Allergies and Diet, What’s the Connection?

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We all know that our immune system follows defensive mechanisms to protects us from aliments. But do we know that our body, as host can be harmed for housing the immune system? "Allergy" is such an example of immune system reaction. According to von Pirquet (1906), who derived the term allergy, which is derived from Greek words allos means ‘other or different’ and ergia i.e. ‘energy or action’, which stands for a ‘change in reactivity or capacity to react’. [1]

What is Allergy?

The hypersensitivity of immune system, towards exposure of the body to certain substance (allergen) causes antibodies production or cellular modification, which induce an individual-specific reaction to the substance and provide different symptoms. This reaction is termed as allergy. [1]

Types of Allergy

The symptoms differ depending upon the allergen and allergy. Broadly, allergy is classified into following:

Food Allergy

There are eight selected food items which cause 90% of food allergy, like, egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. The allergic reaction vary from individual to individual. Some may have gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, stomach ache etc, some may have skin reactions like itching, rashes or hives and some may have respiratory symptoms like repetitive cough, breathing difficulty, wheezing, etc. [2]

Dust Allergy

Dust particles are combination of multiple allergens, which includes dust mites, mould, pollen etc. and often provide different upper respiratory related symptoms, which include sneezing, red, teary and itchy eyes, runny nose, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breathing and frequent coughing. [3]

Seasonal Allergy

Usually in spring season when plants pollinate and temperature starts to fall are considered as an allergy season. Most of the hypersensitive individuals have allergic symptoms during then. In mild cases the symptoms are restricted to only upper respiratory tract (same as dust allergy), but in severe case it triggers asthmatic attack. [4]

Drug Allergy

Certain drugs like penicillin, sulfonamides or related antibiotics, anticonvulsants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and chemotherapeutic agent may cause allergy. However, individual and drug specific allergic reaction may involve gastro-intestinal symptoms, respiratory symptoms or skin related symptoms and in severe condition anaphylactic shock, which impairs breathing. [5]

Etiology of Allergic Reaction

The onset of allergic reaction is very fast which is mediated by IgE immunoglobulin production, that binds to high-affinity FcεRI receptor present on the surface of mast cells. The mast cell activation alerts immune system and secretes histamine. The histamine secretion leads to tissue destruction. The alertness of immune system activates eosinophils (a type of white blood cells) which induces production of different inflammatory mediators, such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and cytokines. Altogether, histamine, prostaglandins and other inflammatory mediators causes vascular permeability enhancement, smooth muscle contraction and Inflammation. [6]

Diet and its impact on improving allergy

According to Dr. Leonard Bielory, the chairman of the integrative medicine committee for the ACAAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology) and a professor of Rutgers University, consumption of healthy diet assists in controlling disorders like allergic reactions. [7] It has been recently identified that stress level exacerbates allergic reaction as it increases eosinophils level. The dietary measures can certainly suppress stress induce free radical formation and act against immunological changes which trigger allergy.[8] Following are certain dietary components, which have potential to alter allergic reactions.

Vitamin C

The preliminary clinical research provides the evidence that vitamin C has potency to detoxify histamine and may provide anti-histaminic effect. [9] Therefore, it is expected that Vitamin C can control allergic reaction. It is also proved that vitamin C intake can improve lungs functionality [10] and this could provide beneficial result in controlling asthma exacerbation and reduce breathing difficulty, which is most common in seasonal allergy. The recent clinical trial data shows that fruits rich in vitamin C can prevent asthma, particularly for school going children. [11] The proper dosing of vitamin C is also effective to prevent allergic rhinitis. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator, and these properties altogether provide anti-allergic effect. [12]

Acidophilus

Acidophilus is a specific type of probiotic bacteria which may have the potential to induce Th1-type immunity and can augment the effect of regulatory lymphocyte and thus, provide anti-allergic effect. Animal study showed that administration of acidophilus had suppressed the IgE synthesis and eosinophil level. [13] In addition, acidophilus also boost immunity by regulating both T1 and T2 helper cells (type of white blood cells). [14] Acidophilus is effective in treatment of skin allergy and food allergy, especially for children who have cow milk allergy. [15] Moreover, human study report showed that acidophilus-rich yoghurt is capable to enhance interferon gamma. [16] This phenomena is effective to treat or prevent airway allergic symptoms, as interferon gamma enhancement subsequently decrease eosinophils level and mucous secretion. [17] In another clinical trial, it has been shown that patients with allergic rhinitis get symptomatic relief through oral administration of acidophilus. [18]

Omega 3 (DHA&EPA)

Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA has anti-inflammatory effect. In-vitro allergy research showed, both DHA and EPA supplementation provides anti-allergic effect. Therefore, omega 3 fatty acids are considered as natural anti-allergic agent. [19] In 2016, Royal Collage Of Obstetrician & Gynecologists published an article with information stating that Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy and lactation provides beneficial effect against childhood allergy. [20]

Grape Seed Extract

Grape seed extract is an abundant source of flavonoids (a plant pigment), which has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activities. [21] Flavonoid-rich grape seeds can inhibit allergy related skin problems, including eczema. [22] Grape seed extract suppress immune related response, the major cause of anti-allergic effect. [23] It is also assumed that anti-allergic effect of grape seed is due to its anti-histaminic effect. [22] Therefore, grape seed is also have potential effect against allergy due to its multi-variant functions.

An appropriate diet of exact quantity can prove adequate to heal from many chronic disorders; allergy is one of it. This is the basis behind our ancestral remedies which are mostly derived from the edible agents which are typically obtained from nature. The most of the dietary components can promote hormesis, which result to a biological phenomenon that improves most health situations, the ability towards stress tolerance due to adequate or potent dose which otherwise in excess dose can result to toxic or can result to life threatening effect.

 

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