Today, 8% of children have a food allergy. A food allergy is a condition in which the immune system incorrectly identifies a food protein as a threat and attempts to protect the body against it by releasing chemicals into the blood. The release of these chemicals results in the symptoms of an allergic reaction. If your child reacts to a food by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or other unusual symptom, this could signal a food allergy or sensitivity.

The most allergenic foods for children (and adults) are milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish. These eight foods account for 90% of food allergies. According to a study released in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an 18% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

One possible reason that food allergies have increased so much in the past decade is the introduction of genetically modified foods. Beginning in the 1990s, new proteins were engineered into our food supply in order to maximize the profitability for the food industry. This makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, but it is unfortunate from a health standpoint.

An example is milk. In 1994, in order to drive profits for dairy, scientists created a new genetically engineered protein and synthetic growth hormone to inject into cows to make them produce more milk. As a result, the cows got sick which meant an increase in the use of antibiotics. There were no human trials conducted to see if the genetically modified product had any health consequences. Governments from countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and all 27 countries in Europe said that they were not going to allow this into their milk supply since it was not proven safe. The U.S., on the other hand, did allow it because it had not been proven unsafe. Milk is only one of many examples of genetically modified food in this country.

Because other countries do not allow artificial growth hormones, food dyes derived from petrochemicals, and genetically engineered ingredients into their food supplies, global companies must make a different version to compete in the marketplace abroad. For example, Kraft’s Mac & Cheese in the U.K. has very different ingredients than the U.S. version. The U.K. version of Mac & Cheese has no dyes and fewer (better) ingredients.

What can we do? As moms, we can opt for whole foods that do not contain hormones or pesticides, or that have been genetically modified. As voters, we can encourage the government to follow suit like the other countries and put a stop to allowing genetically modified foods. As consumers, we should demand the healthier version of products from food manufacturers.

If you are concerned about food allergies for you or your child, you can try an elimination diet. For guidance, contact Dina Colman, Healthy Living Coach and Nutritionist at Bloom.

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Dina Colman is a healthy living coach and nutritionist at Bloom in Walnut Creek, a mothers retreat center designed to be the support system every mother needs. Make an appointment with Dina through www.BloomRetreat.com or find us on Facebook: Bloom: A Retreat for Mothers. A Treat for Children. Call (925) 939-6262 or come by at 1444 S Main in Walnut Creek.