Dr. Julia Upton MD was the recent guest speaker at a Canadian Club of Halton dinner where she discussed the latest understanding of why food allergies have become so common. Her topic: “Food Allergy: Why, and What Can Be Done?”
Passionate about food allergies, Dr. Upton is currently enrolled in a Masters Program in epidemiology at the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. She is a Staff Physician in Clinical Immunology & Allergy at SickKids Hospital and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Division of Allergy & Immunology at the University of Toronto. She is also Chair of the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Section of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Immunology.
“More than one in 15 Canadian children, or two kids in every classroom across the country, report having at least one food allergy.” Most allergies, it appears, are caused by very few foods: peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat and sesame. Allergies to these foods have been on the rise since the 1990’s and can be life threatening.
When a person has an allergy and comes in contact with a peanut, for example, their immune system overreacts to the allergen by producing antibodies called IgE’s (Immunoglobulin E).
These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. IgE-mediated food reactions can cause severe allergy anaphylaxis that if left untreated can be life-threatening. EpiPens and antihistamines help in the control of many food allergy episodes.
Dr. Upton touched on the complex issues surrounding allergies such as the inaccuracy of testing procedures, the elimination of parasites in much of the developed world, living in cities instead of farms, and the timing of the introduction of solid foods to infants as all influencing the rate of allergic disease.
We are fortunate to have doctors such as Dr. Upton who have the passion and expertise to help unscramble this complex world of allergies. For more information visit www.foodallergycanada.ca .
Article and photos courtesy of Janet Bedford.
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