What causes food allergies?
The body learns to distinguish between the body’s own substances and foreign substances, and attacks the latter when they pose a danger. In the case of a food allergy, that is exactly what happens: the body identifies protein components in foods as foreign substances. It falsely classifies it as a source of danger. In order to combat the alleged danger, the immune system increasingly releases antibodies (type IgE), which leads to the unpleasant symptoms.
Most food allergies occur because the immune system releases too many IgE antibodies when exposed to allergens. There is another, less common allergy mechanism in which the T-immune cells are involved. In this variant, the allergic reaction does not occur within minutes or hours, but only one to two days after consumption of the allergen. The affected individuals experience a skin rash as an allergic reaction. Neurodermatitis patients know the phenomenon: when certain foods aggravate neurodermatitis, the T-immune cells are involved.
Why are there more and more people with food allergies?
Food allergies have been diagnosed more and more frequently in recent years. An increased awareness of the existence of food allergies plays a role. Previously, people knew less about allergens and food allergies. In general, they were less concerned about their diet. The causes of symptoms and reactions were not as well researched as they are today.
Improved diagnostic techniques also contribute to the fact that more allergies are now recognized as causes of symptoms and reactions to the diet.
Experts also believe that an overly-hygienic environment could cause allergies. There is also evidence of a genetic component of food allergies: a child whose parents are free from allergies develops an allergy with about 15 percent probability. If a parent is an allergy sufferer, this probability rises to 20 or 40 percent. If both parents react to the same allergen, the probability for the child to develop an allergy also rises to as much as 80 percent.
Allergies can disappear
The earlier an allergy occurs, the better the chances are that it will be lost again: About half of all children with cow’s milk allergy are suddenly symptom-free after a few years. But even with a peanut allergy there is hope. It disappears rarely, but it does happen. It’s as if the immune system had suddenly realized that it did not have to fight the proteins from food! On the other hand, other forms of food intolerances never go away. For example, both Hereditary Fructose Intolerance and Celiac Disease are lifelong diagnoses.
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