Allergy and the Hyperactive Immune System

August 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Allergies

Allergic reactions occur as a result of the human immune system’s efforts to protect the body. Many of the allergy symptoms like a running nose, or a swollen lip, or an upset stomach, are manifestations of over-cautiousness on the part of the human body.

Simply put, allergy is over-sensitivity. There are all sorts of things in the atmosphere which become potential allergens to those who are prone to allergy, while they do no harm to others. That simply means that those who are prone to allergy have a hyperactive immune system.

Human body contains a system known as lymphatic system made up of lymph nodes and lymph ducts. It carries a fluid known as lymph, the way circulatory system carries blood. The lymphocytes, which the lymph nodes produce, play an important role in body’s disease preventing mechanism and so in causing allergic reactions.

Many organs like appendix, tonsils, bone marrow, and the thymus gland that lies underneath the breastbone, contains lymphoid tissue. It is in the thymus gland that a certain variety of white blood cells, known as T cells, are produced. These T cells are also an important agent in causing allergy symptoms.

Lymph nodes and T cells might have become familiar words for many these days, because of its association with AIDS. But everybody is not aware of its connection with allergy.

Every cell in a human body has a unique code that is exclusive to that body. When T cells and lymphocytes pass through the lymphatic vessels and blood vessels, they easily detect a foreign particle, a bacteria or a virus, that has a different code. Some of these really require removal. But allergy symptoms erupt when they identify as enemies even those things that do not require instant removal.

Some T cells only identify the foreign bodies. The removal is generally managed by phagocytes. Some other T cells do the job together with B cells. Yet other T cells directly combat the particles that they identify as worthy of removal. This could be the beginning of an allergy attack.

Once a foreign particle has been identified, certain groups of white blood cells known as mast cells, and basophils, release chemicals like prostaglandins and histamines in the area to remove the invading particle. These chemicals are supposed to neutralize the enemy and remove it. The process is necessary when the invading particle is harmful to the body.

Sometimes this attack is unleashed against harmless objects also and it is these that we see as allergic reactions. The larger the unnecessary reaction, the more is the amount of the histamines released. The allergy symptoms will be more severe in such cases.

Allergy is, in short, a wound that body inflicts on itself. The nasal inflammation resulting from allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and hives are all examples of this attempt of the body’s self protection becoming counterproductive and becoming allergy symptoms.

A strong immune system is body’s requirement. But an immune system that could be stronger than necessary is what causes allergy. To avoid allergic reactions and at the same time have the required protection against real invaders, we must have a balanced immune system.