This Is Why Your Grandparents Didn’t Have Food Allergies, But You Do!

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It wasn’t long ago when peanut butter was allowed at school and food intolerances were unheard of. Did your grandparents have any allergies? Probably not.

According to research for the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies in children have increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, now affecting 1 in 13 children in the United States (1). That’s about two students in every classroom.

It is also estimated that more than 17 million Europeans have a food allergy, and that number is rising as well.

Over 90 percent of these allergic reactions come from these eight foods alone: Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

But why didn’t our grandparents suffer? Why have allergies increased over 50% in the span of 14 years?

How Our Grandparents Avoided Food Allergies

Why the generational difference?

One prevailing theory is known as the Hygiene Hypothesis, and it’s making parents re-think exactly how “clean” they should keep their children.

1. Hygiene Hypothesis

We’ve become victims of our own compulsion for cleanliness.

“In the past 20 or 30 years, we’ve certainly been living more cleanly. Our housing has changed, we take antibiotics, we have vaccinations. So our immune system, which has less infection to fight than it has in the past, has become dysregulated, and has begun to react and become hypersensitive to things in the environment that are harmless,” says Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist and clinical immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. “Why should anyone become allergic to something like a peanut or ragweed? It really doesn’t make any sense (2).”

The hypothesis is supported by the geographical increase in allergies, particularly in Westernized countries like the United States, Canada, and Europe. People are over-vaccinated, obsessed with cleanliness and prescribed more drugs than you can count on all ten fingers.

Our grandparents sure didn’t undergo the rigorous routines that we do. In fact, they spent more time outdoors playing, socializing, traveling and exercising. Exposure to fresh air, activity, and sunshine kept their immune systems working optimally, and their parents didn’t care if they got a little dirty while playing outside. Spending long days outdoors also exposed our grandparents to more sun, and thus, higher levels of vitamin D. Not surprisingly enough, there is a direct correlation to vitamin D deficiency and allergies (3).

2. Traditional Cooking

Not many packaged and processed foods were available back in the day. Since our grandparents didn’t have the luxury of packaged convenience foods, everything was instead prepared from scratch using real food ingredients and eaten raw, or cooked on a stove, oven, or open fire.

They also wouldn’t of had access to microwave ovens, and therefore the molecular structure of the foods they ate wouldn’t have been altered by electromagnetic radiation.

Babies would have been fed breast milk, and if the mother couldn’t nurse, a wet nurse would be hired. Breastfeeding supplies babies with essential bacteria and has the ability to drastically reduce food allergies of all kinds in children (4).

3. Seasonal Food and Gardening

Up until the 1950s or so, food came from local sources (or it was home-grown). This meant that food wasn’t shipped long-distances, and preservative chemicals were not utilized to the extent that they are today.

There would have been more frequent trips to the grocery store, or our grandparents would have walked out to their garden to gather whatever they needed for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day. This resulted in fresher food, devoid of additives.

Foods were also much more nutritious back in the day. Thanks to poor farming practices that started in the 1960s, our soil has gradually become increasingly nutrient deficient. Magnesium is one mineral that is nearly devoid of all food products, as well as other minerals like calcium, phosphorous, manganese, and zinc.

Our grandparents would also make use of root cellars to keep food fresh for longer, and also to have access to their summer harvest throughout the winter months.

4. No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Additives, or Preservatives

Genetically modified food hit widespread production in the American market in 1994 (5), which is interesting, given that this was immediately before allergy rates began to exponentially increase in 1997. Coincidence?

Genetically modified food didn’t exist when your grandparents were kids, and organic labels weren’t really required, given that most food was organically grown to begin with. When your grandparents were children, farming practices didn’t yet employ the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that cause food allergies (6).

Our grandparents also didn’t have access to foods that were full of additives, preservatives, and other “ingredients” the enhance texture and taste, add colour and bulk, and prolong shelf life.

5. Traditional Remedies

When your grandparents were sick, instead of going to the doctor, they took care of themselves with knowledge that was passed down generations. Instead of taking antibiotics, they utilized traditional medicine like nettle, echinacea, mullein and other herbs to help them get better. Rest, plenty of water, and home remedies were also part of the process.

Many of our grandparents didn’t even have access to a nearby clinic or hospital. Going to the doctor was reserved for more serious cases such as needing a bone set, requiring stitches, or for more life-threatening conditions.

With the rise of antibiotics and vaccinations, our immune system has become lazy to say the least. By upsetting the body’s normal balance of gut microbes, antibiotics may prevent our immune system from distinguishing between synthesized chemicals and real attacks (7).

It is evident, now, why food allergies have increased in the last couple years. and why our grandparents were seemingly healthier than we are. The progressive introduction of chemicals in and on our food, as well as in the air, contribute significantly to allergic reactions.

If you want to avoid allergies, make sure you get proper nutrition from organically and home-grown food, and try to eat as local as you can. Get enough physical activity, and enjoy the great outdoors as much as you can. Avoid GMOs when you can, and stop depending on packaged and overly processed foods.

Carly Fraser has her BSc (Hons.) Degree in Neuroscience, and is the owner and founder at Live Love Fruit. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a determined life mission to help inspire and motivate individuals to critically think about what they put in their bodies and to find balance through nutrition and lifestyle. She has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals to re-connect with their bodies and learn self-love through proper eating habits and natural living. She loves to do yoga, dance, and immerse herself in nature.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Let's not leave out the most obvious, vaccinations and the amount of such in comparison to our grandparents. How many toxins can one immune system take? The increase, of such and depending on each of our immune system structures, individually are the difference. Not saying they are bad, just saying the amount has increased threefold and as well as the GMOs so do the vaccination ingredients… so add that to the obvious as most parents do very much understand in their hearts.. as our children have to face such dangers to their lives. Food. Can you imagine that feeling, the very comfort food most love, is a fear of life and death? Big Pharm will never be called upon due to this since it is a circle, not a doctor will ever point to such, and not one researcher will ever stop the $$ to proving such that will just be discredited. Overall all parents know.

    • Hey Julianne, I 100% agree with you, and I did mention vaccinations in this article (should have made it its own point – oops!). Thanks for leaving your comment – GMOs, vaccines, poor farming practices, antibiotics, obsession over cleanliness, eating too much processed foods, the list goes on :\

    • Except the people I know whose children have all kinds of food allergies are anti- vaccines and strictly organic food eaters.

  2. Hello, thank you for your article! (Sorry for my poor English) my daurghter is now 15 and i did a lot of thing for her health since the beginning of her life! Like give birth at home, give maternal milk, good food organic and the less industrial propdocts, no vaccination, no antibiotics, only homeopathic and phyto, …etc… i am steel finding what it is not going well with her! She has a lot of allergies and intolerances, she is a kind of weak person, with health problem that we are trying to understand and find what could be the causes. I thought about the pollution, about the hereditary family health problem,…I am convinced about all what you’re said but I don’t understand why my daughter is with health problem like this!
    All her friend at school are eating juckfood and she is coming at school with dates and all we know is good for health, and she will be the first one to be sick when there is some virus at school!!! With her doctor we are reinforcing a lot the immune system vitamines etc… every day!!! Well that was my thinking about health and the mystery of the human!!! 😉 (sorry again for my English)
    Myriam

    • Hey Myriam, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter. What does your daughter eat every day? What did you eat while she was in the womb? What area of the world do you live in, and what is the pesticide/herbicide situation like as well as air pollution? Do you use any chemicals in your house (air fresheners, perfumes, cleaners, etc.)?

  3. just read the comments about the daughter who still gets sick while eating pretty healthy – is she getting enough fruits & veggies everyday? i recently learned the new recommendation is a minimum of 7-13 servings a day!

  4. You should also balance the article by pointing out that very many babies and young infants died of food allergy and intolerances …because they were not identified, treatable or understood or children who were 'sickly' not thriving or growing were labelled with other things . Therefore my grandparents did not hear of or understand food intolerance …now we recognise it there will be seemingly more of it . Add this to people in the last 50 years eating foods from all over the world which they re digestive system is not used to ..there are bound to be allergies. Some of the poorest people in the world still have children with food intolerances …they have no microwaves immunisation or gm crops…or doctors or epipens so they die ..

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