Are Food Allergies Reversible?

Are Food Allergies Reversible?

The food that we put into our bodies helps provide it with proper nutrition, but it can also be the precursor to a litany of health problems. Some of these health problems are associated with food allergies.

Food allergies are linked to issues of the immune system and can lead to instant serious reactions. Some of the most common symptoms that people with food allergies suffer from include rashes, anaphylactic shock (breathing difficulty), swelling, itching, and hives. This kind of food allergy is irreversible and is triggered when one comes into contact with a specific food. Some of the common foods that can trigger these reactions include peanuts, dairy products, and seafood.

Food allergies commonly get conflated with food sensitivities. The difference is that a food allergy is much more life-threatening than a food sensitivity. A food allergy means that your body produces a specific antibody in response to the protein found in a portion of food. When this occurs, you can instantly go into anaphylactic shock with lowered blood pressure, dilated blood vessels, swelling and hives. Food sensitivities on the other hand simply lead to damage or inflammation of the gut wall.

The Immune System’s Role

As previously mentioned, the immune system plays a role in why the body goes haywire when an allergy occurs. The immune system is the body’s primary defense mechanism, and it goes awry if the body gets into contact with foods that the body has an allergic reaction to. Essentially, the body will react to a normally harmless food as if it was a dangerous virus, and a litany of chemicals have released that end up hurting the body.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because food allergies often present with symptoms that can be confused with other conditions, it can be hard to diagnose. Therefore, if you are suffering from cold-like symptoms over the course of a couple of weeks, it is highly recommended that you seek the help of an allergist. Some people even confuse food intolerances for food allergies, says Dr. Kathryn Edwards of the Becker ENT Center, where she conducts allergy testing in NJ. To diagnose, usually, skin tests are performed. A positive test is confirmed if a lump surrounded by a reddish area appears after a drop of a purified form of the allergen in question is dropped directly to the skin.

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Unfortunately, no permanent cure for allergies has been found, which is why treatment is aimed at symptom management. The best way to cope with having a food allergy is to avoid the foods altogether. This means that you should also tell all food-handlers or anywhere that you will eat in a public space about your allergy so that you are not exposed to it.

Can Allergies Be Reversed?

This is a difficult question to answer because while there have been studies that have had successful results, there is no one definitive treatment that results in the reversal of food allergies. A study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology identified an innovative therapy using mice that received implanted cells straight from the human immune system. Scientists in this study exposed the mice to proteins in a test tube based on a specific allergy, and after eight weeks of treatment, signs of an allergic reaction were removed. This was due to the ability to convert allergen-sensitive immune cells to copy those that are present in people that don’t have allergies.

There was also another study done that targeted gut bacteria to relieve food allergies. The results were based on examining the immunological changes that were seen in both mice and humans. However, as you can see, most of these studies incorporate animals, and the full extent of allergies being reversed is not fully known in humans. It is not definitive whether or not food allergies are a permanent condition.

Food allergies to peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, fish and other certain products tend to be lifelong. Right now, the only known medication that can reverse the life-threatening symptoms that anaphylaxis brings is epinephrine. Epinephrine can help restore one’s blood pressure and cardiac output while relaxing the muscles in the airways of the lungs. However, to this day, no known substance or treatment can definitively stop the automatic allergic reaction that coming into contact with certain foods have.

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However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t optimism that it could potentially be reversed. There was another research study in Nature Medicine that suggested that the root cause of food allergies is due to an absence of beneficial bacteria in the gut as opposed to just an overreaction. Therefore, as you can see the studies are inconclusive, but a reversible cure for food allergies is not yet officially recognized.

Right now, the best course of action for those who have allergies is to simply avoid harmful contact with these substances until further notice. Innovative studies continue to reveal new information about our bodies and how it seeks to protect us. However, the immune system will sometimes overcompensate, causing our body gradual harm. While it is not definitive as to whether or not they can be fully reversed, it is still crucial to take interventions to protect yourself in the worst-case scenario.

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