A silent epidemic is sweeping through our children's generation: food allergies. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network approximately 1 in 13 young children in the US has a food allergy and more than 11.4 million Americans (children and adults combined) suffer food allergies (more than the number inflicted with cancer).
As the parent of two children with food allergies, I know how tough this road can be to navigate. From school snacks and birthday parties to simple family outings, danger may be lurking around any corner. And much to the frustration of many parents, these allergies are not taken with the level of seriousness they deserve. The common refrain of "Oh, it's just a little taste" or "We wanted him/her to feel 'normal'" are frightening red flags for parents of allergic kids.
Many have theorized about the rise in food allergies - a dramatic increase from generations past. Authors Dr. Doris Rapp and Dr. Anthony Kane propose a "toxic load theory" which outlines how collective exposure to toxins and stress can push the allergic child too far resulting in an allergic reaction. Others have questioned the role of genetically-modified foods (GMOs), the rise of pesticides in our produce, and the popularity of processed foodstuffs - all of which could also contribute to the toxin exposure of an allergic child.
What's more, food allergies can manifest not only in physical reactions (i.e., hives, eczema, anaphylaxis) but also behavioral ones. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, founder of the Feingold Diet, notes that as many as 50 percent of his hyperactive patients have benefited from diets free of artificial colorings and flavorings.
Thankfully, there are also an increasing array of resources available to parents, as well as networks to empower them to meet these challenges. One such resource is A. Anderson's new book Flourishing with Food Allergies: Social, Emotional, and Practical Guidance for Families with Young Children. Ms. Anderson's book highlights the journeys of 15 families dealing with food allergies, while also providing a wealth of information about how to make educated school choices, how to survive social situations, and offering links to in-depth studies on allergies and children. Anderson also includes action plans for parents who want to get involved and contact government officials to help address this growing concern.
Given the rise of allergies and the state of our food supply, it's high time to take note and start making changes for future generations. Until we acknowledge this silent epidemic, however, we cannot begin to confront it.