Allergy And Chronic Disease

allergy-of-chronic-disease_300Allergy has many symptoms. Dry cough, skin rash, itchy eyes or a stuffy/runny nose are only the more obvious signs of allergy. Allergy also underlies autoimmune disorders. However, even these are just the tip of the iceberg. Almost all chronic inflammatory conditions have allergic hypersensitivity as their root cause. In this report I’ll help you understand why allergy is the cause of so much chronic illness so you can see how to correct it — without prescription drugs.

Your Immune And Acute Hypersensitivity Reactions

In the simplest form of an acute allergic reaction, you rapidly get allergy symptoms. The process is this: You first come into contact with an allergen. These allergens are typically foreign substances such as pollens, molds or animal dander. Or they could be a medication or insect venom. Your immune system responds by creating antibodies. The intention is for these antibodies to protect you from the offending molecules.

But once you have been sensitized to an allergen and antibodies have been formed, the subsequent exposure causes antibodies to react by calling in their specialized fighter immune cells. These fighter cells release histamine and other chemical factors of inflammation. This is the inflammation of the typical allergy symptoms you are familiar with: mucus, swelling, pain or redness. At this point, you typically will want something to treat your allergic response — something to reduce discomfort.

There are other known mechanisms of allergy that help us understand chronic inflammation. These take some real introspection or investigation by your doctor to discover, and I’ll explore these later in this report. They can be allergens from long-term repeated consumption of particular food, exposure to environmental chemicals or use of prescription medications. Since these allergens take longer to create an immune reaction, they usually go undetected. Nevertheless, they do create an immune hypersensitivity and are the basis for chronic illness, even the autoimmune disorders.

Autoimmune Diseases

In the case of autoimmune diseases, somehow something goes wrong and formerly healthy tissue gets targeted by immune cells, producing an autoimmune response. There are more than 160 formally known autoimmune disorders, and autoimmune diseases are in the top 10 leading causes of death for U.S. women under age 65. [1] See the list online here. Some of these are briefly explained here.

Whether it is ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or lupus, autoimmune conditions all have a hypersensitive immune reaction leading to inflammation at the core of their pathophysiology.

These have a set of measurable serum antibodies that your doctor can check for. But guess what? Other common chronic diseases also involve the immune system because they have inflammation at the core of their pathophysiology, too. Every disease of the brain, eyes, skin, heart, lungs, liver, intestines, joints, nerves, endocrine glands, etc. from heart disease to diabetes to obesity involves inflammation. So what’s causing this inflammation?   

Immune Triggers Of Chronic Disease

Genetic predisposition to illness undoubtedly plays the largest role here.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),The causes (risk factors) of chronic diseases are known; a small set of common risk factors are responsible for most of the main chronic diseases and these risk factors are the same in men and women and in all regions. The most important modifiable risk factors are: unhealthy diet and excessive energy intake; physical inactivity; [and] tobacco use. These causes are expressed through the intermediate risk factors of raised blood pressure, raised glucose levels, abnormal blood lipids (particularly low density lipoprotein – LDL cholesterol), and overweight (body mass index ≥25 kg/m2) and obesity (body mass index ≥30 kg/m2). The major modifiable risk factors, in conjunction with the non-modifiable risk factors of age and heredity, explain the majority of new events of heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases and some important cancers.” [2]

The China Study was the work of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., of Cornell University, who led more than 20 researchers, spanning 40 years of compiled data from both animal studies and a study population of approximately 650,000 rural Chinese. These authors concluded that approximately 97 percent of all chronic illness (i.e., heart disease, cancer, diabetes) are attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle — and only 3 percent are attributed to genetics. [3]

Links Between Immune Hypersensitivity And Inflammation Of Chronic Disease

Your intestinal mucosal immune system must discriminate between harmful foodborne pathogens, other harmful antigens and the beneficial food molecules that you need for nutrition. In Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, it is easier to understand how a dysfunctional mucosal lining can trigger inflammation there in the mucosal lining.

However, your gut is also the “antigenic window” to your bloodstream. That is why your intestinal health is so very important.

Be careful of the following:

  • Antibiotics: promote overgrowth of resistant bacteria, yeast and parasites.
  • Motrin® and corticosteroid arthritis medications: hamper healing.
  • Alcohol and caffeine: are strong gut irritants that wear down the mucosa.
  • Chemical food dyes and preservatives.
  • Digestive enzyme deficiency and low stomach acid.
  • High sugar foods devoid of fiber: fermented fiber produces the short chain fatty acids acetate, propionate and butyrate that aid in healing the intestinal mucosa.
  • Cow milk protein (dairy): unnatural to humans and antigenic.

Stress

Additionally, unresolved chronic stress can render your immune regulation ineffective, according to a 2006 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences report. [4] This is because stress affects your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which in turn adversely affects your immune response.

Furthermore, environmental chemicals are prevalent in our industrialized world. Many of these enter your bloodstream via your skin and lungs, but still many are in the foods you eat. They disrupt hormone receptors, but they also are antigenic triggers to inflammation. I discussed these at length a previous liver report.

Other possible immune triggers of chronic disease are low-grade chronic infections of the bacteria Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, Borrelia, Brucella, cytomegalovirus (CMV), human herpes virus 6 (HHV6), Epstein Bahr virus (enteroviruses),fungi, yeasts and parasites. Some experts estimate that approximately half of the autoimmune diseases (i.e. Sjögren’s, Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Reiter’s, Crohn’s and others) are connected to infections.

In summary, allergy has many faces, and is even the basis for the inflammation behind chronic disease. Correcting modifiable causes of inflammation that lead to chronic illness is not up to the doctor, it’s up to each one of us.

To feeling good for life,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options


[1] Walsh, SJ, LM. Autoimmune Diseases: A Leading Cause of Death among Young and Middle-Aged Women in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2000;90:1463-1465

[4] Campbell T, Campbell TM. 2005 The China Study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. Benbella Books, Dallas TX.

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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.