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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Why all the allergies?...

Posted 2/13/18 (Tue)

A co-worker and I were talking about allergies the other day while we were both munching on peanuts. We agreed that a very high percentage of people across North Dakota have allergies to peanuts.

But why are so many people allergic to peanuts?

According to Mayo Clinic, peanut allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies peanut proteins as something harmful. Direct or indirect contact with peanuts or peanut products cause your immune system to release symptom-causing chemicals into your bloodstream.

OK, but why does your body mistakenly identify these proteins? There has to be a reason.

I ask these questions because if you are more than 30 years old, think back to when you were a kid. How many of your friends, or even how many people in your school were allergic to peanuts?

I was in high school and junior high in the early ‘70s and I don’t remember anybody, not a soul in my school who had peanut allergies. One of my friends had hay fever, but that was it. He was the only one in a school in North Dakota with more than 200 students.

These days, we can find 200 kids in a single school with peanut allergies. It’s hard for me to understand it. Most people today just accept that is how it is. But 40 years ago, it didn’t exist.

There are literally hundreds of allergies to hundreds of products. Most of them come from shell fish and tree nuts.

But celery, potatoes, apples, cantaloupe? Some people are even allergic to zucchini. I wish I was allergic to zucchini!

Where does it come from? What’s causing it? Why are people, especially children, so vulnerable?

Mayo Clinic says certain pollens cause these allergies. As an example, birch pollen is supposed to cause the peanut allergies. Ragweed pollen causes allergic reaction to the cucurbits such as watermelons and cantaloupe, and zucchini as well as bananas.

I have to ask again, why does this happen? These are basic foods that we’ve all eaten. I like to think I’m pretty good at connecting the dots and this condition completely baffles me.

The same goes for gluten. The percentage of people who can’t have gluten seems to be getting higher every year.

My wife and I recently went to a formal dinner with some of her friends. One of the women had to have a gluten-free meal.

Think about this for a moment. It includes everything that has grain in it. Bread, breakfast cereal, spaghetti, rope licorice and any number of soups are included.

Apparently people who consume gluten get cramps, sharp pains across their stomach and so on. Why would basic food cause that kind of discomfort?

No, I don’t have any of these allergies, so maybe I should consider myself lucky.

I am, however, allergic to penicillin. An Army doctor gave me a shot early in my military career and I broke out in hives and my entire body itched. I felt like a prop in a Vincent Price movie.

I didn’t know it existed until I was 19 years old and needed that shot.

You just have to wonder where it all comes from? Maybe it’s cyclical. Polio wasn’t a problem in the 1840s, but by the 1940s, it had stricken a lot of people, even President Roosevelt.

Something has to trigger all of this. There has to be a catalyst? What is it, the rays of the sun, positive ions in the atmosphere, heavy use of agricultural chemicals, the way soap is manufactured, preservatives in food or even newsprint?

In recent years, research at the University of North Dakota indicated that chemicals used on sugar beets were at least partially responsible for developmental disabilities in children who lived in the Red River Valley. UND never did specify which chemicals were used.

Could it be something like that, commonly used and not noticed?

We bathe and wash our clothes with soap, we eat foods that have chemical residue on them, our lungs are exposed to carbon monoxide from internal combustion engines and we drink water that is loaded up with chlorine, chloride and fluoride to neutralize the arsenic and lead. Is that a fair trade off?

If you survey people, most of them just accept the fact that they have allergies and don’t even question it. I don’t have common allergies and I am questioning it.

It just seems too strange to me that so many people would be stricken with this annoying problem in the past 40 years, with more allergies in recent years.

What is the catalyst?