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Allergies and the Immune System Allergies are a disorder of the immune system that is caused by the improper activation of the immune response. Allergies are almost always linked to the presence of an excessive amount of allergic antibodies known as IgE. Allergies occur because a substance present in the environment that is normally harmless enters our body and is mistakenly identified as a threat. Most pathogens that we are exposed to, from bacteria to viruses, are proteins and are eliminated through the activation of the immune system. In the case of harmless proteins, like proteins from food, the immune response must be suppressed through a process known as oral tolerance. Inducing oral tolerance has been used as a strategy to prevent allergies for years. For instance, Native Americans used to eat poison ivy leaves to prevent contact dermatitis associated with skin exposure to the plant. Understanding the process of oral tolerance is essential for the prevention and treatment of allergies. Although true or immediate allergies are mediated by IgE, other antibodies and immune cells have also been linked to allergic diseases. Contact dermatitis for instance occurs through the effect of T-cells and IgM or IgG are often responsible for drug allergies or what is known as cytotoxic allergies. Food intolerances are also probably allergies since significant immune factors are involved in the process. Infants with milk, soy and egg intolerance were found to have IgG levels significantly higher than the control group.10 Trials in animals also show a clear involvement of IgG immunoglobulins when peanut sensitivities are present. Other studies point to a clear immunological link in irritable bowel syndrome, with results showing that elimination diets that focus on the foods which elicit an IgG response in IBS patients lead to significant improvements of the disease in a majority of patients. IgG immune reactions are delayed occurring several hours after exposure to the offender and are often not immediately identified as allergies.
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