Nut what? Making sense of some food allergies
Monday, February 9, 2009 | 07:54 AM ET
by Leigh Felesky, CBCNews.ca
My son was around three when he helped himself to a tray of nuts at a Christmas party. The food table was toddler-high and full of festive goodies. No one was paying too much attention until he said, "Mommy, I don't feel well."
Less than one minute later he had a bout of projectile vomiting that was enough to make the party pause.
Not sure what to make of it as he's never thrown up easily, I investigated the next week, starting with the pediatrician and ending at the allergist. The diagnosis? My son had a potentially fatal allergy to all tree nuts. Peanuts, which are a legume, are ok.
Ah, this left me chewing on my nutcracker. I was someone who always wondered if banning nuts from schools was really necessary, and who was sure that kids with nut allergies were rare and over-diagnosed.
But perhaps I was always wrong. According to Anaphylaxis Canada, "More than half Canadians (56 per cent) know of someone with a peanut or nut allergy. In the Prairies and in the Atlantic provinces even more people (60 per cent and 62 per cent respectively) have come in contact with a sufferer of peanut or nut allergies. Only 5 per cent of Canadians claimed personally suffering from the ailment."
But, why? What causes this? No one had nut allergies that I knew of when I was growing up.
In the past two years my interest has peaked and here are the theories I've heard:
Theory 1: Nut allergies are on the rise because moms aren't eating nuts when they're pregnant, so the baby isn't exposed early.
My experience: FALSE, I eat nuts, then and now.
Theory 2: Nut allergies are on the rise because of a hyper-clean environment, antibacterials everywhere.
My experience: FALSE, my house has its share of dust bunnies and I don't use antibacterial anything.
Theory 3: Nut allergies are on the rise because of an increase in the use of soy, which is a highly allergenic legume.
My experience: Maybe this makes a difference for peanut allergies (soy and peanuts are both legumes), not sure. But what about tree nuts, they're different ....
Theory 4: This one is the most difficult to disprove and possibly the scariest: nut allergies are on the rise because of all the crap we eat and pollutants in the air. Our immune systems are turned on and become hyperactive as early as ineutero, which causes more allergies.
My experience: Possibly, I don't know. Could it be that in one generation we've managed to create such a toxic environment that immune systems are going, well, nutty?
I'm not convinced, but I haven't ruled it out either. What's your theory?
Whether you're a naturopath, doctor, nutritionist, person with nut allergies or parent, tell us below why you think nut allergies are on the rise. And what do you think we can do about it?
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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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