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Understanding the Rise of Allergies in the Modern World

poisoned apple

In recent decades, there has been a big increase in allergies worldwide, affecting millions of individuals across different age groups and regions. From food allergies to environmental sensitivities, allergies have become a wide-spread health concern in today’s society. 

An estimated 262 million people worldwide have asthma (Source), and anywhere from 240 to 550 million people globally may suffer from food allergies (Source).

If you just look at how normal it has become that we now always ask guests about dietary restrictions and allergies - it has really become an integral part of our lives. Schools, restaurants, cantines, also the choice in grocery stores and food labels clearly indicating all possible allergens present. And if you are as old as me (or even older) you probably, like myself, can't remember any of that stuff from your childhood…

But also look at hayfever: it seems everyone seems to have some sort of sensitivity to pollen now. And for most women it gets worse after 40 (read more about hormoens and allergies at the bottom of this article).

But what exactly has caused this surge in allergies?

The environment’s influence on our genes, or epigenetics, has played a large role in the rise of allergies, as does the makeup of our nose, gut and skin microbiomes. In the end, it seems, we are at least partially doing this to ourselves. Modern living is likely at the root of the recent rise in allergies. I see 3 key aspects:

  1. Over sanitization 

  2. Diet: lack of fiber, eating fake & processed foods, pesticides, GMO, antibiotics & heavy metals from water, fish & meat, lack of variety in general and especially of vegetables (fiber)

  3. Environmental toxins: we are exposed to a high amount of microplastics, toxins from beauty products & household cleaners, PFAS, heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics or other meds, hormones…

Over sanitization

We have recently experienced this with the pandemic when everyone was wearing masks, sheltering at home and disinfecting everything that came into the house. I was even wearing gloves when I went to the grocery shop. Well and then when the restrictions were lifted: boom everyone got ill, because we had been overprotecting our immune system. 

I remember a dermatologist telling me that my “shower gel generation” as he called it was scrubbing the skin too vigorously and using way too much soap on the skin which destroys the skin microbiome. 

So yes: our obsession with cleanliness and hygiene is not only destroying the different microbes (and their microbiomes) in our body but also depriving our immune system of the necessary challenges it needs to develop correctly as toddlers. As a result, our immune systems may overreact to harmless substances, leading to allergic responses.

Once toddlers are given solid foods, their bacteria in the gut increases 10-100x and has a big impact on one’s susceptibility to inflammatory disorders like allergy and autoimmune disorders in adulthood. Antibiotics disrupt this developmental stage, producing a greater risk of allergic diseases.

I’m a living example of this actually: I was not breastfed and then over-medicated in early childhood and I have always had a weak microbiome and digestive health. In the recent years I’ve done several stool panels that always revealed a lack of commensal (good) bacteria despite eating a diet with lots of fiber and variety and taking good quality spore-based probiotics. I had noticed before that I seemed to always have a flatter stomach when I was taking probiotics and as soon as I stopped the effect wore off. Now I understand that given my history, my microbiome needs a constant support of good bacteria. 

Also, research suggests that there’s a correlation between bacteria in bed dust and those found in the associated children: an increase or decrease in respiratory bacteria mirrored an increase or decrease in the bacteria in the infants’ beds. So don’t change your bed sheets too often - your nasal and airway microbiomes will thank you!


Almost everyone I see in my practice is not eating enough fiber, especially vegetables and that’s what the good bacteria in our microbiome feed on in order to live. 

Not all fibers are the same, and not everybody has the same tolerance to fiber, so you need to figure out what works for you!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ Aim for about 25g per day for women and 38g/day for men.

Example meal with different sources of fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract, it can help:

  • lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and removing it from the body

  • regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose

  • feed the bacteria in your large intestine, which then produce short-chain fatty acids to feed other bacteria and keep your gut lining healthy

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but adds bulk to the stool and helps promote regular bowel movements. Usually well tolerated but can irritate the gut for sensitive people. 

It aids in digestion by moving food through the digestive system more efficiently.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods like whole grains (such as wheat, brown rice), nuts, seeds, and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon intact, where it acts as a prebiotic. It serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. As soluble fiber, it can help improve digestive health, increase feelings of fullness, and regulate blood sugar levels.

Food sources of resistant starch include green bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes or rice, legumes, tiger nuts, cashews and certain whole grains.

Probiotic foods are fermented and contain live and active bacteria cultures. They are pretty well tolerated except by people with histamine issues (see more details further down) and are a great way to increase diversity in your gut and may help lower inflammation.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣These "friendly" bacteria help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and support various aspects of digestive and immune health.

Common sources include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and certain types of pickles.

It's essential to note that not all fermented foods contain probiotics; the probiotic content depends on factors such as the fermentation process and handling after fermentation


Just think about how many people you know who are themselves or have kids or family members that are suffering from IBS, allergies, obesity, autism and a new one that’s up and coming: ADHD: they’ve all been linked to the microbiome.


Our diet and lifestyle have triggered shifts in the commensal bacteria (good bacteria) in our gut microbiome. These changes to our gut microbiome are also changing our immune system.

Processed foods play a significant role in the allergy epidemic: they are high in sugar, unhealthy fats, preservatives and additives. Unfortunately, many people consume more and more of these because they are so convenient. These dietary changes not only affect our overall health but also impact our immune function. We end up starving beneficial bacteria in our gut.

If you are struggling with allergies (environmental or food), you may want to pay attention to the amount of foods high in histamine you are consuming too: aged cheeses, fermented foods, citrus fruit, avocado, olives, canned foods, smoked fish and meat are all high in histamine and can possibly exacerbate symptoms during allergy season. 

Environmental toxins & pollution

Furthermore, the rise of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the increased use of pesticides in agriculture have introduced novel proteins into our food supply, potentially triggering allergic reactions. Additionally, the overconsumption of certain foods, such as dairy, gluten, and peanuts, has been shown to harm the lining of our gut and has therefore been linked to the development of allergies.

Then, there’s also the (over) use of antibiotics that kill off not only the bacteria that cause infections, but our gut bacteria. And we eat meat from animals that have been given low-dose antibiotics and or hormones to make them fat. 

Go back to my previous articles to read more about water quality, heavy metals in foods, and other sources of toxins: 

Now, if you are over 40, you may have noticed that your allergy symptoms have gotten worse… another sign of getting older? 

In women over 40, hormonal fluctuations can affect the body's ability to regulate histamine levels due to the decline of progesterone levels that create an imbalance in relation to estrogen. So, we often have “too much estrogen” during this time and that can also increase your histamine levels

Estrogen will cause the release of histamine from the mast cells present in your reproductive organs, so excess estrogen makes histamine symptoms worse and vice versa. 

Additionally, estrogen can inhibit the production of the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO), which is responsible for breaking down histamine in the body. So you’ll have an increase of histamine due to your hormones and also a slow down of histamine break down. This can lead to symptoms such as allergies, food sensitivities, and digestive issues.

But also progesterone can also affect histamine levels. Progesterone has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to stabilize mast cells, so when your progesterone levels decline, you may experience pronounced allergy symptoms due to increased inflammation.

In these situations it’s key to get your hormone levels checked and work on balancing them either with natural remedies or bioidentical hormone therapy. 

What to do to avoid a surge in allergy symptoms?

  • Try to reduce as much as possible external chemicals and other toxins as mentioned above

  • Don’t over clean your house and body especially not using harsh products

  • Eat a variety of plant foods (prebiotic) and probiotic foods with different fiber sources to feed your good bugs, keep your blood sugar stable and excrete toxins regularly.

  • Avoid processed foods and poor quality foods

  • (You may need more support for your microbiome if diet and lifestyle alone is not helping)

  • Rebalance your hormones with natural remedies or bioidentical hormone therapy

Contact me to discuss how I can help you relieve your allergy symptoms or if you want help with natural solutions for hormone balance. 


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