Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Environment and Health: ALLERGY - The Silent Pandemic
Dr Abe V Rotor
Our body reacts to substances it can’t tolerate, such as pollen and dust. These environmental antigens or allergens are normally harmless, but the immune system of certain persons views them as harmful. There are many types of allergies, such as skin and food allergies, and many different types of allergic reactions, which can range from skin rash to vomiting and diarrhea.
Evolutionarily our immune system is adapted to combat pathogens – viruses, bacteria, fungi – but modern living and modern medicine have greatly eliminated much of these threats on one hand, and rendered our immune system idle on the other. The immune system isn’t challenged in the same way. Instead of developing to target real threats, such as bacteria, the immune system may dysfunction and begins to trigger allergies.
In fact it has become maverick that it attacks substances, including those secreted by our body, so that by attacking non-harmful substances, it creates more harm, and even death. Thus the hygiene hypothesis explains why there are much more allergy cases in affluent societies than in marginal societies. A case in point is that West Germany where people lived with high standard of living were suffering allergies much, much more than their counterparts living a simple life style in East Germany.
Allergies are a worldwide problem. They are often overlooked by doctors and patients and can lead to serious health problems. It means also needless suffering. Allergies disturbs sleep, adversely affect active life and good disposition. Kids and adults alike are more likely to develop asthma, sinus and ear infections, especially if their allergies go untreated.
Mechanics of Allergy
Here is an example. People who develop allergic rhinitis have an excess of a certain class of antibodies, called IgE, which makes them unusually sensitive to these otherwise harmless substances. All the symptoms of allergic rhinitis are really part of the immune response.
So what really happens in an allergic person? Medically it is explained this way.
“Following the body's first exposure to the allergen, the white blood cells produce antibodies, specifically IgE antibodies, that prepare the immune system for the next encounter with that same allergen. This first exposure to pollen will not produce any outward allergic symptoms, but inside, the IgE antibodies attach themselves to mast cells. Mast cells are cells that can be found in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and skin.
During the second and subsequent exposures to pollen, this allergen will combine with the IgE antibody and release chemicals, such as histamine, in the mast cells, thus producing the allergy symptoms of a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing.” ~