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Food Allergy: Immune System in Overdrive

The European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (EAACI) published a food allergy video that explains, in an easy-to-understand way, what’s going on in your body when an allergic reaction strikes. Sharing here to help you up the learning curve.


Watch the EAACI video!


Following is a transcription if you prefer to read:


“Having a food allergy is not just due to your DNA, nor is it just bad luck. Your immune system is always on alert and reacts very quickly to a perceived threat. When it has a persistent adverse reaction to a certain food, such as peanut. egg, or soy, we speak of a food allergy.


The ingredient that is causing this {reaction} is called an allergen. It can trigger serious symptoms such as breathing difficulty, vomiting, diarrhea, and even anaphylactic shock. {Researchers} have already learned a lot about factors outside and inside our body that influence allergic sensitivity, but we’re still missing pieces of the puzzle. This ‘puzzle’ is different for each person, a complex picture.


In recent decades the way we live and where we live has changed. This increased the number of harmful substances in our environment while reducing protective factors. As a result, we see a growing number of people with food allergies.


First, let’s look at a normal response to food. When food is in your gut it is sampled by countless good bacteria. These have been helpful guests since you were born. They help strengthen your gut barrier and teach your immune system to recognize whether or not food is a threat. Dendritic Cells form the first line of defense in the gut barrier. When these cells are instructed by good bacteria, they will not perceive food molecules passing through the barrier as a threat. They will inform the T-Cells that everything is ok and they can stay cool and keep the peace. We now have a situation of tolerance.


However, like your brain, your immune system has a form of memory. This means that once the immune system identifies a threat, it will keep on doing so. This is why most allergies develop at an early age. When your immune system encounters a certain food for the very first time, through damaged skin for example, it might overreact to it. But this still can happen when you’re older. For example, in tree pollen allergy, some foods contain molecules which look similar to those in pollen. Your immune system can mistakenly identify them as a threat and from {then} on, also react to these foods.


When your environment and gut lack good bacteria, your immune system lacks training, your gut barrier becomes leaky and lets in more food particles, and your immune system is put on high alert. Once allergens have travelled across the leaky barrier, the Dendritic-Cells identify these as a threat, alerting the T-Cells which become Warrior T-Cells. They inform the factories of our immune defense, the B-Cells, to start producing weapons called IgE antibodies which arm the Mast Cells. This is called sensitization.


From now on the immune system is armed and ready to react the next time it encounters these food allergens. When you eat the same food again, your Mast Cells may detonate throughout your body’s organs, skin, or even in your circulation which can lead to anaphylactic shock.”


What can you do if you’re sensitive to certain foods?


Start by getting a precise diagnosis through skin and blood tests. Allergy specialists can then tell you what foods to avoid. And read {food} labels very carefully from now on. To prevent sensitization, its important to be using a wide range of foods at an early age. Don’t avoid potential allergens during pregnancy if you’re not allergic — introduce them to your baby’s diet, starting their first year. This will help to improve {your baby’s} immune system memory. And there is evidence that being exposed to healthy environments, such as on farms, can help strengthen and teach your immune system in a well-balanced way.”



Watch the EAACI video!

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The EAACI The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) is an association of clinicians, researchers and allied health professionals, dedicated to improving the health of people affected by allergic diseases. The EAACI has more than 12,000 members from 124 countries and over 50 National Allergy Societies. Its mission is to provide the most efficient platform for scientific communication and education in the field of allergy and immunology, ultimately developing a road map for effective prevention and treatment strategies for atopic disease. The Academy is the primary source of expertise in Europe for all aspects of allergy.

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Allergy Force is committed to helping people with food allergies live freely — with less fear, less anxiety, more confidence — through technology and education. The Allergy Force food allergy app is peace of mind in your pocket.


Image Credits: Taryn Elliott on Pexels and the EAACI video

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