Getting Stronger: Discussion Forum

Discussion Topics => Diet => : Tom January 30, 2014, 08:11:57 PM

: Allergy Desensitization
: Tom January 30, 2014, 08:11:57 PM
Oral Immunotherapy - A Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding About Allergy

Food allergy has been steadily rising during the recent years, to the point that some declares it an epidemic. The mainstream solution to allergens, is to simply avoid it. Apparently, sanitizing the environment is so obvious that few question the impacts this approach has on our immune system.

On the other end of the spectrum, recent studies, based on a diametrically opposite perspective about food allergy, are constantly revealing new insight about the symbiotic relationship between the allergens and our immune system.

And it’s from this new understanding that allergy-desensitization treatments, such as oral immunotherapy and sublingual immunotherapy, slowly invade the medical community. In essence, oral immunotherapy simply does the opposite of what traditional wisdom dictates - It aims to reduce allergy response, by introducing allergens, in tiny doses, on a regular basis. Simply put, it is a form of immunitary hormesis.

Recent breakthrough in oral immunotherapy


It’s extremely important to mention that this field is exactly this - experimental. Any patient with serious allergy should not experiment with allergens on their own, unless under the supervision of immunotherapists. More research is needed to determine the individual maximal dose without incurring anaphylaxis, and to devise techniques to better retain allergen tolerance over time.


In a sense, oral immunotherapy embodies the same concepts that occuried to Edward Jenner two centuries ago - It wasn't the avoidance of cowpox that protect against smallbox, but the systematic controlled exposure to it. The advances in oral immunotherapy also shed more light on the validity of hygiene theory (i.e., autoimmune diseases are triggered by the lack of exposure to “allergens”), which, I think, should be the central tenet of immunology, and which holds the key to many civilisation diseases that most deem unsolvable.

In fact, it's often said that allergen tolerance develops during the earliest years of our lifespan, and that lack of exposure to them, during this critical period, can severe compromise one's immune system, sometimes permanently. Conversely, early exposure to allergens is associated with increased allergen tolerance.

All it takes really is a change in public awareness. Here’s a blog on allergy desensitization, by a mother of a patient suffering peanut allergy.

Should allergy protection in, say, school, be a fundamental human right? hm..I would say that we rethink again. 8)
: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: Todd Becker February 23, 2014, 10:31:44 PM
Thanks for these references, Tom.

In addition to immunotherapy by allergen exposure, the important role of commensal microbes -- gut bacteria and parasites -- in symbiotically "training" our immune system deserves our attention.  The evidence for this "old friends" version of the hygiene hypothesis has been ably documented by Moises Velasquez-Manoff in this book, An Epidemic of Absence -- as I pointed out in this post:

: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: AnaGrey March 11, 2015, 06:57:54 AM
Yeah this totally works. Desensitization helped me and my sister. And now I'm free from allergens, except my rhinitis though. Do you think there's a desensitization for nasal allergies? Thanks!
: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: Todd Becker March 12, 2015, 09:05:05 PM
Glad to hear you've had success with immunotherapy or "desensitization", Ana. 

An interesting point made in the book by Velasquez-Manoff, is that immunotherapy works best via the oral route, e.g. sublingual or swallowing small amounts of allergen, then gradually increasing the dose. He mentions the interesting observation that in generally the immune system recognizes what you ingest as "friendly", but if you encounter first on your skin before you ingest it, the immune system sees it as "foreign".  Native Americans learned to prevent poison ivy or poison oak attacks by swallowing bits of young leaves from those plants in the spring, when the sensitizing oils are less concentrated.  Eventually they build up a tolerance.  The epidemic of peanut allergies might be a response to mothers using diaper creams containing peanut oil -- before the child ever eats a peanut. 

More recently, severe peanut allergies have been successfully "cured" by sublingual oral immunotherapy, introducing progressively increased amounts of the peanut allergen under the tongue.  Of course, this is done by a highly qualified specialist in a setting where adverse reactions can be quickly controlled.

So perhaps nasal allergies can be approached by identifying the allergen and introducing it sublingually or orally.

: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: AnaGrey March 13, 2015, 05:32:26 AM
Hey Todd!

Thank you for the response, I totally understand it, but I don't think I can dare myself to swallow dusts and pungent perfumes. :(
: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: Todd Becker March 13, 2015, 06:34:59 PM
Hi Ana,

You don't need to go it alone -- and you shouldn't

Find an allergist in your area who is trained in oral or subcutaneous immunotherapy.  It has been found very effective in reversing dust mite and chemical sensitivity (perfume) allergies. It is based upon starting with very low doses and building up gradually.  It typically takes 6-12 months to become allergy free:

Think of how great it will be to be free of your allergies!


: Re: Allergy Desensitization
: AnaGrey March 14, 2015, 06:40:54 PM
Wow! I know!
That'd be awesome!
I'm gonna go look around for an Allergist. Thanks for the share Todd!
It'd be great to stop using my nasal spray once and for all :D