- What Is a Peanut?
- Peanut Allergy Symptoms
- Peanut Allergy Remedies
In the U.S., approximately 1 to 2 percent (or more) of the population has a peanut allergy — about 3 million people — a percentage that continues to rise.
In the past two decades, the prevalence of peanut allergies has more than quadrupled, up from 0.4 percent of the U.S. population in 1997 to 1.4 percent in 2008 to more than 2 percent in 2010.
Peanut allergies are more prevalent among children under 3 years old, and the risk of developing this allergy increases to 7 percent for a sibling of a child with a peanut allergy. This is why peanuts are among the “big eight” food allergies, along with eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts, shellfish, soy and wheat.
What’s really disturbing is that there’s no clear, definitive reason why this common food allergy is on the rise, but new research in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet suggests that avoiding peanuts at an early age may be partly to blame.
And, on top of that, recent research shows that consuming minuscule amounts of peanut protein combined with probiotic supplements can significantly reduce peanut allergies and sensitivities in children.
Thankfully, in January 2017 the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released guidelines for parents and health care professionals to assist in the introduction of peanut-containing foods at an early age. And if you or a family member does suffer from a peanut allergy, there are natural remedies to help ease peanut allergy symptoms as well as peanut butter alternatives to try.
What Is a Peanut?
A peanut is actually a legume crop that is grown for its edible seeds. Unlike most crop plants, peanut pods develop under the ground, which is why peanuts were given the specific name hypogaea, which means “under the earth.”
Although peanuts aren’t technically nuts, people tend to place them in the same category as tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts. In the U.S., peanuts and peanut butter are the most popular “nut” choice.
Peanuts and peanut butter support your metabolism and aid fat loss when you consume them with omega-3 foods, like flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Peanuts serve as a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids, dietary fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium. There are several studies indicating that peanuts are indeed healthy foods, including the following:
- A 2010 study published in Nutrients indicates that nut consumption (both peanuts and tree nuts) has been associated with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women. Limited evidence also suggests that nuts have beneficial effects on hypertension, cholesterol, cancer and inflammation.
- A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 found that nut consumption, particularly peanut consumption, was associated with decreased overall and cardiovascular mortality across different ethnic groups and among individuals from low socioeconomic statuses.
There are some health issues when it comes to eating peanuts and peanut butter, including the following:
- Because peanuts are high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats, they can cause an imbalanced ratio of omega 3 to 6, which is a common issue among Americans today.
- Another issue with peanut butter nutrition is that peanuts grow on the ground and they get very moist, causing the development of mycotoxins or mold. The mold on peanuts can grow a fungus called aflatoxin that can affect the health of your gut.
- Peanuts have been linked to food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome and a slow metabolism. That’s because aflatoxin can actually compete with probiotics in your gut and thus damage digestive health. This is especially true for peanut butters that aren’t organic. The presence of mold may be a reason why so many children have inflammatory immune reactions to peanuts.
- For those of you who don’t have a peanut allergy, avoid the potentially harmful fungi peanuts typically grow by choosing Valencia peanuts or Jungle peanuts. These peanuts usually aren’t grown in the moisture of the ground, but in bushes off the ground or higher up, and that eliminates the issue with mold.
Peanut Allergy Symptoms
Peanut allergy is one of the most serious of the immediate hypersensitivity reactions to food in terms of persistence and severity.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, peanut allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy skin or hives (could be small spots or large welts)
- An itchy or tingling sensation in or around the mouth or throat
- Runny or congested nose
- Anaphylaxis (less common)
Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening whole-body response to an allergen. This is rare, but it’s a peanut allergy symptom that must be taken extremely seriously.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Impaired breathing
- Swelling in the throat
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Pale skin or blue lips
- Gastrointestinal issues.
Anaphylaxis must be treated immediately with epinephrine (adrenaline) or it can be fatal.
In spite of increased recognition and understanding of food allergy symptoms, food is the single most common cause of anaphylaxis seen in hospital emergency departments.
It is estimated that about 30,000 food-induced anaphylactic events are seen in U.S. emergency departments each year, 200 of which are fatal. Either peanuts or tree nuts cause more than 80 percent of these reactions.
6 Peanut Allergy Remedies
The only absolute cure for a food allergy is to remove the allergen from your diet completely. However, there are natural allergy relief remedies you can utilize to improve peanut allergy symptoms.
Quercetin has been shown to block allergies to certain foods, including peanuts.
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology analyzed the effects of quercetin on rats with peanut sensitivities. Over four weeks, the rats were treated with 50 milligrams of quercetin daily.
The researchers found that “quercetin completely abrogated peanut-induced anaphylactic reactions,” concluding that quercetin could suppress peanut allergy symptoms and work as an alternative treatment for similar food allergies.