Standard medical systems are very poor at assessing the number of people affected by allergic/atopic illness within a population. A general reliance on crude skin testing and a belief that the main cause of common atopic illness is genetic has helped to further obscure the cause and true frequency of such illnesses. The result has been a continual underestimation of the impact of atopic illness within a population. Most of the implications of genetic fault fall way outside any statistical likelihood of genetic change or mutation. Something has changed within our environment and that something is infant nurture.
A simplistic approach to the numbers is to think of all the people you know who are affected by hay fever, for example, or all those who have experienced some degree of depression. It is then seen as a real possibility that formula feeding of newborn infants is a very likely candidate for the cause of these conditions in terms of percentages of those affected. Psychologists have tended to ignore that evolution is driven by natural selection and want us to believe that the obvious, natural cause of depression is stress. In our past such a response would not have been favoured by natural selection. Stress would have woken us up; persuaded us that action was needed to relieve that stress. The response to stress would have been optimism that it could be overcome. Depression would simply have triggered the start of the natural selection process.
In my book ‘The Kindness of Human Milk’ I have suggested a clear definition of atopic illness as being the expression of symptoms cause by immune reaction to foodstuffs. If we view the list of disease symptoms that fit this definition we begin to see that there is one syndrome called atopic illness and that it is expressed as asthma, eczema, autism, depression, arterial disease, or other symptoms. We can then consider that one action – feeding a newborn infant on formula milk – results in one syndrome – atopic illness.