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Desensitization as a New Approach to the Treatment of Food Allergies

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 Food Allergies

Food allergies can create bothersome symptoms and can sometimes be life threatening. People who have more food allergies have an immune system which easily reacts to proteins found in food. In these people, the immune system acts on the protein as if it were a harmful pathogen. This then results to signs and symptoms such as tingling of the mouth, severe rash and serious breathing problems. More life-threatening food allergies are termed as anaphylaxis.

Food Allergies

The most common food triggers to allergies are peanuts, wheat, soya, milk, and eggs. In adults, the most common foods which can cause allergies in adults are fish, peanuts, some shellfish, such as lobster, crab and prawns, tree nuts, such as pistachios, brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts, and peanuts. In both adults and children, the most common triggers are eggs, fish, milk,  nuts from trees (including hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts), peanuts (groundnuts), shellfish (including shrimps, mussels, and crab), soya and wheat.

Food intolerance is different from that of food allergies in that the former does not involve the immune system, not affecting the patient when the food is taken in small amounts. Symptoms of food intolerance which can be mistaken for food allergies include diarrhea, cramping, bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, food additive sensitivity, psychological factors, and celiac disease.

Food allergies are usually caused by the ability of the immune system to act upon food as a foreign body; thus it produces antibodies that may attack proteins that come from food. When the same food is eaten, the body tells the immune system to act immediately by releasing histamine and other substances into the bloodstream. Histamine released causes these signs and symptoms of food allergy. It causes blood vessels to dilate or expand and the skin to swell or become inflamed. It also affects the nerves so that the person may feel itchy and creates more mucus in the nose so that it may itch, burn or have nasal discharges.

Food allergy may give out a lot of signs and symptoms such as tingling in the mouth, burning sensation in the lips and mouth, swelling of the face and lips, skin rashes, wheezing, diarrhea, nausea, runny nose and streaming eyes. Severe allergy, also known as anaphylaxis, can rapidly bring about signs and symptoms such as a rapid fall in blood pressure, abrupt fear or apprehension, throat itchiness, nausea, respiratory problems, skin itchiness, sneezing, streaming nose and eyes, tachycardia or increased heartbeat, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Not all people are known to have food allergies. People at risk for food allergies include those who have a family history of allergic reactions, those with other allergies such as asthma and atopic dermatitis, low vitamin D levels and lack of early exposure to outdoors.

Desensitization and Food Allergies

A recent study has reported the development of a new type of flour that someday could be used in food-based therapies to help people better tolerate their allergy triggers, including peanuts. This study which is based on the process of desensitization or the giving of minute quantities of the trigger food to patients over a period of time was able to make use of a modified flour powder in which cranberry polyphenols were bound to peanut proteins. With this extra cargo, the peanut-containing powder triggered the beneficial desensitization reactions, without provoking harmful allergic responses in laboratory tests with mice.

To know more about food allergies, you may read our other articles on this site.