Building Your Defense Against Allergies Part 1: What Is An Allergy

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Michedolene Hogan
Michedolene Hogan, publisher of, lives in a quiet rural neighborhood of NC. She and her four children enjoy the quiet atmosphere after years of living in Southern CA cities. On two acres of land she has found the perfect atmosphere for working as a freelance writer covering a wide range of topics. She prefers writing about alternative allergy solutions but enjoys dabbling in other topics as well. In her spare time she and her family enjoy working with rescued dogs from high kill shelters around NC that need a little special TLC to re-learn how to be part of a family.
Michedolene Hogan
Michedolene Hogan
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When people hear the term “allergy” they begin thinking about various things that trigger those unpleasant symptoms of sneezing, watery eyes and a sore throat. What many don’t realize is the inaccuracy of this statement where the term allergy refers to an immune condition and the nasty symptom inducer is actually an allergen. One exists outside the body while the other occurs inside. It is through understanding exactly what an allergy is that can equip the sufferer in effectively managing their symptoms.

An allergy is a disorder of the immune system in response to a substance that enters the body either from being inhaled or consumed.   A healthy immune system will recognize the new substance and trigger the appropriate chemicals to completely remove it. In an allergic person the immune system over reacts creating the classic symptoms of an allergic reaction. This substance is referred to as the allergen and the reaction is the allergy.

Inside the Immune System

The immune system is very complex and far from being completely understood, however researchers have begun to understand the sequence response to substances that enter the body.  This response is made up from several cellular components and antibodies, each with their own function within the body. The components we are most interested in include mast cells, basophils and the antibody IgE.

  • Basophils are white blood cells that mediate inflammatory reactions
  • Mast cells contain the chemical histamine and once activated release the histamine causing the blood vessels to dilate.
  • IgE is an antibody that attaches to the outside of basophils and mast cells Each of these components plays a specific role when an allergen is introduced to the immune system. In fact they work together in an almost poetic way as the allergic response begins.

The Allergic Response

As an allergen enters the body the immune system is activated and begins developing the appropriate IgE antibody to fight off the specific allergen. These antibodies then travel through the bloodstream until they locate mast cells and basophils they can attach to. This initial response rarely results in allergic symptoms. Rather the antibodies remain attached to the mast cells waiting for the next exposure.

On the second exposure the immune system creates more antibodies that follow the same path as the first, locating and attaching to mast cells and basophils. Once the new antibodies reach the mast cells they cause them to burst, releasing histamine and other chemicals into the blood stream.  It is the release of these chemicals that result in the allergic reaction.

Allergic Reaction Part of Your Normal Immune Response

Everybody’s immune system is designed to develop antibodies when allergens enter the system. Their job is to fully eradicate those allergens and then shut back down. Unfortunately the allergic person has a hypersensitive immune response that fails to shut down. The release of histamines and other chemicals that result an allergic symptoms are all part of a natural response in the immune system gone awry.

As the chemicals stimulate inflammation and dilation of blood vessels varying degrees of symptoms can occur from a mild sneeze to a full blown asthma attack. While each person’s immune response varies a continued assault can lead to lasting immune dysfunction including diseases like arthritis, bronchitis, asthma, and sinusitis.

The good news is that clinicians agree the immune system is repairable no matter how damaged it is.  There are several steps an allergic person can take to improve their immune response and lower their allergic symptoms including nutritional support, improving your diet, immune-therapy where appropriate, reducing stress, getting enough rest and exercise and environmental allergy control.

Building your defense against allergies only begins with understanding exactly what an allergy is and how it impacts your body. The next step is to take action with using what you’ve learned. We’ll continue in Part 2: Allergies and Your Diet.

About the Author:

Mikki Hogan is a long-term allergy sufferer and proud parent of 7 children. She lives on 2 acres in a quite rural neighborhood of North Carolina with her four youngest children and granddaughter.  Living in a high allergy area with two daughters who suffer from allergies and asthma Mikki has mastered the art of allergy and sinus relief without over medicating.

You can visit Mikki and read more about allergies at The Allergy Spot