Peanut Allergy Has a Purpose…and a Deeper Meaning
Submitted by Heather Fraser June 10, 2010 www.peanutallergyepidemic.com
When we discovered that my one year old son had a life threatening allergy to peanuts/tree nuts, we seemed to be something of an anomaly in 1995. Today I understand that we were part of the first wave of food allergic kids to emerge from an event which accelerated the prevalence of allergy starting in 1988.
Since then, I have come to believe that allergy is not a dysfunction. Before reading Margie Profet’s “The Function of Allergy” (1991) it had not occurred to me that this frightening condition could have a purpose. Allergy is an evolved immune response, a defense against acute toxicity. With allergy, acute toxicity occurs when a protein manages to enter and persist in the bloodstream long enough for IgE, the “allergy antibodies” to form against it. When the body next encounters this protein, the defense against it can be violent. The swelling, itching and coughing are emergency measures designed to eject the toxic proteins from the body as fast as possible and the drop in blood pressure to prevent it from circulating to vital organs. All mammals have these antibodies and can develop alalergies. But there are only five ways that toxins can access the bloodstream: ingestion; inhalation; through the skin; and by injection.
With this novel understanding, the story of how my son had become allergic to peanuts took shape. I scoured the historical medical literature and found other epidemics and outbreaks of allergy to foods and drugs. The first outbreak of peanut allergy was at the close of WWII in a study of children and penicillin. The penicillin was made with Romansky’s formula, a thick buttery mix of beeswax and peanut oil. It was difficult to inject and resulted in peanut allergy in many of the children. With this lesson learned and improved refining processes in place, peanut oil became a common ingredient in medicines and vaccines. Starting in 1964, Merck began to use a novel peanut oil adjuvant that promised to increase the effectiveness of all vaccines. Coincidentally, allergy to peanut began to rise.
How had peanut proteins entered and persisted in my toddler’s blood stream when he had never eaten peanut before? Was it from vaccination? By 2000, when I realized that the allergy had become common, that those affected in this wave were small children only in certain countries, that there was a sudden acceleration of the allergy in late 1980s (supported by ER records, cohort studies and eye witness accounts) there seemed only one mechanism that could have created it on this scale. In the US, an average of 100,000 kids every year between 1997 and 2001 became peanut allergic.
While all of this played on my mind, my son struggled with eczema, allergies, and asthma. In desperation, we turned to the holistic treatments and found ways to detoxify, chelate, realign and understand that the body is both biology and energy. He has grown to 15 now and is intellectually gifted, amazingly funny, speaks Japanese, plays guitar and has turned to acting. His symptoms of asthma, eczema and some lesser food allergies have diminished greatly but his RAST IgE score to peanut is still off the chart.
This year he decided to take a cracker offered to him by a friend at school. He had a reaction the likes of which we have not seen since 1995. Without the emergency services at the hospital, he might not be here. Another very frightening lesson learned.
But what does our peanut allergy mean to the larger society? If the tendency to develop allergy is inversely related to the body’s ability to detoxify, we have created in our children a level of toxicity never before seen in human history. In epidemic proportions, we have unleashed an evolutionarily programmed response designed only for emergency failure of all other lines of defense. The peanut allergy epidemic is a man-made phenomenon. And being so, there should be no question that we have the power to end it.
Heather Fraser, MA, BA, B.Ed is a Toronto-based writer, historian and the mother of a peanut-allergic child.