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Allergies

Allergies represent one of the most common immune system disorders. And the stats are staggering:

  • Atopic eczema is estimated to affect 15-20% of school children and 7% of adults in affluent countries [1]
  • Food allergies have been estimated to affect 8% of children worldwide (1-18 years old) [2]
  • In the U.S alone an estimated 7% have hay fever and 8% have asthma [3]

Most commonly, allergies are caused by the immune system reacting when no such reaction is necessary.

The Underlying Cause of an Allergy

The process starts when the immune system is presented with a harmless antigen (usually a protein). But instead of properly classifying it as harmless, it suspects it as a danger. Accordingly, it then tries to neutralize the antigen with a mounted immune response.

For example, in the case of a pollen allergy, the immune system believes the pollen is a potential attacker. Accordingly, it begins trying to defend against the harmless pollen. As a result, the immune system kicks into overdrive and causes various unwanted symptoms (inflammation, fluid release, itching, etc.).

IgE Antibodies
IgE antibodies produced by plasma cells get most the credit for causing allergies. In atopic individuals, their concentration (in the blood) can be 50x higher then normal. [4]

What Determines Who Gets Allergies

So why do some people get allergies while others don’t? This is a question that has been on the mind of the scientific community for decades. And unfortunately, they’re still far from a definite answer. Nonetheless, some key concepts have emerged [5]:

  • Allergies are much more common in westernized societies
  • Higher intake of several key nutrients (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium Vitamin A) has been associated with a decreased risk of allergies
  • More frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a decreased risk of allergies
  • Maternal diet may play one of the most influential roles in determining an individuals risk of allergies throughout life
  • Large scale studies on the effects of dietary intervention have so far failed to show any concrete methods for reversing allergies

Current State of Allergy Treatment

At this moment, most allergies don’t have any proven cures. However, a number of effective treatment approaches have been established, which can minimize or even completely get rid of the negative symptoms.

The most crucial first step to dealing with allergies, is getting an accurate diagnosis. As self-diagnosis could be inaccurate and may actually create issues down the road (nutritional deficiencies, depression, chronic stress, and many more).

Section Summary

This section went over the fundamentals of allergies. Key points included:

  1. The prevalence of allergies is on the rise and atopic eczema has been estimated to effect nearly 20% of children and 7% of adults
  2. Allergies are the result of an incorrectly mounted immune response to harmless foreign protein
  3. Research is still uncertain what makes individuals susceptible to allergies, but genes and nutritional choices are some of the leading indicators
  4. There are no permanent cures currently established for allergies, however a number of effective treatments choices exist
  5. Proper diagnosis is an essential first step and self-diagnosis may lead to a variety of potential problems

In the end, allergies represent a significant issue in today’s society and their prevalence is on the rise. Maintaining a balanced diet and lifestyle may be our most promising method of reducing their risk in future generations.

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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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