Allergies occur when there is an antigen-antibody reaction. Antigens can include foods (often proteins), dust, mold, animal dander, pollen, smoke, and petroleum or chemical fumes. During the first exposure to an antigen, type 2 T helper cells (Th2) of the immune system stimulate B cells to produce IgE antibodies, which attach to mast cells, sensitizing them. On subsequent exposures, the antigens attach to the sensitized mast cells, which release inflammatory chemicals, including histamine.
Because of this antibody stimulation, a constantly Th2 dominant immune state is considered to be a more allergic and reactive state. Type 1 T helper cells (Th1), on the other hand, stimulate other immune cells, such as CD4 T cells, killer T cells, natural killer cells, and macrophages. Being in a Th1 dominant immune state directs killer T-cells to attack microorganisms and abnormal cells at the sites of infection, kills specific fungi, viruses, and bacteria, stimulates natural killer cells and cytotoxic lymphocytes to kill cancer cells. Th1 cells also inhibit the production of IgE antibodies, reducing allergies.
Treating allergies includes reducing the body’s overall toxic load, eliminating exposure to antigens, and promoting Th1 activity. Several simple dietary factors can strongly influence the immune system’s state and increase Th1 immunity.
Omega-3 Fatty acids improve cellular immunity, and lipid balance. They are found in all cold water fish, especially salmon, sardines, mackerel, halibut, and trout, with lesser amounts in dark-green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables and algae.
Oleic acids increase IgA antibody (the first defense antibody found on mucus membranes), and are found in cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut or filbert oil (or the whole nuts), green and ripe olives, and almonds.
Vitamin A also increases IgA and is found in cod liver oil, cooked carrots, squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes/yams (any yellow/orange vegetable).
Vitamin E induces natural killer cell function and acts as an antioxidant.
Garlic activates natural killer cells and T-cell function.
Silica reduces excess IgG antibody, which improves natural killer cell function and improves the integrity of the skin and mucus membranes. It is found in cooked oatmeal or millet, and the herb horsetail.
Glutathione acts as an antioxidant and removes toxins from inside cells. It is increased by alpha lipoic acid, selenium, and the amino acids N-acetyl cysteine, L-cysteine, and L-glutamine. Good quality sources of protein can supply many of these amino acids through the diet.
Most of immune system receptor sites are actually in our intestines so digestion really matters when it comes to immunity! Digestive enzymes, naturally found in fresh ginger root, raw pineapple, and kiwi fruit, break up proteins into usable amino acids. Apple cider vinegar stimulates hydrochloric acid, which is required to digest protein and activate enzymes.
A healthy balance of intestinal flora decreases IgE antibody production and all Th2 factors, and increases the anti-tumor activity in macrophages. However, one species of intestinal flora, streptococcus thermophilus, promotes Th2, and is widely used in the making of commercial yogurt.
Sunlight, water, exercise, touch, positive attitude, and acupuncture also increase Th1.
The three most common factors that increase Th2 are faulty digestion, leading to absorption of partially digested and unusable proteins, which increases the antibody immune response; white sugar, which directly weakens the functioning of macrophages and natural killer cells, and weakens systemic resistance to all infections; and trans-fatty and omega-6 acids, found in most heated and processed vegetable oils, and foods. The trans-fatty acids weaken killer-T cell activity.
Other factors that increase Th2, and therefore, allergies, include heavy metals, pesticides, tobacco, alcohol, steroids, stress, negative emotions, sedentary lifestyle, lack of water, and chronic insomnia.
© Kimberly Hindman, 2006