Why Has the Frequency of Food Allergies Increased?

Why Has the Frequency of Food Allergies Increased?
Why Has the Frequency of Food Allergies Increased?

prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel said, “The increase in nut allergies, which is one of the most dangerous food allergies, is caused by cesarean births, decreased use of breast milk in infant feeding, excessive efforts to live hygienically, excessive use of antibiotics, preference for a Western lifestyle and delaying the initiation of complementary foods in infants.

Drawing attention to the increase and risks of nut allergies in our country due to World Food Allergy Awareness Week (8-14 May), member of the Turkish National Allergy and Clinical Immunology Association (AID), Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine Pediatric Allergy Department Head Prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel said, “The increase in nut allergies, which is one of the most dangerous food allergies, is caused by cesarean births, decreased use of breast milk in infant feeding, excessive efforts to live hygienically, excessive use of antibiotics, preference for a Western lifestyle and delaying the initiation of complementary foods in infants.

Nut allergies, which stand out as the number one food allergy in children and adults in our country, is one of the most dangerous food allergy reactions. While the frequency of nut allergy continues to increase, it is among the types of allergies that do not go away over time, just like seafood. Nuts that cause allergies in our country are listed as hazelnut, pistachio and walnut.

Nut allergies are the most dangerous cause of food allergies

Drawing attention to the nut allergy due to World Food Allergy Awareness Week (8-14 May), Prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel pointed out that nut allergies usually start in the first two years of life, but there are also rarer types that start at an advanced age. “Early-onset nut allergies are the cause of more severe reactions. The most feared of these reactions is anaphylaxis or the reaction known as 'allergic shock' among the people," said Prof.Dr. Şekerel continued:

“In addition to the skin findings, the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems are adversely affected in anaphylaxis, and the resulting reaction can threaten life. For this reason, we give an adrenaline autoinjector to those with nut allergies to use in an emergency, and we want them to have this injector with them at all times. Nut allergies are one of the most persistent allergies. Improvement occurs only in 10-20% of patients and lasts a lifetime in most patients.”

In the last 20 years, the incidence of food allergies and nut allergies has nearly doubled!

Explaining that the incidence of food and nut allergies has increased, Prof. Şekerel said, “While food allergy is seen at a rate of 6-8% in the first year of life in our country, many of these allergies disappear with advancing age. However, as with nut allergies, there may be lifelong permanent food allergies. As a result, the incidence of food allergy in childhood and adulthood is 0.5-1%. While egg and milk are the most common allergies in infancy, nut allergies are the most common cause of food allergies in childhood, adolescence and adulthood in our country.

Stating that the incidence of food allergies and nut allergies has almost doubled in the last 20 years, and giving information about the reasons for this increase, Şekerel said: It showed that the use of food, preferring a Western lifestyle, and delaying the initiation of solid food in infants led to an increase.” he said.

In our country, hazelnut allergy is the most common, followed by pistachio, cashew and walnut allergy.

prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel said, “When we say nut allergies, we understand nut allergies such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, cashews and almonds, and an allergy to peanuts, which is actually a legume. Peanut is a nut that is consumed and produced excessively in western societies. Therefore, peanut is the most important nut allergy in America, England and Australia. However, we, as a society, are a society that stands out with the consumption of tree nuts, namely hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts, and therefore these allergies are more common.

Allergies are also shaped by the consumption habits of societies!

When we look at our eating habits, Şekerel states that he sees a special place among the nuts and berries: “We consume them for breakfast, salads, desserts, sauces, even meat dishes and as snacks at almost every meal and every hour of the day. As a matter of fact, when we look at the world nut consumption and production inventories, we see that our country is the number 2 country in the world. We have been the world leader in hazelnut production and pistachio consumption for years. Although we are the world's number 3 producer of pistachios, we are also the world's first in imports, because although we produce a lot, we do not produce enough for us because the consumption is too high. Dr. Bülent Şekerel added: “The incidence of food allergies is shaped by the consumption habits of societies. In our country, hazelnut allergies are our number one problem, as hazelnuts are consumed excessively, especially through cocoa products. Hazelnut allergies are followed by pistachio and walnut allergies. Cashew is a nut that does not grow in our country, but its consumption has increased with the increase in imports in recent years. Cashews actually come from the same origin as pistachios, namely from the gum tree family. These two nuts have many molecules in common, so pistachio allergy and cashew allergy often go together.” he continued.

Babies should meet with nuts without delay and the first meeting should be as much as the tip of a teaspoon.

prof. Dr. He explained how sugar nut allergies occur: “Food allergy can be expressed as an abnormal and exaggerated reaction of the body to a food that is not harmful to it, and it often starts in the first years of life. Ten years ago, we delayed the introduction of allergic foods into the diet for a year or two to prevent the development of allergies, and we expected this to prevent the development of allergies. However, contrary to our expectations, we saw that this attitude caused an increase in food allergies. According to our current understanding, food allergens enter through the eczema skin or respiratory tract and cause the development of allergies. The entry of nutrients into the body through the digestive system improves tolerance. For this reason, we prefer to start all foods with allergic potential in babies between the first 4 and 8 months of life. We only want the first dose to be very small to avoid allergic reaction when giving the first dose. For example, we start with the tip of a teaspoon and gradually increase the amount given.”

The proteins of nuts that are resistant to heat, waiting, pressure and cooking cause allergies.

Explaining why nuts often cause allergies, Şekerel; “There are thousands of foods, and only 170 of them are causes of allergies. When we look at the common characteristics of allergic foods, we see that these foods carry proteins that are resistant to heat, rays, waiting and pressure. Food allergy develops mostly against these stable proteins. Nuts are actually seeds and contain large amounts of these stable storage proteins. That's why we see nut allergies frequently."

Nut allergies should be diagnosed by allergy specialists.

Referring to how nut allergies are diagnosed, Şekerel said, “First of all, I must say that there is no need to do food allergy tests on every baby or child. Because these tests are very sensitive. In other words, they can give false positive results and cause more people to be labeled as allergic to foods. For this reason, food allergy testing is only done for high-risk children. The high-risk group consists of individuals with severe eczema (atopic dermatitis) and individuals who have experienced an allergy-like reaction before encountering these foods. Food allergy awareness is very high all over the world. Most reactions to food consumption are labeled as food allergies. However, the diagnosis of food allergy is not that simple and requires a professional approach. We use skin tests, blood tests and nutrient challenge tests to diagnose nut allergies. Performing and evaluating these tests requires expertise and experience. For this reason, those who suspect a nut allergy should be seen and evaluated by allergy specialists.

We have entered a new era for the diagnosis of nut allergies!

prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel stated that they started a new era in the diagnosis process and explained the process as follows: “Classic allergy diagnosis is made with skin tests and blood tests. While some of those who are sensitive with these tests do not have a problem when they consume that food, some have problems. In other words, the presence of sensitivity in the tests does not mean that there is an allergy, and the patient should be fed that food under the supervision of a physician and it should be observed whether an allergic reaction occurs. The reason for this is the proteins in different structures in the food and we call these proteins as components. Although the immune system reacts to many of these ingredients, allergies are the result of a reaction to certain ingredients. The western world focused on peanut allergy, which is its main problem, and described the ingredient sensitivities that cause peanut allergy, but this information was very limited in nut allergies such as hazelnut, walnut, and pistachio. We have identified some new components that predict nut, pistachio and walnut allergy. Thus, when we saw the sensitivity profile specific to the component in blood tests, we made an important breakthrough in understanding whether there is an allergy or not.”

Nut allergies should be perceived and respected as a characteristic of the person, not a deficiency.

Stating that it is not correct to perceive nut allergies as a disease or deficiency, Şerekel said, “Just as electricity only strikes when touched, nuts cause unwanted situations in allergic people only if they are consumed. A conscious patient does not encounter any problems when he pays attention to what he consumes. Another requirement is to live in a society that respects each other. We are a society that loves to serve and share. When we show sensitivity to the allergic characteristics of the person in front of us in these posts, we do not encounter sad situations.

prof. Dr. Bülent Enis Şekerel said, “As a result, the life expectancy and quality of life of a conscious patient living in a society that respects differences will not be adversely affected.”

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