Dr Anca Shares Some Ideas As To Why There Is An “Allergy Epidemic”?

In allergy clinics, most newly diagnosed patients (or their parents, if the patient is a child) are puzzled and would like to know why they became allergic. If you are one of those patients, you know that the explanation contains something about genetic predisposition. However, we have the same genes as we did as a species hundreds of years ago. Yet, the allergy cases have risen to “epidemic” proportions only lately. Let’s explore what really drives this situation. If it is not just our internal makeup, our genes, then what are the external factors that change how our bodies function? It makes sense to look at what changed in the environment and in our lifestyle, because these alterations are correlated with the allergy cases.

A very interesting study looked at people living in the same geographical area, but in two different countries. In one country the region was rural, and people’s lifestyle was traditional, whilst in the adjacent country, the area was significantly more economically advanced, with what we think of as modern lifestyle for the inhabitants. The differences in allergy cases were significant.

What lessons have we learnt? Exposure to natural- and to man-made environment are essential in manifesting the genetic predisposition to develop allergic conditions.

Environmental Risk Factors For Allergy:

  1. More exposure to potentially sensitising substances:
    • Plants release pollens earlier, for longer and more abundantly because of global warming and increased CO2 concentrations
    • New allergenic pollens are detected in some areas because plants spread according to climate change
    • We also intensively cultivate some plants with allergenic potential in their flowering period
    • We spend more time indoors, thus exposure to indoor allergens (such as house dust, pet dander, insects or some moulds) has increased
    • Modern people eat new, non-local foods
  2. More exposure to pollutants that may create an inflammatory environment and damage the body’s barriers (skin, respiratory or digestive mucosae) allowing allergens to stimulate the immune system:
    • Smoking
    • Air pollutants like particulate matter from diesel exhaust
    • Micro- and nano-plastics
    • Industrial chemicals
  3. Increased exposure to artificial additives in household cleaning products, personal hygiene products and packaged food, acting similarly to pollutants, and altering the good microbes that live on us and that instruct the immune system to be quiet and balanced:
    • Surfactants
    • Enzymes
    • Preservatives
    • Emulsifiers
    • Pesticides
  4. Higher levels of stress and suboptimal sleep, which affect the immune system function
  5. Reduced exposure to the natural environment and less contact with beneficial bacteria (those bugs that live in peace with us, not causing disease and sometimes providing us with substances good for our health just because we act as hosts for them)
  6. Imbalanced food intake (inadequate plant fibre in the diet, deficiencies or excesses in vitamins and minerals, pro-inflammatory fats) affecting the immune function directly or via the microbes that live in our gut (yes, some of what we eat feeds them too, so mind whom you are feeding!)
  7. Excessive use of antibiotics, which may target disease-causing microorganisms, but also kill the good bugs that teach the immune system to be balanced.

The Way Forward:

We may be tempted to feel like victims, but the fact that environment and lifestyle are essential in developing allergies, allows us to be empowered and choose a healthy lifestyle. Even if we can’t choose our genes, we can make choices that modulate how the genes are expressed. Let us know if you would like to read tips on how to mitigate the risk of allergy, and even how to better manage allergies once you’ve been diagnosed with them. If you would like to learn more about this and other subjects related to allergy and autoimmune conditions, The Allergy-Immunology Doctor is a functional medicine clinic that has a comprehensive approach to health, and we offer free resources on our website.

Have you found that you now have an allergy to something you never used to have?

Leave me a comment below…

About The Author

Dr Anca-Liana Ciobotaru helps people optimise their immune function by determining how and why allergy and autoimmunity occur, and by addressing the root cause of disease in a personalised and comprehensive way.

She runs the only Functional Medicine practice in the UK led by a formally qualified Allergy and Clinical Immunology specialist doctor with further Master of Science degree in Personalised Nutrition and advanced immune training with the Institute for Functional Medicine. The Allergy-Immunology Doctor clinic is CQC regulated and strives for excellence in everything. What if you can do more for your health and well-being than just waiting for the next prescription? Our functional medicine approach may be the breakthrough you were waiting for!

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