Allergy: A Type 1 Hypersensitivity Reaction

Allergy: A Type 1 Hypersensitivity Reaction

An allergy is a medical condition that causes someone to become sick after eating, touching, or breathing something that usually has little or no effect to the average person. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Allergy” as, “exaggerated or pathological immunological reaction (as by sneezing, difficulty breathing, itching, or skin rashes) to substances, situations, or physical states that are without comparable effect on the average individual. “Hypersensitivity” is defined as, abnormally susceptible physiologically to a specific agent (as a drug or antigen). In this article, a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction will be discussed in detail, as well as treatments that can help to reduce the symptoms and potentially cure the allergic reaction completely.

Type 1 hypersensitivity (aka immediate or anaphylactic hypersensitivity) may involve skin, eyes, nasopharynx, bronchopulmonary tissues, and GIT (gastrointestinal tract). The reaction generally takes 15-30 minutes to occur after exposure to the antigen. However, in some cases, it can take 10-12 hours. The symptoms can be anywhere from a minor inconvenience to death.

In a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction, an antigen (a harmful/potentially harmful substance foreign to the body) is presented to CD4 glycoprotein cells (cluster of differentiation cells) and T-helper cells. This stimulates B-cells to produce Immunoglobulin class E (IgE) antibodies specific to the antigen. IgE antibodies then bind to Fc protein receptors on the surface of mast cells and basophils (both rich in histamine and anticoagulant heparin). Mast cells and basophils are then “sensitized” so when a second exposure of the same kind of antigen occurs, this cross links the cell-bound IgE and results in the release of pharmacologically active substances. Cross-linking of IgE Fc-receptor is extremely important in mast cell triggering. Antimicrobial cytotoxic granules are released, calcium ions (Ca2+, signaling transduction) are increased, and histamine (increases the permeability of the capillaries to white blood cells and some proteins to allow them to engage pathogens in the infected tissues), prostaglandin (hormone-like lipid compounds that regulate the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle tissue), and leukotriene (use lipid signaling to convey information to either the cell producing them or neighboring cells in order to regulate immune responses) are secreted into the surrounding tissue area. Smooth muscle contraction and vasodilation are the main effects in the overall scheme.

Standard Treatments

Type 1 hypersensitivity is classified into an immediate and late-phase reaction. The immediate hypersensitivity reaction occurs minutes after exposure and results in the release of vasoactive amines and lipid mediators. The late-phase reaction occurs 2–4 hours after exposure and includes the release of cytokines (proteins important for cell signaling which impacts cell behavior).

Diagnostic tests include skin tests (skin prick and intradermal) which measure total IgE and specific IgE antibodies against the suspected allergens. Increased IgE levels are indicative of a potential atopic condition (a genetic disposition to develop an allergic reaction and produce elevated levels of IgE upon exposure to an environmental antigen, especially one inhaled or ingested). Symptomatic treatment is given with antihistamines (these block histamine receptors). Chromolyn sodium inhibits mast cell degeneration by inhibiting calcium ion influx (research suggests). Late-phase symptoms are treated with leukotriene receptor blockers or inhibitors of the cyclooxygenase pathway. Singulair and Accolate are leukotriene receptor blockers and Zileutoin are inhibitors of the cyclooxygenase pathway.

Bronchodilators (inhalants) such as isoproterenol derivatives provide short-term symptomatic relief from bronchoconstriction. Terbutaline and Albuterol are used in this case. Hyposensitization, immunotherapy or desensitization, is a treatment for insect venoms and some pollens.

Alternative and Natural Medicine

For many years it has been believed that honey could help relieve allergies by desensitizing allergy sufferers to the pollen in the air. Many scientists argue whether or not honey has a significant impact in treating allergies. However, studies show (by Finnish researchers) that people allergic to birch pollen were able to control their allergy symptoms more than those who used mainstream allergy medication when they consumed honey that contained birch pollen.

Acupuncture has proven to help relieve symptoms and help sufferers breathe better. This has been a successful treatment for many years. However, consistent treatment is required in order to relieve symptoms. When acupuncture treatments stop, the symptoms often times will reappear.

Butterbur is known to a successful natural cure. There is strong evidence supporting its effects. The plants commonly referred to as butterbur are found in the daisy family Asteraceae in the genus Petasites. The herb works as a leukotriene inhibitor. The inhibitor will block some chemicals that cause swelling in the nasal passages. This is a natural remedy that can successfully be used in the place of Singular. Research shows that an extract of butterbur root is just as effective at relieving nasal symptoms as antihistamines like Zyrtec and Allegra. This natural remedy is safer than mainstream medications because it doesn’t cause sleepiness (a common side effects of antihistamines). Many medications are also known to make one restless and uncomfortable. Butterbur, therefore, is a safe and healthy alternative.

There are many other natural remedies that show promising results in treating allergies. Quercetin, found in many fruits and vegetables, works as a mast cell stabilizer. It helps to block histamine that causes inflammation. Studies show great results with quercetin, however, more evidence is being attained to provide more facts. There are other natural treatments that show promising results, yet, more evidence is needed to make it a fact. Some of these natural remedies include, stinging nettle, bromelain (reduces nasal swelling), phleum pratense (helps reduce eye irritation), and tinospora cordifolia (helps reduce sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge). Echinacea, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, vitamin C, cat’s claw, albizzia, baical skullcap, goldenseal, and spirulina are known to help relieve symptoms as well, but more research needs to be conducted in order to make it official.

Knowledge is Power

Understanding what exactly is happening in a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction is crucial in seeking an effective treatment. Now that we understand the process of the reaction, we are armed with sufficient knowledge to start making progress toward a cure. Lots of research is needed to be certain that a particular treatment will be successful.

Many people do not like to take mainstream medications due to the long list of side effects and the potential dangers involved in using some of the medications. Many of these medications DO help relieve symptoms, but the side effects that accompany the treatment can be just as bad as the allergic reaction itself. Albuterol, for example, is known to cause shakiness in the arms and legs and it increases the heart rate for many users. Diarrhea, headache, stomach pain, and nausea are common side effects of many allergy medications.

It is said that in nature, for every plant that causes a negative reaction that there is another plant that will balance it out and provide a cure. While modern society tends to gravitate toward innovative technology for answers, it is unwise to ignore the natural world when seeking help. The more we lose touch with nature, the more we will encounter problems.

The best way to fight against the negative effects of allergies is to embrace the wisdom of the ancients. Getting enough sleep (balanced; not too much not too little), engaging in daily exercise (especially advanced systems like Yoga, Mo Pai Nei Kung, and T’aijiquan), and maintaining a proper diet free of unhealthy chemicals (such as preservatives and artificial flavors), processed foods, and most meat, will naturally build resistance against antigens and will strengthen bodily health to such an extent that one can overcome (or significantly reduce) all allergies. To reach the pinnacle of good health one must maintain a heightened state of consciousness. The more loving, caring, happy, and positive we can be, the better our health will be.