What is an Allergy and/or Sensitivity?
An allergy or sensitivity is the result of the immune system developing an exaggerated response to a specific particle or antigen. This exposure can be through the foods we eat, the air we breathe or topical exposure through skin.
These particles which are marked by the Immune System are called antigens and can be foods, chemicals, such as perfumes and other airborne particulate e.g. pollen, dust and animal dander.
Allergies and Immune Sensitivities are on the Rise
The latest surveys show that allergies affect approximately 30-35% of the entire global population at some point in life. Currently there are over 30 million people in the United States suffering from allergies and 40% are children.
In the UK the prevalence is even higher, with research showing as high as 50% of children who are diagnosed.
The risk of developing an allergy substantially increases from 60-80% when one or both parents have allergies.
Long Term Effects of Allergies and Immune Sensitivities
Allergies which involve symptoms such as Asthma, Hay Fever and Allergic Rhinitis cause many health degenerative conditions. The symptoms alone can create immune exhaustion and an increased Immune System hyper-reactivity.
One common symptom of many allergies is Asthma which creates oxygen deficient tissues. This can become so severe in children that in many cases it has the ability to impair growth and neurological development. In children these developmental delays are known as “failure to thrive.”
All of these symptoms are a means for the immune system to protect itself from a perceived threat or a disease with the consequences of reducing oxygen intake and inhibiting other essential physiological processes.
The pharmaceutical treatments for allergies are similar to the treatments for autoimmune disorders. The most common treatments used in attempting to control the symptoms are steroids, which focus on suppressing the immune system.
In the short term, pharmaceutical treatments can give some symptom relief; however, long term use results in tissue destruction and reduced immunity leading to increased susceptibility to infection. In some cases certain inhalers used to control symptoms of Asthma have correlated highly with the onset of terminal illness.
What Causes Allergies and Immune Sensitivities?
To understand the cause of allergies we must look to the Immune System and not only allergy triggers as commonly seen in peanuts and animal dander.
The underlying cause of allergies and their development is the result of an immune dysfunction or disorder that must be understood in order for it to be properly managed.
The immune system is the only defense system of the body; and when it becomes compromised there are three common outcomes:
1. Immune System Deficiency
2. Immune System Imbalance
3. Immune System Hyper reactivity
In the scenario of Immune System Deficiency, most causes are due to the Immune System never being challenged, as in the case with the excessive over prescriptions of antibiotics in children. Antibiotics do not only prevent the immune system from developing through a lack of “exercise,” but it literally destroys the immune system through the elimination of healthy colonic flora.
The Immune System can also become ineffective through an Immune System Imbalance. This is where the Immune System’s “two arms,” also known as TH1 and TH2 become imbalanced. The balance of these two pillars of the immune system is highly affected by environmental and hereditary factors.
The third scenario of Immune System Hyper-reactivity is commonly an outcome of an imbalanced TH1 or TH2 system; this is where one “pillar” has significant dominance over the other. A significant characteristic of a healthy, effective Immune System is when TH1 and TH2 are of equal dominance or they are “balanced.”
I Have Multiple Allergies and/or Immune Sensitivities. Can Anything be Done?
YES; however, allergies cannot be cured BUT they can be managed and symptoms can be reduced or even eliminated. As previously stated, allergies and Immune sensitivities are the outcomes of an Immune System dysfunction and/or imbalance.
The first step in effectively managing allergies, sensitivities and Immune System dysfunction is to identify the trigger and the imbalance. The only way this can be accomplished is through thorough and comprehensive laboratory testing.
There is an underlying cause for EVERY symptom and disease process; this could’t be more true when discussing allergies and sensitivities.
Functional Medicine has a unique advantage when working with allergies and Immune System imbalances; as its main focus and principle is to identify the underlying cause.
If you suffer from or have been diagnosed with allergies and/or sensitivities and are looking for information on how to overcome these disorders please contact us or click here to learn more.