FOOD ALLERGIES

Food allergies are not as common as they seem. If you eat something and it makes you feel bad or gives you a bad reaction, you often assume that you are allergic to that food. It is thought that less than 1 % of the Americans that report they have food allergies really have them. Food intolerance is much more common than food allergies and is not a response of your immune system. Allergies are an unusual reaction from your immune system to any number of things in your environment, for example, pet dander or a food, which are usually harmless. Your genetic make-up as well as your environment both play a part. You inherited the tendency to be allergic. The sensitivity to the food or allergen is your own, and your immune system sees it as a threat.

The allergens in food that trigger an allergic response are proteins. They resist the cooking temperatures when the food is prepared. These proteins also resist the digestive acid in the stomach and the enzymes secreted for digestion by the intestines. Instead of breaking down and being absorbed as nutrients, they pass through the lining of the stomach and the intestines into the bloodstream. Here they come into contact with your body’s organs in a form that wasn’t intended. This sets off a chain of allergic reactions within the body. Like the other forms of allergies, the chances of developing food allergies are influenced by heredity.

Your immune system uses white blood cells which produce antibodies to defend the cells in your body from toxins and diseases. The antibodies seek out and destroy disease causing substances. The white blood cells produce an antibody especially for that allergen. You must have eaten the food previously to develop an allergic reaction to it. Physicians call this becoming sensitized to the food. What happens is the first time you eat the food, your cells recognize it as a threat and make the IgE defenses on the mast cells to ward it off in the future. The next time you eat the food, the protein encounters the antibody defenses. The cells react by producing chemicals like histamine that result in your food allergy symptoms.

When you encounter your allergen, your body begins a process to fight off this danger. It begins making an antibody called IgE which binds to the allergen. The IgE attaches to a blood cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in various parts of your body. The places where these are found, such as your airway and your gastrointestinal tract, are the parts of your body that will suffer the allergic reaction.

Your allergen binds to the IgE and mast cell. This antibody promotes production and release of chemicals and hormones called mediators such as histamine. The chemical mediators released are what cause the allergic symptoms you experience and suffer from. If the release of the mediators is sudden, the allergic reaction may also be sudden and intense.

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