[Sca-cooks] increasing allergies

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sat Aug 16 20:36:00 PDT 2008

> Isabella:
> <<< In our case, where there are various allergies to this and that,  no 
> family
> allergy to peanuts exists on either side, to our best knowledge.
> The pediatric allergist we went to, a very good one, said essentially 
> they
> really didn't have a clue why peanut allergies have risen so 
> dramatically. >>>
> My suspicion is that we'll eventually find out is that *we* are  causing 
> this problem. Not just by cleaning up the environment of the  items that 
> might train the immune system, but by confusing it in  other ways and this 
> might in fact be accentuated by the too-clean  environment.

Think about the use of the peanut for a minute.  The increased use of 
peanuts in the U.S. is primarily due to the work of George Washington 
Carver, who did most of his major research in the first half of the 20th 
Century.  The increased exposure to peanuts, penut product and peanut 
antigens is an artifact of the 20th Century.  The more peanuts are used, the 
more likely you are to see peanut allergies.

> Immune systems are probably not perfectly specific. It comes down to  a 
> trade-off. If the immune system is too specific, either through  evolution 
> or learning, then it is more likely to miss something that  *is* dangerous 
> to the survival of the individual/species. If it is  too general, it 
> spends resources attacking something it has no reason  to. This wastes 
> resources and energy. In the worse case, the  "something" it attacks is 
> something the organism needs such as a  pancreas. In our case we are 
> dumping so many compounds into the  environment that evolution has had 
> time to tweak the immune system to  be more specific in what it considers 
> an enemy.

I think you will find that the immune system is highly specific with 
different lymphocytes recognizing only the specific antigens they respond 
against.  This does not mean they can't be fooled.

> So it may not be peanuts that set off a peanut allergy. It may be 
> something else in the environment which the body has decided is bad  and 
> some compound in peanuts is close enough to what the body got  trained to 
> fight that it goes into hyper-drive when it sees that  compound in peanut 
> stuff. This would explain why such allergies could  pop up without any 
> genetic component.

You probably can't rule out a genetic component since the particular alleles 
could be recessive over several generations.  If the parents or grandparents 
have a mild, ignorable histaminic reaction to peanuts, they could be 
allergic without knowing it.

> <<< Respiratory allergies is a different story, I have heard those  linked 
> to
> "too clean" houses, but not necessarily peanuts. >>>
> It may be that some respiratory allergies are created by the item  that 
> later creates the problem and others are actually caused by  something 
> totally different but which matches too well with something  perhaps more 
> common.
> I am not an immunologist or a medical person. This last one about 
> synthetic environmental triggers is just my own guess.
> Stefan

I think you will find that repiratory allergies cause histamines to be 
released which in turn dialates the capillaries possibly leading to edema of 
the tissue in the lungs and bronchial passages reducing the ability of the 
lungs to take in air.  It's the same kind of reaction that produces tissue 
swelling or hives on the skin.

The increase in allergies might also be explained by our increasing 
knowledge of the immune system and its diseases.  Since we know that 
allergies occur and we have a grasp of the basic mechanism of allergic 
response, we can test and identify allergies more readily than 50 years ago. 
As testing methods improve, more people find they have allergies.  Allegies, 
in particular lethal allergies, may not be increasing as a percentage of 
population.  They may just be more recognizable.

As for "too clean" houses, it is more likely they are too dirty.  Modern 
building technology has produced air tight buildings for more efficient 
heating and cooling which trap dust and other allergens in the building. 
Without some serious filtration (usually too expensive), the stuff in the 
air is going to keep recirculating.  When I worked at the Health Department 
(30 year old building) we had a half inch layer of dirt on the top of the 
ceiling panels, that got disturbed every time we pulled cable through the 
ceiling.  Too clean?


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