First of all… What really is an allergy ?
An allergy refers to an exaggerated reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. It is exaggerated because these foreign substances are usually seen by the body as harmless and no response occurs in non- allergic people. Allergic people’s bodies recognize the foreign substance and one part of the immune system is turned on. Allergy-producing substances are called “allergens.” Examples of allergens include pollens, dust mite, molds, danders, and foods. To understand the language of allergy it is important to remember that allergens are substances that are foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people.
When an allergen comes in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in persons who are allergic to it. When you inappropriately react to allergens that are normally harmless to other people, you are having an allergic reaction and can be referred to as allergic or atopic. Therefore, people who are prone to allergies are said to be allergic or “atopic.”
A food allergy is something you may come up against in life, though you may be one of the lucky ones never to have to deal with it, it’s always good to know exactly what it is.
A food allergy is an immune-mediated adverse reaction to a particular food. For someone with a food allergy, eating or swallowing even a tiny amount of a particular food can cause symptoms such as skin rash, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. Because the body is reacting to something that is otherwise harmless, this type of allergic reaction is often called a hypersensitivity reaction. Rarely, a severe allergic reaction can cause a life-threatening set of symptoms called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock.
Although about 25% to 30% of people believe they have a food allergy, only about 2.5% of adults and about 6% to 8% of children, mainly younger than 6 years, have true food allergies. The rest have what is known as food intolerance — an undesirable reaction to a food that does not involve the immune system.
It is easy to confuse food intolerance with food allergy because they can have similar symptoms. With food intolerance, however, a person usually gets only mild symptoms such as an upset stomach.
- A common example of food intolerance is lactose intolerant– a condition in which a person is missing a certain enzyme necessary to digest dairy proteins. The result is loose stools, gas, and nausea after consuming dairy products such as milk or cheese.
If you feel as though you are taking an adverse allergic reaction to a food, look out for one of these 5 things…
There are four stages to an allergic reaction to airborne allergens as experienced by the person with type I sensitivity. The first stage occurs upon initial exposure to the allergen, which enters the body through the mucus membranes of the respiratory system. The allergen proceeds to lymph tissue, like your lymph nodes or tonsils, where it comes into contact with lymphocytes. These lymphocytes, a special type of white blood cell, react by producing the primary antibody, immunoglobulin E, or IgE. IgE now attaches itself to mast cells located throughout the body, sensitizing these mast cells to be vigilant against any invasion from that particular allergen in the future. Your nose, lungs, skin and gastrointestinal tract contain high numbers of mast cells.
There are no symptoms associated with the initial contact but symptoms present themselves upon subsequent exposure to the particular allergen. The second stage begins when the allergen again invades the body. Mast cells, with the attached IgE, bind to the allergen.
Mast Cell Degranulation
Your mast cells become excited and begin to degranulate, or come apart. The degranulated mast cells release a surge of chemical messengers, known as mediators, including histamines, leukotrienes and platelet-activating factor. These mediators disperse throughout the body, notifying each cell in your body about the allergen.
Local Allergic Reaction
These mediators then travel through the blood to various parts of your body, triggering the localized reactions in your gastrointestinal tracts, sinuses, lungs or skin. Symptoms generally occur 15 to 30 minutes after exposure but symptom onset may start 10 to 12 hours after contact with the allergen. Symptoms include rash, diarrhea, tingling around the mouth, watery eyes, sneezing and itchy nose.
Endogenous allergic reactions occur without an intrusive environmental body and therefore skip the sensitization stage. In types II and III, the allergic response is triggered by interactions taking place on cell membranes or by antigens in the blood stream. In these types, the immune system launches a biochemical assault on body cells deemed to be foreign invaders.
Now that you are aware of what to look out for, should you find any of these symptoms happen to you then seek medical advice immediately. Food allergies can truly be a thing of life and death. It’s better not to risk it… Breathing is way more fun.
Next time we will discuss how to deal with an allergy and find out and pinpoint exactly what may be causing you to have a slight mild reaction & how to eliminate it.
From now till then…