Episode available within Canada only.
2.5 million Canadians — 1 in 13 — have a significant food allergy.

If you’ve been to a children’s birthday party lately, chances are at least one of the little guests had a portable needle loaded with epinephrine. It’s standard equipment for a growing generation of highly allergic North American kids: more than three times as many children have food allergies now than twenty years ago. And one out of every three children is now allergic to foods, animals, or plants. Something puzzling, and frightening, is going on with our immune systems.

The Allergy Fix travels across Canada and to the U.S., the U.K. and Germany to investigate why allergies are on the rise — and what’s being done about it. 

Clues to the increase may be found on farms, because kids growing up on dairy farms have far fewer allergies than city kids. It’s called “the farming effect”, after a German study revealed farm kids had only half the allergies of urban kids. It seems that without the kinds of bacteria that have traditionally lived around us and within us for hundreds of thousands of years, our immune systems have become confused.

The Allergy Fix includes exclusive and rare access to an Amish farming community in Indiana who have only half the allergy rate of other farm families, perhaps because their lives are a snapshot of the past: a lifestyle that was prevalent two hundred years ago.

Since discovering the germ theory of disease, we have cleaned up our world. We’ve sanitized our urban environment and mostly defeated bacteria with antibiotics. But at what cost? The antibiotics may be killing off microbes in our gut that work symbiotically with our immune system. When the Berlin Wall came down, German scientists were shocked to find that people in heavily industrialized, polluted Eastern Germany had fewer allergies than in cleaner, sanitized Western Germany. A theory known as “the hygiene hypothesis” suggests that exposure to certain germs actually protects our system and lowers our allergy risk.

So what can science and medicine do to reverse the trend? Allergists are attempting to 'desensitize' kids to allergenic foods like peanuts and milk by starting allergic kids off with tiny doses of the offending food, and gradually increasing them until the immune system is trained to accept it, or at least make exposure to small amounts of those foods less dangerous. These procedures can be scary stuff for parents and children who know their allergies may cause severe, even life-threatening, reactions.

Some scientists are going even further and deliberately experimenting with giving themselves parasitic worms, since studies have shown that people who have worms also have fewer allergies. Like the “good” bacteria in our gut, this approach is part of what has been coined “the old friends hypothesis”.

The Allergy Fix delves into the latest attempts to fix the allergy epidemic, and highlights some innovative, surprising medical avenues that are sparking hope.

Credits (Click to expand)

The Nature of Things with David Suzuki
The Allergy Fix

directed by
Bruce Mohun

produced by
Sue Ridout
written by
Bruce Mohun
Helen Slinger

Tim Wanlin

director of photography
John Collins

music composer
Graeme Coleman
graphic design & animation
Erwin Chiong

sound design
Ewan Deane
location sound
Patrick Brereton

additional camera & sound
Henry Naulaq
Malakie Kilabuk
production manager
Alison Hill

Bruce Mohun

story producer
Sara Darling

story consultant
Gwen Smith
online editor & colorist
Allan Pinvidic

post-production supervisor
Alison Hill
publicity and outreach
Jeremy Katz
Caroline Butler
archival images
BBC Motion Gallery / Getty Images
CTV Archive Sales
Saskatchewan Archives Board
Strictly Propaganda by Wesnigk / Kissel Film
Prelinger Archives

bacteria images
Garnet Marten and Derrick Horne
UBC Bioimaging Facility

special thanks
Dr. John Croese, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane
produced with the participation of


produced with the participation of
Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC

The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program

produced in association with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

senior producer
FM Morrison

executive producer
Sue Dando
produced by

© Dreamfilm Productions Ltd. 2014
for the nature of things

online editing
Jessica Nardi

associate director
Renée Moreau

unit production manager
June Hall
senior manager
Documentary Unit
Wilma Alexander

senior producers
FM Morrison
Caroline Underwood
for the nature of things

executive producer
Sue Dando

executive director
Documentary Programming
Mark Starowicz
The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki

produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


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