Definition of Allergy



A question of definition


The term "allergy" is generally understood as a term for any form of negative reaction.

The use of the word "allergy" has become a generic term by the public to describe any form of adverse reaction. Whether it is an allergy or intolerance, a sensitivity or hypersensitivity or a strong aversion - the description is coined and engrained as such - allergy


The term 'Allergy’, as utilized by Allergy Link, refers to the generic term used by the general public describing any form of adverse or negative reaction - a 'link to allergy'. In Alternative Medicine terms the word 'Allergy' is often used interchangeably with allergy-like reactions, intolerances, sensitivities or energy toxins.


The word "allergy" comes from the Greek allos, meaning "other".
It was first used in 1906 to refer to an "altered reaction" in the body's immune system.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body comes in contact with the allergen, through contact with the skin, inhalation, injection or ingestion.


Allergies are a physiological error.

The body reacts negatively to harmless substances, foods or stimuli.


The medical classification however requires an IgE-mediated response to be involved in a “true allergy” (IgE being measurable immunoglobulins circulating in the blood). Though the distinction of a 'true' allergy in medical terms based on measuring IgE is generally unknown.

True food allergies are based on exposure to a specific protein component of a food. The immune system incorrectly perceives the protein as a threat and produces antibodies in response. With repeated exposure, cells release histamine and other biochemicals in response to the allergenic food. It is these chemicals that cause the allergy symptoms.

True food allergies are estimated to affect less than 2 percent of adults and 4 to 8 percent of young children and infants.


Anaphylactic shock - severe, life threatening reactions

In severe cases there is an anaphylactic response where tissues swell up to two or three times their normal size, swelling up so rapidly that they dangerously obstruct breathing.
These allergy sufferers gasp for air and can suffocate and die if not given emergency treatment (administration of adrenalin by paramedics, medical staff, teachers, carers or parents. Epi pen).


Intolerances, sensitivities and other reactions

Food Intolerance is an inability to process a particular food. It is also thought to be an immune system response. The gastro-intestinal tract in some people is simply unable to produce appropriate enzymes for normal chemical breakdown. The food passes through unprocessed - before digestion is complete, or lingers in the gut fermenting producing excess ‘gas’. In some cases food is eliminated only partially processed, like milk products, causing diarrhoea.

In other cases some foods have components which actually attack the lining of the gut and damage it every time that food is eaten (like Celiacs with gluten). Fortunately most food intolerant people recover fully when the offending food is avoided.

Direct problems such as severe abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and haemorrhoids are common. However the indirect problems associated with poor absorption can be much more harmful. When food leaves the body only partially processed many vital nutrients are lost too. People with food intolerance typically catch viruses easily, may have dry skin, hair and nail problems and tire easily. Some become deficient in iron or calcium and suffer a further series of health issues like anaemia or osteoporosis.

Many food intolerant people are underweight due to their inability to get full nutrient value from foods. Others can be overweight due to fluid retention – possibly an auto-immune response caused by eating foods that the body reads as poisonous.

Allergy-like reactions take the form of both physical and emotional symptoms. These reactions can be responsible for a myriad of symptoms including A.D.D., anxiety, depression, arthritis, respiratory problems, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, brain fog and panic attacks.

Food addiction It is thought that we can actually be addicted to the foods to which we are intolerant. The adrenalin rush - the classic “fight or flight” response - experienced after eating these foods is the ‘hook’ that keeps us coming back. But while sufferers feel good for a while, the ‘high’ soon passes and they go back to feeling drained and listless.

It may certainly be sensible to examine these can’t-live-without foods as possible suspects.

Food sensitivities are much more common, although estimates vary. Sensitivities are abnormal reactions to food or food components that do not involve the immune system, but involve the body as a whole.


There are three types of food sensitivities:

 1. A metabolic food disorder occurs when a person is genetically unable to properly or fully metabolize a food component. This includes lactose intolerance (inability to metabolize lactose), which is different from dairy allergies. A dairy allergy can be treated successfully with AAE whereas a true lactose intolerance cannot be treated. However, it is common for people with reactions to dairy to be misdiagnosed as lactose intolerant when the condition is actually a sensitivity.Another example of a metabolic food disorder is favism (genetic deficiency causing a sensitivity to a chemical in fava beans.

2. Food idiosyncrasy is another form of sensitivity with an abnormal response to a food or food component, but the mechanism for the response is unknown. The symptoms can resemble those of an allergy and can be either severe or mild.
Sulfite-induced asthma is one example and causes asthmatic reactions in 1.7 percent of all asthmatics.

3. An anaphylactoid response is a type of reaction that elicits the same release of histamine as a true food allergy, but it does not involve the immune system. The specific substance that causes this reaction has not yet been identified. The response is not the same as anaphylaxis.




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