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Allergy or Sensitivity? How to Tell the Difference

When any substance enters the body, it is recognized as either foreign or self. If the substance is tagged as foreign, the body’s immune system will shift into attack-mode to protect us. This becomes a problem when our immune system attacks something that is either not harmful or something we are often exposed to. Trees, grass, dairy and wheat are all things common in our lives and shouldn’t be recognized as foreign. When our bodies don’t react appropriately to these substances, the result is food or environmental allergies and sensitivities.

Our bodies experience two types of allergic reactions. One is an immediate allergic response and the other is a delayed hypersensitivity. These two reactions are triggered by different cells that are made in our bone marrow. These “immunity cells” hang out in the tissue around blood vessels and nerves, and in our blood stream making these the areas that are most sensitive to allergic material. The GI tract is especially vulnerable as it is the main organ in contact with outside substances.

When our body recognizes a foreign substance, these cells accumulate near the substance and release chemicals such as histamine causing vaso-dilation and smooth tissue contraction with increased permeability to capillaries. This translates into basic symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, itchy, runny eyes. A delayed reaction will bring on symptoms such as fatigue or bowel upset. Damage to tissues in multiple areas of the body can cause many of the symptoms that are responsible for chronic disease.

Food Allergies
Food allergies are the body’s immune response to something in the food, typically the protein. Symptoms occur when the antibodies are battling the invading foods. Dairy products, soy, wheat, nuts and eggs are the most common food allergens.

An immediate allergic response happens when the IgE antibody is present reacting to foods like peanuts or pollen and grass. The severe symptoms are immediate and can include:

  • Swelling of the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting or blacking out
  • Tongue swelling
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Itching

Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are a delayed immune response that occurs with IgG reactions. The delayed sensitivity typically occurs from 2 – 72 hours after the contamination. Because the inflammation can affect so many systems and cause chronic inflammation, the symptoms may include but not be limited to:

  • Sore throat
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Achy joints
  • Skin conditions (eczema, rash, hives)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Gas, bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Aggressive or hyperactive behavior in children
  • Colic and increased spit up

A delayed allergy response can also wreak havoc with your cortisol levels. A natural antihistamine, cortisol helps dampen an allergy response. However, chronic allergies can deplete the cortisol, making your symptoms worse in addition to causing adrenal depletion. The end result is a tired, irritable and unwell feeling individual all due to a delayed allergy response.

Environmental Allergies
Environmental allergies, better known as seasonal allergies, are a common complaint causing cold-like symptoms. These allergies can have both an IgE and IgG component. In fact, most allergens will have both antibodies present when they cause a reaction in your body. That’s why you may not get immediate results from an over-the-counter antihistamine. It can take time for the other antibodies in the system to calm down.

When an allergen gets in and attaches to the outside of a cell, the antibodies on a cell will then react with the protein of that molecule. When enough of the allergen, or what we call in immunology an antigen, is accumulated in the body, we then get a major release of inflammatory chemicals. The mast cells will degranulate and release the chemicals they have been producing:

  • Histamine
  • Interleukin 1-13
  • Gama-interferon
  • Transforming growth factor
  • Tumor Necrosis factor
  • Lymphotoxin

If not treated, the inflammation caused by a simple allergy can turn into a more severe health problem. The inflammation causes an autoimmune reaction that can damage sensitive organs such as the thyroid. Ignoring an allergy or sensitivity can be hazardous to our health as chronic inflammation damages all tissues and organs.
Diseases often associated with inflammation include:

  • IBS
  • Crohn’s
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • All types of Arthropathy
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Weight Gain
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Thyroid conditions

Allergy Testing
Conventional medicine uses grid testing (scratch test) to determine environmental allergens that can be easily treated. However, if you eat dairy and get a stomachache, your grid or blood test may not show a positive reaction. The blood test must be specific for the IgE and IgG antibodies to determine both sensitivity and symptoms.

If any of your symptoms are not responding well to conventional treatments you may want to consider testing for delayed sensitivity. At Los Gatos Chiropractic & Wellness Center, a simple test can determine what foods you may be sensitive to as well as the level of sensitivity. With this information we can offer many solutions for inflammation to help you reach your full health potential.

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