(from "ISANA" No. 7, 1992)

Kazuhiko Kakuta, M.D.
Advisor for "Asunaro", a group of parents of children with allergies, Pediatrician at Saka General Hospital

I earnestly wish that whale meat were available for treating the increasing number of people (both adults and children) with food allergies. The recent years have seen an alarming rise in the numbers of people with allergic disorder of one kind or another including atopic dermatitis, bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis. A nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Health Welfare in June 1991 confirmed that out of every three Japanese suffers from allergic disorder of some sort. Deterioration of the living and dietary environment is believed to have triggered the growing number of allergic cases. When a person with food allergy eats the particular food item that causes allergy in that person, he or she starts exhibiting in the next several minutes to several days a wide range of symptoms: vomiting, stomach-ache, diarrhea, swelling of the lips, rash, runny nose, stuffy nose, stuffy throat, difficulty in breathing, cough, asthma, accelerated atopic dermatitis, headache and general fatigue. In worst cases, allergic disorders can cause death. Food allergy is explained as a rejective reaction - a kind of defensive reaction. All sorts of food can trigger allergy: chicken egg, chicken meat, milk, beef, pork, fish and shellfish (cod, salmon, redfish, shrimp, scallop, clam, etc.), wheat, soy bean, rice, buckwheat, peanut and chocolate. Why, then, does the human body produce allergy in response to such food items? Premature as it may be to make a definitive statement, my daily experience of diagnosing patients with allergies makes me suspect that food in general today is becoming more and more polluted. To be more specific, food is polluted by chemical substances (particularly carcinogenic ones) such as agrochemicals and food additives. My suspicion is that the human body rejects the polluted food and produces allergy as a means of avoiding the risk of being harmed by the polluted food.

One of my patients, a one-year-old case with atopic dermatitis, suffers from worsened dermatitis when fed with pork bought at a nearby supermarket although no such symptom appears when he is fed with the pork of pigs that are carefully raised with specially prepared feed. Another case, a two-year-old also with atopic dermatitis, shows no symptom after eating corbula harvested from an unpolluted river but suffers from worsened atopic dermatitis when eating corbula taken from a polluted river. Eggs that are easily available at low price today only look like eggs: in reality, they are a far cry from the eggs we used to know. It was not so long ago that all eggs available were free-range eggs laid by hens that fed on fresh greens and earthworms. Hens laid eggs for the prosperity of their own species - it was human beings who pinched those eggs to put on their table as food. What a difference they were from the hens of the present day that are jammed into small coops, their bills and nails clipped so as not to hurt other hens, and fed with imported grain polluted with agrochemicals! These hens that are healthy in appearance alone have become machines for laying eggs - and the eggs we eat are coming from them. The same is true for chicken meat, milk and beef. Eating is the process of taking into our bodies the life and energy of the specific animal we freed on. It is impossible to maintain our health by eating food whose seemingly healthy appearance is just barely achieved by chemicals. Food items that are likely to cause allergies (particularly animal meat, eggs and milk) come from the animal species that human beings intentionally isolated from their natural environment and started mass producing artificially. This is where we may have made a mistake. My observation tells me that allergy occurs when the animal species called human beings is unable to maintain even the minimum requirement of the diet that is necessary for it to go on living (this is a matter of quality, not quantity).

These are some protein sources that people with food allergies can take at a relatively low risk, depending on their physical constitution. They include the meat of animals raised in a natural environment (whale, hare, deer, duck), the meat of pig, chicken and cows raised in a proper way, fresh shellfish taken from unspoilt natural environment, and peas and beans with small agrochemical residue. Nevertheless, excessive eating must be avoided at all costs and the minimum requirement in terms of nutrition should be consumed with consideration on seasonal variation. Finally, the traditional Japanese diet is recommended.

Whale used to be one of the most easily available and useful natural sources of protein from mammals. No report has been made so far on serious allergic symptoms caused by whale meat. Neither is it my intention to advocate large intakes of whale meat as s treatment of allergic disorders. It is just I earnestly hope that whale meat is left available as one of the options for allergy-prone people when they select a source of protein and, needless to say, also one of the time-honored food cultures established by our ancestors.

I have one concern, however. Namely, it is the continued pollution of the ocean. It worries me to hear that seals in Arctic are also victims of the pollution. If the oceans continue to be polluted thereby polluting the whales that freely migrate in those areas, it would very likely lead to a higher risk of human beings having allergy from whale meat. Human beings should give the whales a clean, unpolluted sea and receive a little of the natural resources of the sea in return. I cannot but hope that human beings will continue to survive as part of the living species on earth without having to resort to the destruction of the ecosystem.