There are a few steps to better understanding how allergies work.
An allergic response is an overreaction to an allergen by the immune system. There are different types of hypersensitivities that compound and comingle, and today we're going to discuss how allergens are contracted.
It's possible to have several allergies at once, like a food and pollen allergy, and allergens are contracted in a handful of ways.
Like mother, like daughter; like father, like son. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and neither do allergies. If your parents have/had allergies, there's a 75% chance you will too. It's just genetics baby.
While I'm sure you're not running around injecting yourself with poisonous chemicals, many people contract allergens through injections like vaccines, insect bites, beauty serums and the like. If there's a needle coming at you, there's a chance you'll get more than just what's in the syringe or stinger.
Yes, the word "consumption" here obviously means to eat, but it's relevant to note that most allergens contracted through consumption are hard to diagnosis because of the delayed reaction time.
Someone who has recurring sinus infections plausibly has more staph bacteria in their nasal mucus. At some inevitable moment, they'll swallow that staph laden snot, and it'll travel directly to their intestinal tract where the immune system lives. The staph bacteria then flourishes and creates more complications; that's a lot different than just eating a cherry and having a scratchy throat.
When you leave your house in the morning, you'll probably walk through grass and inhale pollen spores. Hopping in the driver's seat with an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, you'll drive off in the enclosed car wearing perfume on your neck all the way to your destination.
If you let the windows down, you'll smell chemical fumes and oil, and the ragweed is more potent from the city's toxic air. Your nose will start to feel stuffy from swollen nasal tissue, and you'll be off and running towards a great day of congestion, headache, and fatigue.
There may be countless ways we inhale allergens every single day, but it's how our body responds that unique to each person.
It's not just allergens like poison ivy that you have to recognize as a skin allergy. Pets, detergents, hair dyes, wrinkle creams, and soaps are all included. Not all allergens produce the same results in their victims either. When two people are exposed to the same allergen, one person can break out in hives while the other has an asthma attack. Finding an explanation as to why you're allergic and others aren't, is the real challenge.
If allergies are a learned immune response...
Imagine being able to teach your immune system not to overreact when it came in contact with an allergen. Is that even possible?
Real life studies give us hope that healing is possible. People with an allergy to birchwood pollen were given just a dab of it with honey in the off seasons (fall, winter) and by the Spring they had fewer allergies.
The participants in the study retrained their immune system to accept birchwood pollen as a non-threat by changing the method of contraction. This policy isn't definitive across the board, but it does prove that how we acquire allergens matters in our response to it, giving us all a little more optimism for the future of allergy treatment.
Fifty million Americans suffer from allergies. Stephany is allergic to peanut butter, and Brent sneezes every time he visits his grandmother's house. Six million kids wheeze daily and struggle to retrieve oxygen. Ironically, six million kids also have food allergies, with those numbers more than doubling in adults.
Broken down below, are what I deem to be the most common allergy types and a couple of intriguing details on each. How many of these categories do you fall into?
15 million people are allergic to foods due to proteins that cause an exaggerated immune response. But the more interesting fact is that most -about 70%- of people who are allergic to birch wood pollen also exhibit allergic reactions when eating foods with cross-reaction proteins that birch pollen shares. Foods like apples, celery, carrots, and peaches all share the same plant proteins with birch wood. Just a neat fact.
About 10% of the world's population has a drug allergy of some kind. To top it off, many pharmaceutical drugs are terrible for you. If your immune system is reacting to protect you, can you really call that an unnecessary immune response? Afterall, an allergy is considered an overreaction by the immune system. But if you're being poisoned by Accutane (click HERE to learn more), I don't really think your body is "overreacting." There are serious drug allergy reactions, and then there's toxic chemicals.
Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is the most common eye allergy which anyone with pollen allergies can get. Indoor and outdoor allergens like cat dander or exhaust fumes can spark eye allergies as well. But if I've learned anything worthwhile, it's that when one part of your body is off track, so is the rest of you. No one just has eye allergies alone; it is a part of a more significant response by your body. If your eyes are itching, then I'll bet ya five dollars your nose is too.
A lot of things can cause skin allergies like drugs or particular foods. It's interesting to note again that the body falls together and heals together. If you ate an allergic food in the spring- let's say shellfish-you could experience several allergic responses. You'd have a reaction to the annual rise in pollen, a response to the allergic food you just consumed, possibly a skin reaction, and maybe even a drug reaction when you're treated in the physician's office.
Did you wake up congested this morning? Is your nose stuffy or running? Sinus allergies are much more than a stuffy nose and can be the cause of recurring sinus infections, headaches and honest to goodness head pain. Here's another example of the repeating theme of allergies encompassing more than just one area of the body.
People who are allergic to latex are actually allergic to a protein in the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) sap that's used to make natural latex. If you're allergic to one plant protein, then you'll be allergic to others that have similar proteins. In the case of latex allergy, most people also have a sensitivity to apples, carrots, kiwi, melons, and tomatoes.
The same amount of people who have drug allergies also have pet allergies, that's 10% of the population. To prove that allergies aren't lacking humor, twice as many people are allergic to cats as they are dogs; maybe that's why more people like dogs.
If you're allergic to pets, you're actually reacting to the proteins found in the animals:
Dander (dead skin cells)
Yellow jackets, hornets, fire ants, bees and even mosquitoes can ruin your day if you're one of the two million people who are allergic to them. Most of us are just responding to the venom, but it IS venom, it's supposed to make you swell and itch, that's kinda the point. Few people go into anaphylactic shock from insect venom, but it's entirely possible.
A significant portion of asthma cases involves dust allergy. But people aren't allergic to dust, they're allergic to dust mites- the tiny creatures that eat dust. If folks were allergic to their own dead skin cells that would be terribly peculiar; instead they're allergic to the hundreds of thousands of tiny bugs that are living in their towels, beds, pillows, sofas, and even clothes. Maybe mom was right when she said it wasn't healthy to have an unkempt room.
Did you know that mold allergy often shows up as muscle pain? How would you ever know? People suffering from airborne mold allergy also have reactions to common foods containing mold. Fermented foods, dried fruit or cheese can cause an allergic response.
Folks suffering from a mold allergy don't just have to worry about keeping their bathrooms clean, they have to watch out for the foods they consume as well. If Andrea has a perfectly clean house, she could still get fatigued and endure muscle pain from cheese, wine, and crackers that she ate with the girls on Saturday night, from an unknown mold allergy.
Saving the best for last, pollen allergy is the most common allergy worldwide, with ragweed, birch wood, and grass being the most offensive. Stopping to smell the flowers isn't the only way an allergic response can happen; consuming foods with similar pan-allergens will do the same. If you're a part of the 40% that gets seasonal grass allergies, you may also want to avoid bananas, citrus fruits, melons, and tomatoes in the height of pollen season.
There's a clear link between all allergies,, and most people experience them at the same time. There are compounding factors that can make allergies worse and a variety of factors that make it hard to distinguish the real cause of your ailment.
If it was March and you ate a fruit and cheese brunch in the park with your grandma's old picnic basket, what caused your allergy? Was it the food, the pollen, the mold, or the dust?
When you know that allergies are intertwined, we can make more informed choices to prevent them. And the one thing these allergies types all have in common is that what you eat really does make a difference in how you feel, especially during allergy season.