A new treatment for peanut allergies involving small doses of peanuts has shown promising results.
Peanut allergies are the most prevalent food allergy in the US affecting one and a half million people. The allergy is a disease affecting the immune system after exposure to the proteins in peanuts. It is also the most deadly allergic reaction.
Two new studies have found that medically supervised small doses of peanuts may help children increase their tolerance for the legume. According to the New York Times:
The new treatment uses doses of peanuts that start as small as one-thousandth of a peanut and eventually increase to about 15 peanuts a day. In a pilot study at Duke University and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, 33 children with documented peanut allergy have received the daily therapy, which is given as a powder sprinkled on food. Most of the children are tolerating the therapy without developing allergic reactions, and five stopped the treatment after two and a half years because they could now tolerate peanuts in their regular diet. But four children dropped out because they could not tolerate the treatment.
The idea of curing allergies with the allergen is not a new concept, in fact is a principle behind homeopathy’s “like cures like”. If you are not familiar with the principles of homeopathy, homeopathic treatment involves giving extremely small doses of natural substances that mimic the symptoms of the same illness in healthy people when given in larger doses. I have tried using a similar method as in the peanut allergy studies to rid myself of my allergy to poison oak using homeopathic remedies, but I was unsuccessful at completely eliminating my reactions, although they have been lessened.
Researchers and doctors are quick to warn parents to not try introducing their children to small amounts of peanuts at home. The children who participated in the studies were under a high level of medical supervision. The results of the studies are promising and may prove there will be a treatment in two to three years for peanut allergies.