Another Hypothesis About Cause of Food Allergies

Can We Stop Grasping at Straws?

by: Alex Thom
Are antibiotics to blame for food allergies?

Giovanni Cipriano died in 2013 from anaphylaxis. He ate peanuts, to which he was allergic, and died. His parents were never told to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, which is completely crazy to me. Whenever I read these stories, I get chills -- his parents knew about his allergy, yet still, he's gone. 

There is a news piece circulating about his death, and another doctor's theory about why so many people have these allergies. Nothing like sensationalizing the death of a promising young teen to get the conversation started again, right? Whenever the topic of allergies comes up, inevitably there are comments along the lines of, "But the more important issue is why. Why is there an allergy epidemic." And sure, obviously that's a concern to me, too, but I feel like with each random theory tossed out there (lack of certain gut bacteria, GMOs, something the mother ate while pregnant, and now antibiotic use), we're just grasping at straws and not coming up with anything useful. We're so busy pointing fingers when we don't have much to go on in any direction yet.

I am very happy there's research being done to find out the causes of allergies. It would be ideal if nobody had to worry about death just from eating a certain food, wouldn't it? I'm glad research is being done to help those who already have these allergies, because that's what my family's priority is–to help our son cope and survive. What isn't helpful is when news is thrown out that Hey! There's a new thing to blame for these allergies, and you should all be worried now!

Microbiologist Dr. Martin Blaser from New York University points to early life antibiotic use as a potential culprit. He believes it is this usage that's diminishing gut bacteria, weakening immune systems, and making them susceptible to allergies. But I can tell you that in our case, antibiotic use doesn't fit our puzzle. Mason was born with his allergies, and was sensitive through breastmilk. So was it antibiotics I took in my early years? Am I to blame? Blaser boldly states that, "Antibiotics are not free, they do have a cost. And it is not just monetary but in the development of immunity in children."

That's a slippery slope, Dr. Blaser. To suggest that parents shouldn't be using antibiotics, when obviously they're being used to prevent infections and disease is a dangerous suggestion, I think. A more measured appproach may be to suggest lowering antibiotic use, perhaps? 

I don't know why we have allergies. I don't know where to point the finger, or how to prevent future generations from having life-threatening allergies. But I do know that straw-grasping and sensationalizing the issue isn't helping at all.

To read more about how gut bacteria may help with food allergies, read here. Do you know which allergy is the most common and inaccurate drug allergy?