuts. Where did this come from? Why now? It's becoming normal to see food labels that indicate - made with machinery used to process food with nuts. What is alarming is that there seems to be very little root information as to a cause. So for my own curiosity I did a little research and found some things that were interesting. WebMD reports: "One theory for the rise, the hygiene hypothesis, holds that “we’ve become very good at preventing natural infections, and the immune system is not chewing on things it would normally be chewing on,” Sicherer tells WebMD. “We’re not living on farms anymore, we have lots of antibiotics, but seeing an increase means that something has changed in the environment.” The theory suggests that “clean living” and more medication use leaves immune systems in a condition that is more prone to attack harmless proteins, such as those in foods, pollens, and animal dander. The increase also could be related, he says, to the way peanuts are processed. “We roast peanuts, and potentially, roasting it makes a more allergenic food out of it,” he says. “Some people theorize that the oil in peanut butter might make it more allergenic. Roasting peanuts changes the sugar and makes the protein more stable to digestion and easier for the immune system to attack." Things that we have introduced or removed from our food ecosystems are now becoming dangerous to us. Life as it would appear, is a continuously evolving event. Organisms, cells, bacteria, mutate, adapt and change. Our bodies are in a constantly changing state as they were built to adapt to changes in the environment. These changes can be positive or negative and allergies are an example of a positive reaction turning negative. What is ultimately clear is that we need to start being more conscious of what we put in our bodies and the possible long term effects of improper diet. Films such as, 'Food Inc' and 'Forks over Knives' provide invaluable information about why we need to become vigilant about our diet. Sadly, our very own government is not as adamant in this fight as big commerce rides on the shoulders of all the additives and rubbish that we find in food today. So unfortunately, Epipens will become as much a part of our culture as diapers.

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