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Anatomy of an Allergy October 5, 2009

Posted by paripl110707 in Uncategorized.

Allergic reactions can take many forms, but all have one thing in common:

They’ve triggered by the immune system.  Immune proteins (antibodies) fight any intruder that threatens your health.

One type of antibody, called immunoglobulin E (or IgE), likely evolved to conquer parasites that enter the body.  But in people with food allergies, these antibodies treat certain foods as the enemy.

The antibodies attaché themselves to the surface of a type of immune cell called mast cells.  When food enters the body, the antibodies alert the mast cells to release inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, to produce allergy symptoms.

Mast cells are present in all body tissues.  Depending on their location, they can cause a cavalcade of responses.  Mast cells that are activated in the skin, for example, can cause hives, redness and itchiness.  In the digestive tract, they can set off vomiting, diarrhea or pain.  In the throat, they can cause the airways to close off, which may begin as an itchy mouth or throat and lead to a swollen tongue and constricted airway, and can ultimately be fatal.  – Alyssa Shaffer


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