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I Told ‘Em Food Allergies Are Very Common

For 40 years I’ve been pointing out that food allergies are almost universal. Everyone has at least one reaction to food!

I wrote this in my 1986 book, Allergies: What Everyone Should Know (Unwin, London). I was feted by the BBC for numerous interviews about this ground-breaking book. But one interviewer—Nancy Wise of the BBC World Service—was obviously not convinced.

She sent a roving microphone out onto the streets on London, outside Bush House, and they stopped people to question them about it. I had no idea of this trick when I agreed to the interview or even when I showed up! But in fact Nancy told me this, live on air! The outcome was that 18 out of 20 people stopped said “Yes, I do have a food allergy.”

You need to ask the right questions. Many people say “I don’t have any allergies to food,” but will admit that chocolate gives them a headache, or eating onions causes their joints to swell, eggs give them bellyache, or whatever…

Suffice it to say that Nancy was impressed and she gave me a very friendly interview.

I have always held to the view that reactions to food are very common indeed. A great many of the problems are simply missed (not observed) and Amelia Nathan-Hill, I think it was, coined the expression “the unsuspected enemy”. It sums it up nicely. Doctors are not going to find food allergies if they don’t look for them (using an effective testing method).

What I investigated in my early years was rubbished as “mumby-jumbo” in the local hospitals. Eventually they had to eat crow. Nevertheless, orthodox doctors have fought tooth and nail over the decades, to insist that food allergies are very rare: 5%, then it went up to 7%, 10%. Recently, I notice, it has suddenly gone up to 20%!

According to the January 4 report in JAMA Network Open, among more than 40,000 US adults surveyed, 10.8 percent reported the kinds of severe symptoms that are consistent with a recognized food allergy, and another 8.2 percent said they believed they had food allergies, but their symptoms suggested other causes.

That’s the usual scientific hubris: it couldn’t have been a food allergy; it was more likely to have been… (whatever the doctor wants to dream up “scientifically”). It’s weird how doctors think they know more than their patients! The point is, taking the reporting as given, one in five adults are aware of having a reaction to food.

That’s a long way from reaching the 95% mark, but we’re getting there.

It will be higher when doctors realize that food and other allergies can cause an almost blinding array of symptoms, from depression, ADHD and anxiety, to arthritis, eczema and irritable bowel. Recognized allergy symptoms, such as dermatitis, hives and asthma are only a small part of the whole.

“The main message from the survey is that one in five adults have some kind of food related conditions that are causing them to avoid certain foods,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “And one in 10 has what looks convincingly like a food allergy – and of those, only half are getting a proper diagnosis by a physician.”

It was a rather strange survey, truth told. Gupta and her colleagues turned to two internet-based panels of people, who agreed to fill out surveys for a small remuneration: the AmeriSpeak panel and a panel put together by SSI Dynamix, a market research company. All told, 40,433 US adults completed the food allergy survey, for which they received $5 each.

Those deemed to have a food allergy had least one convincing food allergy symptom, which meant a severe reaction involving the skin or oral mucosa, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular or respiratory tract.

People who didn’t have these reactions were assumed to have a food intolerance, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance, or a non-allergy mediated reaction in the mouth.

It’s a moot point that has been debated over the years. Gastroenterologists and immunologists INSIST that food allergy means only a reaction mediated by antibodies. When there is no immunological evidence, that allows them to dismiss the patient as an idiot or faker, who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

So if he or she eats apples and gets severe migraines (one of my many cases), he or she is deluded. It “couldn’t be” and therefore it must be all in the mind! The patient was weak-minded and was making up the story of reactions to food in order to cover their inadequacy. Back in the day, the patient was often referred to a psychiatrist.


Back To The Survey

Among those who were determined to have a “real” food allergy, 48 percent reported developing at least one of their allergies in adulthood, while 26.9 percent developed food allergies only in adulthood. The most common foods causing allergies in these adults were shellfish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, and fish.

Fewer than a half of the people with food allergies (47.5 percent), said they had gotten a diagnosis from a physician, 38.3 percent reported they had been to the emergency room for a life-threatening reaction, while fewer than one quarter (24 percent) said they had a prescription for epinephrine to be used in case of a severe reaction. So the problem is still being negligently under-diagnosed.

The thing that seemed to startle orthodox doctors was that food allergies are being developed in adulthood. Apparently, patients are not supposed to do that! (why? Because doctors haven’t thought of it yet!)

Dr. Gupta herself reported hearing adults saying they used to be able to eat a food like shellfish, but had to give it up because of severe reactions, she was most surprised that among those with food allergies, “almost half reported developing at least one food allergy as an adult. That’s a big number.”

Food allergies haven’t been studied much in adults, so “I think this is a really important article,” said Dr. William Reisacher, director of allergy services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “There was definitely a need for a study like this. The results are very compelling. It was thought that maybe four to five percent of adults had food allergies. This is double that.”

No, Dr Reisacher, it was four or five times more than that.

Reisacher was among those surprised at how many people had developed food allergies in adulthood. “It makes you wonder what is happening in adults causing all these allergies,” he said.

Try answering yourself junk food and mass vaccinations, Dr. Reisacher!

The new study “points to the fact that this is not something that receives a lot of attention and it needs to receive more attention,” said Dr. Corinne Keet, an allergy specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. “We think of food allergies as a childhood disease and clearly there are a lot of adults who have food allergies and their management and treatment may be different from children’s.”

According to this Dr. Keet, “Almost half of the people who thought they had food allergies in this study did not. That’s a lot of people on unnecessary elimination diets that could have consequences in terms of cost, worry and nutritional impact.”

Keet is really wrong. The surveyors said it was ASSUMED that they did not have a legitimate allergy. Their position was that some reported symptoms “suggested” there were other causes. No testing was done to exclude a food allergy in that group of patients. They simply dismissed the reports that didn’t suit their prejudice.

So Keet is talking off the top of her head. Making it up as she goes along. You see how easily and quickly science and facts get twisted and mis-reported.

Just for fun, I tried to find an image of me back in my pioneer heyday! I couldn’t find me doing tests (had one of my nurses). The best I could find was this one, with the original shock of hair!

(circa 1985)


To your health and happiness, as always!

Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby
The Official Alternative Doctor


Food Allergies Common in U.S. Adults – Medscape – Jan 04, 2019.

The post I Told ‘Em Food Allergies Are Very Common appeared first on Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby.

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