What causes allergies?
Allergy is a type of immune system response to a foreign substance that is usually harmless to most people. These substances, known as allergens, can be found in various sources, such as food, pollen, animal dander, insect stings, and certain medications.
Wrongly trivialized, allergy is an inappropriate reaction of the immune system against these allergens (also recognized as multiple antigens in regards to the immune system), even in minimal quantities.
In normal individuals, these same allergens cause no reaction.
Symptoms of allergies
The allergic reaction can cause various symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the allergy.
Some common symptoms of allergy include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Rashes or hives
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting (in the case of food allergies)
Type of allergies
There are several types of allergies, classified based on the allergen that triggers the immune response.
People can be allergic to a wide variety of foods. Here are some of the most common food allergens:
- Peanuts: this is one of the most common food allergens
- Tree nuts: this includes nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans
- Shellfish: this includes shrimp, crab, lobster, and other types of shellfish.
- Fish: some people are allergic to certain types of fish, such as salmon or tuna.
- Milk: this is a common allergen, especially in children.
- Eggs: some people are allergic to the proteins found in eggs.
- Wheat: this is commonly found in foods such as bread, pasta, and cereal.
- Sesame: this is a growing allergen, with more people being diagnosed in recent years.
- Gluten: this has also grown rapidly over the last years.
Also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, those are allergic reactions to airborne allergens such as pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. These allergens are most prevalent during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
These are triggered by animal dander, urine, or saliva, commonly from cats and dogs, but also from other animals like birds and rodents.
Animal allergies can be particularly problematic for people who live with pets, as they are constantly exposed to allergens. However, even people who do not own pets may experience allergic reactions when visiting homes with pets or public spaces with animal exposure.
Insect sting allergies
These are reactions to the venom injected into the body by insects such as:
- Fire ants
- Biting flies
- Certain types of caterpillars
These insects inject venom through their stingers or other body parts when they perceive a threat or are disturbed.
For most people, stings from these insects cause only minor pain and swelling, but for some individuals, they can trigger severe allergic reactions. It’s important to note that not all stinging insects produce venom that can cause an allergic reaction, and the severity of the reaction can vary from person to person.
We can be allergic to a wide range of medications, including:
- Antibiotics such as penicillin, sulfa drugs, and cephalosporins
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Anticonvulsant medications
- Anesthetics such as lidocaine and Novocain
- Insulin and other diabetes medications
- Radiographic contrast agents used in imaging tests
This is a specific reaction to products made from natural rubber latex. Natural rubber latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree and is used to make a variety of products, including:
- Medical gloves
- Rubber bands
- Carpet backing
- Rubber toys
- Wetsuits and other water sports gear
Also known as contact dermatitis, contact allergies are a type of skin allergy that occurs when the skin comes into contact with a substance that it is allergic to. This can include a wide range of substances, such as:
- Metals (nickel, cobalt, chromium, gold, silver, etc.)
- Fragrances (limonene, linalool, citronellol, etc.)
- Preservatives and other chemicals (parabens, benzalkonium chloride, formaldehyde)
It’s important to note that out of all these different types of allergies, someone can have multiple allergies, for example, food allergies and seasonal allergies.
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Can allergy be cured?
Some allergies are reasonably recoverable, but others may stick around for life, as is often the case with allergies mediated by IgE (antibodies of the Immunoglobulin E group).
Allergies mediated by IgE are well known to everyone. They are part of the severe forms of allergy.
The severe form of allergy is known as anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can affect multiple organs in the body, including the skin, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal system.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:
- Throat and face swelling (angioedema)
- Severe asthma attack
- Giant urticaria
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Allergies and the immune system
Before you can be allergic to something, it has to be detected as an enemy by the immune system. On the first contact with the antigen, the antigen abnormally activates the immune system, which recognizes it as an enemy.
It is on the second contact with this antigen that the allergic reaction is triggered with all the middle to severe symptoms just described, and so on for all future contacts with it.
Therefore, allergies are considered manifestations of immune hypersensitivity.
Although that sounds not very frightening, these immune hypersensitivities are actually immune system disorders.
You can think about it like an army dysfunction, where the soldiers, no longer really knowing who the enemy is, set out to fight against false intruders who pose no danger to the country.
What is really causing allergies?
Anything that harms the immune system can directly or indirectly cause an increased risk of allergies.
Among the sources of harm to the immune system, three are directly related to the increased risk of allergy:
- Eating foods with pesticides, or any other chemical that can cause part of that food to appear antigenic to our immune system
- Eating GMO foods, because introducing foreign proteins, genetically modified, can make part of this food appear antigenic to our immune system
- Introduce proteins from this food into our muscles, tissues or blood, without going through the digestive system. This is what happened for example, with peanut oil, which contains traces of peanut protein used as an adjuvant in vaccines.
Holistic treatment for allergies
As we said above, some allergies are reasonably recoverable, but others may stick around for life.
A holistic approach using natural medicines can relieve allergy symptoms to varying degrees. It all depends on the severity of the allergy.
The conventional medicine approach uses chemical drugs like cortisone and anti-histamines to suppress the manifestations of the immune reaction. These drugs have severe side effects.
On the other hand, the natural medicine approach uses different natural tools to rebalance the immune system and decrease the expression of symptoms without harming the body, as these tools don’t have side effects. This is a great advantage but also a disadvantage because it has more limits of action.
That’s why, in case of severe allergies, it will be difficult to have a complete cure with natural medicines.
Nonetheless, even in these cases of severe allergies, natural treatments will be very useful in order to help with the symptoms and treat the rest of the body in order to avoid other immune problems that can be caused or triggered by allergies.
In the case of atopic dermatitis, it is particularly problematic because the skin reaction can affect large areas such as the arms, legs, face, and chest and be triggered by many different allergens that the person will continue to eat or breathe. Asthma, in its severe form, is also difficult to alleviate.
Allergies are usually either seasonal or come in flare-ups. In order to have the next therapeutic results, natural medicine treatment needs to be done year-round and not only during the seasonality or the flare-ups of allergies.
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