In this short article, we want to give you some more information about allergies, symptoms and new scientific developments in the treatment and management of the symptoms. We are aiming to provide you with the most up-to-date scientific evidence to help you understand better your body and help you make the best choice to start your journey.
As always, we are here to help you during your journey. So, if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
The food allergy epidemic is worsening at an alarming rate and is a major public health concern. Globally, food allergy affects over 500 million people, often starting in early childhood and, increasingly, in adulthood.
WHAT IS AN ALLERGY?
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system becomes hypersensitive to certain substances (food, medication, environmental allergens, or venoms).
A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Allergic reactions are classified as type I hypersensitivity with symptoms occurring straight away after the exposure to a specific allergen.
Allergens can be identified as harmful substances in the body. Our immune system, in this case, will recognise the specific allergen as dangerous and start fighting against it. If a person is allergic to a substance, their immune system will try to destroy the harmful substance with the activation of a specific reaction. In some people, it can be life-threatening with activation of anaphylactic symptoms (swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and changes in heart rate to mention some).
Symptoms can differ depending on the type of antigen and the specific immune system of an individual. However, an allergic reaction causes inflammation and irritation occurring in the gut, skin, sinuses, airways, and eyes. Some of the most common symptoms are itchiness, a runny nose, swollen and/or watery eyes, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
CAN ALLERGIES BE CURED?
At the moment, there is no treatment for allergies, and the preferable way is to avoid the specific allergen to manage the symptoms.
An interesting review published on the Allergy journal in 2019 from Vanhita Sampath et al. summarises the recent scientific advancements and prospects for food allergy treatment.
“Allergen immunotherapy has been shown to increase the threshold of reactivity in most food-allergic individuals. However, challenges include long treatment periods, high rates of adverse reactions, and lack of permanence of desensitisation and established protocols. To address these limitations, adjunctive allergen-specific immunotherapy, vaccines, and non–allergen-specific therapies (e.g., monoclonal antibodies) are being explored. The future of food allergy treatment is promising, with several clinical trials in progress. Currently, although desensitisation can be achieved for most individuals with food allergy through immunotherapy, continued ingestion of allergen is needed for most individuals to maintain desensitisation” (Vanhita Sampath et al.) (1)
On the other end, an alternative approach was also investigated, considering the use of bioactive compounds and probiotics as potential therapeutics in food allergies. Kunal Pratap et al. recently published a review on the journal of Frontiers in Immunology May 2020, collecting the most updated studies in this field.
“As an alternative approach, a substantial amount of research has been conducted on natural compounds and probiotics, focusing on the immune modes of action, and therapeutic uses of such sources to tackle various immune-related diseases. IgE antibodies primarily mediate food allergy, and the suppression of allergic symptoms seems to be mostly modulated through a reduction of allergen-specific IgE antibodies, upregulation of blocking IgG, and downregulation of effector cell activation (e.g., mast cells) or expression of T-helper 2 (Th-2) cytokines. A wide variety of investigations conducted in small animal models or cell-based systems have reported on the efficacy of natural bioactive compounds and probiotics as potential anti-allergic therapeutics. However, very few lead compounds, unlike anti-cancer and anti-microbial applications, have been selected for clinical trials in the treatment of food allergies. Natural products or probiotic-based approaches appear to reduce the symptoms and/or target specific pathways independent of the implicated food allergen. This broad range therapeutic approach essentially provides a major advantage as several different types of food allergens can be targeted with one approach and potentially associated with a lower cost of development” (Kunal Pratap et al.) (2)
A treatment for food allergies is not available at the moment. Still, more studies are investigating the possibility to use probiotics in the diet to manage symptoms and in some cases, as a possible treatment. To discover your allergies and intolerances, take a look at our tests today.
Written by Dr Enzo Fornari, trained as Pharmaceutical Biotechnologist, with PhD qualification in Biophysics and surface analysis. Dr Enzo is employed by Healthy Stuff as a Scientific Researcher: validating our tests, researching new testing methods and ensuring best practice in the lab.
(1) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/all.14116 Can allergy be cured?
(2) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00996/full Natural Bioactive compounds and probiotics as potential therapeutic in food allergies