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What Even Are Food Allergies?

It’s both scary and strange that food, something our bodies need to survive, can trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction. I’ve always wondered many things about my food allergies: How did I develop them? Why does my body not accept these foods? What actually happens during an allergic reaction? Unfortunately, a lot of my questions don’t have answers, which is why there is no found cure for food allergies. In this article, I will dive into what scientists do know. I hope you can learn something new!

A food allergy can be developed at any time in one’s life. Nobody knows why the body develops an allergy or there would be a cure! Some hypotheses have to do with genetics, environmental factors, and even being too clean. But, all of these ideas need more research and attention before they can be deemed a cause of food allergies.

Basically, a food allergy centers around your immune system being confused! It thinks a food protein is dangerous, like a germ, and attacks it. During an allergic reaction, an antibody called IgE (Immunoglobulin E) is produced. This happens when your immune system senses a threat or an antigen. In this case, the antigen is the protein from the food ingested. The IgE holds on to the allergen, which triggers histamine to be released by cells (a compound that helps communicate messages to your brain and produces stomach acid). They overreact and try to help by expanding blood vessels, but this actually makes everything worse for the person experiencing the reaction. At this point, they will typically start to feel the symptoms. These can include hives, difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure, and much more. The most severe type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis.

To stop a mild reaction- one that may just be hives- people can take an antihistamine. This blocks the effects of histamines and can calm down hives and itchiness. During anaphylaxis, epinephrine, or adrenaline, needs to be taken to stop the reaction. It increases blood flow and constricts the blood vessels again, reversing the effects of histamine.

Food allergies are something that everyone should be educated about, and I hope you were able to learn something by reading this article. Even though many questions are yet to be answered, research is done every day, and we are getting closer and closer to finding a cure! So stay safe and stay hopeful!

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