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Food allergies have been increasing at an alarming rate, particularly in western developed nations — to the point where we can now say that they are serious public health concern, almost on par with a dangerous epidemic. This increase in the rate of food allergies is mainly linked to the modern lifestyle which includes an excessive use of antibiotics, changing dietary patterns and a changing intestinal bacterial population.
What Are Food Allergies?
A food allergy is an abnormal immune system response to a food particle. The immune system overreacts to a food particle, damaging normal body tissue and causing dangerous symptoms. The most common foods that cause allergy are peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, tree nut, shell fish, wheat and soy. These eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions.
The symptoms of food allergic reactions may vary depending upon the type and quantity of allergen, but food allergies commonly present with vomiting, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, wheezing, swollen tongue and even anaphylactic shock. Allergies can develop at any age, and even foods that never troubled you before can start an allergic reaction.
Are Food Allergies Really A Western Problem?
Food allergy has certainly become a major health issue in western countries; it affects up to six percent of the population in America, for instance, and almost 10 percent of infants in Australia are affected by food allergy.
These numbers are much lower in developing countries. Not only food allergies, all types of allergies are more prevalent in the west. The incidence of food allergy is also increasing day by day, mostly because of the lifestyle changes of the newer generation. According to a study conducted in the UK, hospital admissions due to food allergic reactions have increased by 87 percent from 2002 to 2015.
There has been a tremendous increase in the rate of food allergies in kids as well. In the same country, kids are more affected by food allergy today than in the past. A study in Australia revealed that more than 10 percent infants have some kind of food allergy. These are alarming statistics because food allergy was almost unheard of in the same region before the 1990s.
What About Developing Countries?
Is food allergy common in developing countries too? This issue is widely debated and researchers have a varied opinion on this. Statistics show that food allergy is not a big issue in developing countries right now as the prevalence is much lower than in western countries. The incidence is slightly increasing day by day though. This is apparently because of a“westernization” of the East.
Developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have a much lower prevalence of food allergies, to the point where it is not even considered a health issue there. If a person moves from a developing country to a developed country in childhood, the risk of getting an allergic disease increases. So, this further supports the fact that food allergies have something to do with modern environment and lifestyle.