What Causes Allergies to Develop?
An allergy is an extreme immune system response to a substance that doesn’t cause a reaction in most people. Allergies can be triggered by pollen, bee stings, food, pet dander or some medications, and exposure can occur through the air, through ingestion, or through topical skin exposure. But what causes allergies to develop and how can allergies be treated?
What Causes Allergies to Develop?
An allergy begins when the immune system mistakenly identifies a normally harmless substance as a dangerous foreign invader. That substance (known as an allergen) stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE), whose typical role is to fight off infections. When the body misdirects IgE against an allergen, the antibodies attach themselves to certain cells, causing these cells to release a chemical called histamine. Histamine in turn causes inflammation, producing classic seasonal allergy symptoms such as red, watery eyes and itching.
Once a substance has been flagged as an allergen by the immune system, your body produces antibodies for that particular allergen. The next time you are exposed to the allergen, these antibodies release numerous immune system chemicals which cause allergy symptoms. Depending on the allergen, allergic reactions can involve the eyes, sinuses, nasal passages, airways, skin, or digestive system, and can range from mild to severe. Certain allergens – particularly latex, bee venom, and certain foods – can cause more severe reactions with each exposure.
Scientists have yet to discover why allergens affect some people and not others, but there are certain risk factors that can make you more prone to developing allergies. These include:
- Age – Children are more prone to developing allergies than adults (although allergies can begin at any age).
- Family history – You are more likely to develop allergies if a close family member (parent or sibling) has them.
- Having an allergy already – People with one allergy are likely to develop more.
- Leaky gut – Intestinal permeability (a.k.a. “leaky gut”) causes inflammation and makes the immune system hyperreactive, increasing the likelihood of an allergic reaction.
What Are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?
Allergy symptoms vary from person to person as well as allergen to allergen. They can affect your sinuses, airways, skin and digestive system. Common allergy symptoms include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes
- Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
- Coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Facial swelling
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
- And in extreme cases, anaphylaxis
The most common causes of allergies are:
- Foods (especially peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, eggs and milk)
- Airborne allergens (pollen, animal dander, dust mites and mold)
- Insect stings
- Medications (particularly penicillin)
- Latex and other topical substances (such as perfume or lotion) that can cause allergic skin reactions
How Can Allergies be Treated Naturally?
The first step in treating allergies is to identify your particular allergens in order to develop a personalized treatment plan. This can be done through blood tests to check for specific forms of immunoglobulin E, or skin tests detecting reactions. Allergy treatment can include:
- Avoiding the allergen, if possible – Sometimes allergens are unavoidable (such as pollen). In other cases, especially with food allergies, simple lifestyle changes can limit or eliminate your exposure and help alleviate your symptoms.
- Supporting gut and digestive health – Even if you do not have food allergies, having a healthy gut is critical to your overall health because nearly 70% of your immune system resides in your gut.
- IV therapy – IV therapy provides a slow infusion of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients directly into the bloodstream (intravenously infused) through an IV drip and can provide relief for both seasonal and chronic allergies.
- Reduce stress – Stress releases numerous hormones into the body, including histamine. This excess histamine can worsen an allergic reaction, so it can be beneficial to find ways to reduce stress.
Find Allergy Relief at Anchor Wellness Center
To learn more about what causes allergies and how they can be treated, call us today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM. Board Certified in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra uses Functional Medicine principles to provide you with a treatment plan that gives you relief from your allergy symptoms.