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Food Allergies A food allergy occurs when there is an adverse reaction to the ingestion of a food. The reaction may or not be mediated (controlled or influenced) by the immune system. The reaction may be caused by a protein, starch, or another food component, or by a contaminant found in the food (a coloring, a preservative, etc.). A classic food allergy occurs when an ingested food molecule acts as an antigen ��� a substance that can be bound by an antibody. Antibodies are the protein molecules made by white blood cells that bind to foreign substances, in this case various components of foods. The food antigen is bound by antibodies known as IgE (immunoglobin E) for immediate reactions and IgG and IgM for delayed reactions. The IgE antibodies are specialized immunoglobulins (protein) that bind to specialized white blood cells known as mast cells and basophils. When the IgE and food antigen bind to a mast cell or basophil, the binding causes a release of histamines, substances that in turn cause swelling and inflammation. Food allergies have been implicated in a wide range or medical conditions affecting virtually every part of the body ��� from mildly uncomfortable symptoms such as indigestion and gastritis to severe illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic infection. Allergies have also been linked to numerous disorders of the central nervous system, including depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. The actual symptoms produced during an allergic response depend on the location of the immune system activation, the mediators By Michael Murray, N.D. of inflammation involved, and the sensitivity of the tissues to specific mediators. lining significantly contribute to the risk of becoming allergic to foods. Scope of the Problem The frequency of food allergies has increased dramatically in recent times. It is estimated that 6% of children and 4% of adults in America have IgE-mediated food allergies and that 20% of the population have altered their diet owing to adverse reactions to foods. Some physicians believe that food allergies are the leading cause of undiagnosed symptoms and that at least 60% of Americans suffer from symptoms associated with food reactions. The primary causes of the increased frequency of food allergy appear to be excessive regular consumption of a limited number of foods (often hidden as ingredients in commercially prepared foods) and the high level of preservatives, stabilizers, artificial colorings, and flavorings now added to foods. Some researchers and clinicians believe that the increased chemical pollution in our air, water, and food is to blame. For example, foods can easily become contaminated following the use of pesticides in farming. Causes It is well documented that food allergy is often inherited. When both parents have allergies, there is a 67% chance that the children will also have allergies. When only one parent is allergic, the chance that a child will be prone to allergies is still high but drops from 67 to 33%. The theory is that the individuals with a tendency to develop food allergies have abnormalities in the number and ratios of special white blood cells known as T lymphocytes or T cells. Specifically, these individuals have nearly 50% more helper T cells than non-allergic persons. These cells help other white blood cells make antibodies. Individuals prone to food allergies have a lower allergic set point because they have more helper T cells in circulation. Therefore, the level of insult required to trigger an allergic response is lowered. The actual expression of an allergy can be triggered by a variety of stressors that can disrupt the immune system, such as physical or emotional trauma, excessive use of drugs, immunization reactions, frequent consumption of a specific food, and/or environmental toxins. Improper digestion and poor integrity of the intestinal barrier are other factors that can lead to the development of food allergy. When properly chewed and digested, 90% of ingested proteins are completely broken down and then absorbed as amino acids and small peptides. However, partially digested dietary proteins can cross the intestinal barrier and be absorbed into the bloodstream. These larger molecules can cause an allergic response that can occur either directly at the intestinal barrier, at distant sites, or throughout the body. People with food allergies often need supplements of hydrochloric acid and/or pancreatic enzymes. Incompletely digested proteins can impair the immune system, Other possible reasons for the increased occurrence of food allergy include earlier weaning and earlier introduction of solid foods to infants; genetic manipulation of plants, resulting in food components with greater allergenic properties; and impaired digestion (especially lack of hydrochloric acid and/or pancreatic enzymes). Finally, incomplete digestion and excessive permeability of the intestinal Page 12 | Abby���s Magazine -

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