Immunology icon Immunology Notes

Some Topics

Food Allergy

The concept of immune responses to food antigens is useful in understanding many diseases. Many of the major unsolved disease of our civilization are either degenerative and/or inflammatory and many are recognized to be inflammatory, immune-mediated, hypersensitivity diseases. In this book, a general theory of hypersensitivity disease as a continuum of disease-causing mechanisms is presented. The term "hypersensitivity" refers to immune-mediated processes that lead to disease. As we consider the possible role of food antigens in causing or contributing to immune-mediated diseases, we look for opportunities to help patients with simple and safe therapeutic strategies such as diet revision. The basic phenomena that concern us are:

Food antigens activate immune networks.
Activated immune networks produce symptoms
Long-term activation of immune networks causes chronic disease, often featuring inflammation in target organs.

The food supply is the most abundant and continuous source of antigenic material.

Rheumatic diseases, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes, thyroiditis, psoriasis are examples of hypersensitivity diseases that involve humoral and cell-mediated immunity. The common specific problems that are related to food allergy include asthma, rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, angioedema, allergic gastroenteropathy, and allergic arthritis.

Many patients will express several of these hypersensitivity phenomena over a lifetime and demonstrate an underlying tendency to be hypersensitive. An important concern is the possibility that the chemical soup created by our civilization drives increasing numbers of individuals into hypersensitivity illness. The advocates of a broad definition of food allergy run the risk of being evangelical.

The conviction that food allergy is a ubiquitous cause of disease comes from knowing the benefits of careful diet revision in medical practice. In response to allergy lobby groups in the USA, the US Congress passed a bill that requires notice on the labels of foodstuffs that contain eight of the most common food allergens. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, will require plain English labeling beginning in 2006 of products containing wheat, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, or eggs. The bill also requires the Food and Drug Administration to develop a definition of the term "gluten-free" to help those with celiac disease and who require a gluten free diet for other reasons.

Rovner J. Reuters Health Information, Jul 21, 2004. Reported by Medscape online; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/483914_print


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