The taste of shrimp. When handled by a skilled cook (like our Moms), it’s delectable, simple but quaint. I can eat this crustacean every single day.
But unlike some people, eating this seemingly innocent seafood can serve them their last day, literally. Ever wonder why they can’t experience these euphoric meals. Or better yet, how did this curse bestow upon them?
I’m here to investigate. Why do we get allergic to food?
Understanding Our Immune System
First, we should understand our immune system. Our body has the ability to fend ourselves from harmful microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.
It all starts with our lymphocytes or white blood cells. When foreign substances (antigens) enter our body, it triggers our white blood cells to decide whether it’s a threat or not. When it perceives it as a threat, our body releases antibodies to neutralize the antigens.
Leaving our bodies safe to live another day.
The Problem: Overreacting Defenses
The problem happens when our body overreacts. Some food and materials are essentially safe for people. But those with allergies perceive this food to be a threat. It is ingrained in their genes. The body reacts when it is ingested, inhaled, or for some, a mere touch.
90% of all allergies in the world can be traced to the following foods:
Some may have more rare triggers. Check this list for more information. Also, you might be allergic to foods with similar chemical structures such as for both Crabs and Lobsters. This is called cross-reactivity. So watch out.
To repel these perceived threats, our Immune system produces the antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to attach themselves to immune cells. And later, this union produces histamines that cause allergic reactions. These reactions vary as follows:
The intensity of the reactions is dictated by how much allergen is inside the body or how concentrated the immune cells are.
What We Know for Now? Sadly, It’s Genetic.
Scientists haven’t found exactly what the root cause of these allergies is.
What we know is that if your parents have allergies, the more likely that you will get one. If one of your parents has an allergy, you have a 33% chance to inherit this trait. And it shoots up to 70% when both have.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have the same specific allergies. You will just have the same tendency to be allergic, except it might be for a different food type.
So much for winning the genetic lottery.
Theories for Why It Exist
Two theories stand out explaining why some experience this cruel fate. Firstly, a study found out that air pollution contributes to the increasing cases of allergies.
The presence of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide (to name a few) is detrimental to the health of the current population and causing the future population to be more prone to allergy.
The next one delves into us being too clean. The hygiene hypothesis proposes that we have more allergic cases today because we are not exposed to harmful substances to train our bodies to fight against it. This microbial deprivation supposedly increased our likeability for allergies.
But this is not an excuse to forego cleanliness. Please still shower! This just tells us not to be afraid to get dirty once in a while because this may provide protection in the future.
Can it Be Treated?
But can we cure this disease forever? Another sad news, no you can’t. We can only weaken our body’s response to our allergic triggers.
It is good to note that though some kids can outgrow their allergies. IgE production peaks at 10 years old. So the decreasing production of IgE when we grow older can make the allergies disappear.
If the biological timetable didn’t work, one solution is Immunotherapy. Basically, you get small doses of your food nemesis injected once or twice a weak over a year. These negligible and constant doses allow our body to cope up with the allergen.
And later when faced with the same allergen, the body releases IgG (Immunoglobulin G) instead of IgE. The good thing about this is that IgG does not bind to produce histamines. Therefore, not having the allergic reaction you dread. But take note that this does not work on severe allergies and can be expensive and time-consuming.
Another therapy is Anti-IgE Immunotherapy. The patients are given shots of Omalizumab to render the IgEs useless. It also prevents the future production of IgEs because it binds to the white blood cells. This is a great solution except if you are allergic to Omalizumab itself.
The Last Resort
If you can’t go on with the treatments, there is still A LAST RESORT. It’s foregoing eating the food at all.
I know the taste of lobster can be immaculate, but you don’t need to prematurely meet immaculate angels just for the experience. Better stay safe, unfortunately. Until they find a cure.