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Know More About Allergy
 
 
Food allergy and intolerances
 
1. What are the differences between allergy and intolerances ?
 
The term allergy was first coined by Austrian pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet who put together two Greek words, allo (other) and ergon (work or action). An allergic person reacts to substances that don't bother other people. Our immune system defends us against unseen enemies such as bacteria and viruses, but sometimes has difficulty in distinguishing friend from enemy and may overreact to a totally harmless substance like egg, strawberry as in food; grass pollen as in air, causing sudden reactions ranging from rashes, swollen lips...... to the very extreme life threatening one called anaphylactic shock causing by peanut. This is an example of immediate type allergy where specific antibodies have developed in the blood and tests can be useful in identifying the specific allergens. This type of immediate allergy affects smaller number of people.
Another type of "allergy" is a delayed reaction which may occur several hours or days after exposure or ingestion. They are called "intolerances" and food intolerances are quite common. It is when you develop symptoms after eating a food that the digestive system cannot adequately process. The symptoms will be less severe and serious, but they can undermine health and well-being. A food intolerance often tends to be to the foods we most commonly eat. In fact, we may find we crave the foods that we are intolerant to.
 
2. What causes allergy and why there seems to be an "allergy epidemic"?
 

Many believe that the genetic profile of a person plays an important role in determining whether he or she may have allergy. It is indeed true that a child with a parent having asthma has a higher chance of getting asthma and the same applies to other common types of allergies such as eczema. We always hear from people that allergies run in families.
Another explanation is the rapid introduction of various new chemicals to the environment and the changes which have taken place in the diet over the last hundred years which are the culprits responsible for provoking symptoms of allergy or intolerance, especially in susceptible persons who are genetically more vulnerable. Adaptation to change in the environment is the force that has driven the evolution of all species throughout the ages, and it is supposed to be gradual and slow. Rapid introduction of a new food and contamination of our environment by new chemicals may not give sufficient time for adaptation to occur, resulting in a dramatic rise in allergy and intolerance.

 
3. Despite the common incidence of allergy,why allergy does not seem to receive much attention in mainstream medicine?
 
Adaptation of our body to environmental changes requires an efficient functioning of our body system. Imagine our body is a textile factory with different machines (such as immune system, endocrine system, nervous system, circulatory system......). All these specialized machines (systems) work as a team and our body can only be maintained in a stable state by the complex interplay of these body systems. Complete failure of an essential system may lead to death and partial failure may lead to specific illness in certain parts of the body system which can be suppressed by modern medication. Advances in knowledge of how these body systems function has inevitably resulted in increasing specialization, which unfortunately has also tended to create boundaries between specialties. Allergy is usually linked to the failure of our immune system but the symptoms may manifest from fatigue, rashes, weepy eyes, respiratory problems to significant mood swing, depression......Modern medicine tended to look at symptoms occurred in a particular system and allergy is regarded as trivial and psychological. There is increased belief that not until accurate diagnosis of the causes, avoidances and immunotherapy of a childhood allergy/intolerance are taken more seriously, the rise in allergy will continue.
 
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