Living with Food Allergies and Eating in Fear

If you're like most folks, you probably know someone with a severe food allergy. It's a condition that seems to be cropping up more and more lately, as this Washington Post article details:

"For reasons that we don't understand, the prevalence of food allergies has doubled in the last 15 years," notes Wesley Burks, chief of allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center. In a recently released report, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) calls food allergies an emerging and "important public health problem."

Among the theories for the increase are changes in the way food is processed and the age when solid food is introduced to infants. Some experts also contend that our obsession with cleanliness overprotects the immune system, which then reacts too aggressively when confronted with perceived foreign invaders, such as peanuts, instead of just taking them in stride.