Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Unwittingly." I Do Not Thing That Word Means What You Think That Word Means.

I had a whole other topic for today, but then I ran across this article from JAMA: Treatment Rather Than Avoidance May Be Within Reach for Children With Food Allergies. There's a section in there that really burns my butt:

"A number of hypotheses attempt to explain the rise in food allergies in the United States and other developed countries. One is that parents may have unwittingly [my emphasis] made their children more prone to food allergies by delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods in their babies' diets and following World Health Organization guidelines to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months."

Are. You. F-ing. Kidding Me? Why are the parents the unwitting (which I am choosing to define as "wit-less")  ones? Where's the line that says "oops, sorry, we doctors and scientists may have given you the wrong advice." 

Our doctor told us, straight up, avoid peanuts and tree nuts with subsequent children. Having done quite a bit of reading on the topic, I did not follow the advice, and I still do not believe the "window of introduction" for foods has anything to do with food allergies. Mother Nature is not that fickle and too many of us recognized reactions in our children to allergens in our breast milk long before these allergens manifested in full-out reactions to solid foods. But it just makes me crazy that now another entire generation of food-allergic moms is going to question whether their children's allergies are their fault

Repeat after me, scientists and doctors: correlation is not causation. There are hundreds of other possibilities for why Israeli children do not exhibit peanut allergy at the same rate as American children.

The smoking gun that I see is the difference in "living foods" and the subsequent colonization of gut microbes. Americans have lousy guts because we no longer eat a traditional diet, using foods that aren't processed or so long from the farm that they're already "dead" by the time they reach us. Don't believe me? Consider this study from 2011 that shows MicroRNAs from the foods we eat pass intact through our guts and reach our blood stream. 

I've been pulled down some odd paths in my life, and this (admittedly somewhat granola) belief in the power of foods to heal is one of them. Unfortunately, it's a road our physicians and scientists have little reason to travel. 

Buried in paragraph eight of this article is this line: "Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract aren't regulating allergic immune responses as effectively as they did in the past, so children are reacting to more potential allergens." Funny how that never ends up the headline.