Food allergies in kids – the links to obesity and inflammation

Food allergies in kids is more frequent than previously thought.

Food allergies in kids is more frequent than previously thought.

While NeuroScience, Inc. is nestled in a bucolic pocket of Wisconsin’s St. Croix River Valley, we avidly stay abreast of the latest health and science news. As we pointed out in a recent blog post, a new study by Gupta and colleagues published in the journal Pediatrics concludes that childhood allergy is much more common than previously suspected. The study assessed the prevalence of childhood allergy to be 8% of all children, considerably higher than previously reported findings of approximately 4% (Liu 2010; Boyce 2010). This study also noted that about 39% of those with food allergies had experienced a severe reaction, while about 30% had multiple food allergies.

These troubling findings raise a number of questions. What can be causing this rise in childhood allergies? Are childhood allergies becoming more common, or are food allergies being diagnosed more often? These questions are very difficult to answer from a scientific standpoint. What I do know is that my daughter’s elementary school teacher shared with me that the number of children sitting at the reserved allergen table in the student cafeteria has significantly increased over the last 3-5 years. In fact, for the first time in the school’s history, two reserved allergen tables are required for some of the school’s lunch periods.

I speculate that there are a number of contributing factors: intestinal hyperpermeability, food quality, and obesity.

Intestinal permeability

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Intestinal hyperpermeability increases the amount of allergenic proteins that make contact with components of the immune system (Heyman 2005; Hong 2011). Increased intestinal permeability has been linked to chronic inflammation, particularly elevations in the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) (Ginzberg 2004). Children with intestinal hyperpermeability and resulting inflammation have an increased risk of developing food allergies (IgE reactions).

The rise in consumption of low-quality foods (especially fast foods and processed foods), with a concomitant decrease in consumption of  fresh foods, has resulted in nutrient deficiencies, increased intestinal permeability, and likely an increase in food allergies. It is a sad fact that Americans now spend more than $110 billion annually on fast food, according to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation.  For example, in Louisiana there are 13 fast food restaurants for every 100,000 residents, 33% of whom are obese (CDC Obesity Trends). Fast food may be inexpensive, but it is also has very poor nutritional content.

Image: via

Image: via

Then there’s obesity, which we know is directly related to food quality. It’s not surprising that the rapid rise in childhood obesity correlates with an apparent increase in food allergies (Wilders-Truschnig, 2007), considering that obesity is now considered a chronic inflammatory disease (Bastard 2006; Moschen 2010). Fifteen percent of all American children are obese, and it has been estimated that a third of children are carrying extra unnecessary weight (Ogden et al. 2010). Overweight children therefore are also suffering from chronic inflammation, which, as I pointed out earlier, sets them up for increased intestinal permeability.

All is not lost by any means, but it’s going to take hard work, commitment, and some serious lifestyle changes to save the next generation from a lifetime of morbidity. By addressing diets, increasing exercise, screening for food allergies/ sensitivities, and addressing intestinal hyperpermeability, many of the alarming health trends in our nation’s children can be reversed.

Kids (and everyone else) should eat plenty of fruits & vegetables

Kids (and everyone else) should eat plenty of fruits & vegetables

In the mean time, the news that food allergies are so alarmingly prevalent in our children is another good reason to screen every child for IgE food allergies (55 Foods IgE). Based on the results, elimination diets and intestinal support should be added to any  program to further address sources of chronic inflammation.

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About Bradley Bush, N.D.

Dr. Bradley Bush received a N.D. degree from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2000 and is currently the Director of Clinician Affairs for NeuroScience, Inc. and oversees their NEI Nutrition division. Dr. Bush specializes in neuro-endo-immune health, nutrition and infusion therapies. His focus is on addressing gastrointestinal and HPA axis disturbances in addition to nutritional deficiencies as a cornerstone of patient care. He is co-author of the ND: Notes Science Board Review and ND Notes: Clinical Board Review books. Dr. Bush has worked for years for manufacturers of nutritional supplements, is a founder and past-organizer of the annual Pharmaceutical Perspectives conference, and currently sits on the board of the Naturopathic Education and Research Consortium (NERC).
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2 Responses to Food allergies in kids – the links to obesity and inflammation

  1. Angelika Krohn says:

    Hi, My name is Angelika Krohn ahnd have been a patient previously with you.
    Is there a connection with allergies and gout? I am a mature adult with hypo-thyroidism (treated), chronic, sleeping disorders, hormonal issues, allergies, asthma and now gout! I have had gout for over 2 months (my Dad had gout too) and now they have me on prednisone. Due to the fact that I have gained 30 pounds over the last few years, I afraid to gain more on prednisone (3 weeks only). Have you doen any studies on the relationship between food allergies and gout? Thanks!


    • Hi Angelika,

      Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate around your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances that are found naturally in your body — as well as in certain foods, such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms.

      Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes your body either produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needle-like urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that cause pain, inflammation and swelling.

      Food allergies/ sensitivities are not known to directly cause gout, but if kidney function is affected by the food reaction then it can indirectly contribute to it. I have not seen any studies linking food allergies or sensitivities directly to gout.

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