Without the presence of a functioning immune system with an intact production of white blood cells and antibodies to effectively and unceasingly attack and destroy all alien intruders in our body, the human organism would not survive for very long. However, mistakes may arise in all systems, and when this happens in the immune system the consequence most often seen is allergy.
The word allergy comes from the Greek language and may be interpreted as "a changed reaction". This reaction is caused by the meeting of so-called allergens and antibodies in the human body.
Allergens is the biological term for substances that are met with an antibody production when they enter the body. Antibodies are proteins produced by the white blood cells of the immune system, more specifically the B cells. Some B cells develop into memory cells that are capable of binding antigenes and remembering their structure, so that the immune system is able to react much faster and target the attack on the intruding antigene more specifically if the memory cells should encounter the same antigen on a later occasion.
It is also because of the memory cells that allergic persons normally only react to a particular allergen on the second exposure to the substance.
In theory, practically all known substances can be allergenic, but most often the substances that elicit allergic reactions are proteins or polysaccharides. Triglycerides and other fat compounds are seldom allergenic. Different types of antibodies are produced by the immune system; IgA, IgD IgE, IgG, and IgM. Allergy is normally elicited by the production of IgE antibodies, and therefore IgE antibody levels are high. Food intolerence is usually caused by the action of IgG antibodies. Pseudoallergy is the generic term for different types of degenerative immunologic reactions caused by the action of medicine, histamines, or a generally unhealthy lifestyle, and their meeting with the immune system.
There are 4 known types of immune responses. Some reactions progress quickly, some are slower, usually appearing after a few hours. The different immune responses are designated Type I, II, III, and IV.
Type I reactions. The antibody is located in the cell membrane of mast cells, as a so-called receptor. The antigen or allergen typically comes from pollen or animal hair. The meeting between the allergen and the receptor causes the mast cell to release different chemical compounds, mainly histamines. It is the action of these endogene (produced by the body) compounds on the body that cause the characteristic allergic symptoms, and not that of the allergens.
Type II reactions. Circulating antibodies react to antigens on the surface of alien cells. Antigens are typically bacteria or blood cells from the wrong serologic type following a blood transfusion with the wrong blood type.
Type III reactions. Chain reactions, elicited by the meeting of circulating antibodies with antigens. The antibody and antigen form a complex that activates a line of different protein compounds in the so-called complement system. In hypersensitivity, this type of reaction is typically involved in inflammation of the joints and the kidneys. Antigens may be alien serum globulin or penicillin.
Type IV reactions. Following an encounter of T cells with antigens. T cells do not produce antibodies. They have receptors in their cell membranes in the form of antibodies, and when they encounter their specific antigene, the T cell is triggered by a chemical reaction to release toxic substances that destroy and kill the cells bearing that particular antigen. Antigens typically stem from animal hair, plants, drugs, or from tissue- or organ transplants.
Why do we become allergic? The answer is still not clear. Many hypotheses stress the importance of inheritance on the development of allergies. It is an established fact that certain allergies run in certain families. If one parent has an IgE type allergy, the offspring of that particular couple have a 33% risk of developing a similar allergy. In the case of both parents having an IgE type allergy, the risk of the offspring developing that same allergy is doubled to 66%.
The hygiene therory
In the case of cleanliness - as in a lot of other cases - it is a question of balance. With high probability, the improved hygiene in recent time has reduced a lot of diceases. With the hygiene theory, some people believe that we have now ended up in the opposite extreme in which the use of water and soap and antibiotics destroy the natural microflora of the skin and intestinal system helping to prevent us from allergies.
When taking antibiotics, the beneficial intestinal bacteria which are involved in the regulation of the immune function are being destroyed. Many modern pre-fabricated foods are also very bad for a healthy intestinal flora.
New research indicates that pregnant women who receive antibiotic treatment increase the risk of their child developing an allergic disease. The risk further increases if more than one antibiotic treatment is received during pregnancy. However, it has not been fully investigated whether the allergy is connected to the inflammation itself or to the antibiotics.
The development of allergies or hyperimmunisation might be caused by the ongoing pressure on the immune system of some located, chronic, inflammatory condition somewhere in the body system, or by earlier periods of intense stress on the immune system. The latter might be caused by the action of a vaccine, for example, given at a time when the immune system was already weakened by infection or other immunal stress factors. This is still a controversial theory. Using formula instead of breast milk could also be a contributing factor that weakens the resistance of the child.
Experience says that children's allergy symptoms can often be reduced notably with a supply of lactic acid bacteria.
Allergies may also be developed because of environmental factors such as an unhealthy indoor climate, pollution, heavy metals, or chemicals in our daily surroundings. Especially when these external factors are combined with an overall unhealthy lifestyle, bad nutrition, reduced detoxifying capacity of the liver, stress, and lack of exercise.
The Leaky Gut
Many scientists have worked with the problem of the so-called "leaky gut". The function of the intestinal mucosa is - among other things - to absorb certain substances and to exclude others. In case of a leaky gut substances that should have stayed in the intestinal system leaks out into the blood through the intestinal wall. Various toxins, medicine, and a bad diet in combination with stress destroys the intestinal mucosa and allows health damaging substances to pass through it. Likewise, an uninhibited growth of candida can result in it making hyphae which perforates the intestines and sends large amounts of bacteria and fungi, incompletely digested protein substances (peptides) and other things out into the bloodstream. The immune system will regard these substances as being foreign and react to them by producing antibodies, but the amount will strain both the immune system and the liver.
With multifactorial diseases like allergy it is important to keep in mind that one explanation does not overrule others. This is the key meaning of the term multifactorial; that some diseases cannot be explained by simple causal relations, and with allergy, the most likely etiology is probably many different combinations of the reasons mentioned above and many others acting together with these.
As mentioned earlier, allergic symptoms come from the release of histamine from mast cells, and other white blood cells, together with other signal substances and lymphocyte hormones from the many different cells of the immune system. For futher information, click on the different allergic diseases.
Although allergies also produce symptoms that are not exclusively connected with allergy and therefore can be disguised as other conditions, there are some typical allergic symptoms. These are: A sudden drop in blood pressure, oedemas, flood of tears, weight problems, cold in the head, circulatory disturbances, breathing difficulties, increased production of mucus in the airways, and diarrhoea.
The most serious allergic condition is called anaphylactic shock. Without medical treatment a major drop in blood pressure can occur and death can ensue within 30 minutes. The acute treatment is as in first aid to make sure that the airways are clear. After this the medical treatment consists of injections of adrenalin and cortisole. This is critical, and adrenalin may be injected at intervals of 5 minutes. Two or more injections may be necessary.
General advice on disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be found in the library article "Food intolerance". However, were both allergy and intolerance are concerned, although a complete cure for the condition might not be available, one can still rid oneself of the visible symptoms simply by avoiding the particular substances that one handles badly.
Ventilate the rooms of both your home and your place of work. Get rid of old mattresses and carpets since they might be full of dust mites. Remember to vacuum at cealings and other places in the house where dust may easily assemble. It might be necessary to part with pets, if one is allergic to them or if there are small children in the house since pets are very allergenic, especially cats and dogs. Fluff the pillows and bedding every day. Turn the covers inside out and place them in the sun for at least 4 hours, since the ultraviolet radiation of the sun will kill both dust mites and their eggs. Futhermore, bedding should be washed at at least 60 degrees C to eliminate dust mites. In addition to a daily supplement of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and essential fatty acids, immuno therapy may be necessary. Some also experience relief through reflexology, homeopathic-, and chiropractic treatment.
Pregnant women shold not receive doses of vitamin A of more than 5,000 I.U., and must avoid the plant of Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium.