Do allergies actually benefit your health?
April 25th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Do allergies actually benefit your health?

Depending on severity, allergies can range from annoying to deadly. Millions of Americans are familiar with the sneezing, itching and coughing that come along with spring allergies to toxins, while others suffer hives or even airway blockage if they eat the wrong food.

And we know that food allergies are on the rise, partly because of awareness but experts say something else may be going on. It’s a mystery why industrial countries see more and more children having reactions to common foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat or soy.

But there’s a deeper question to ask here: Why do humans have allergies at all?

One view is that the immune response seen in allergies is the same sort of defense your body uses against parasitic worms. It’s thought that what we know as “allergy” evolved against those worms, but has become mistargeted in some people, so that common substances such as pollen and dust set them off, too.

However, common environmental and food allergens have little in common with parasitic worms. There’s an explanation for why the immune system would respond to something that's not microbial, says Ruslan Medzhitov, professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine.

In a perspective article in the journal Nature, Medzhitov and colleagues probe the question: Is there another explanation for allergies? They argue that, in fact, allergies are meant to remove harmful substances from the body.

For the case of seasonal allergies to tree or grass pollen, symptoms typically include runny nose, teary eyes and extra mucus production in the respiratory system. All of these things have the effect of trying to expel something from your body that you don’t want there.

Similarly, when you have itchy skin in contact allergies, the impulse is to scratch, which has the effect of removing offending particles in the skin. But sometimes it becomes extreme: Uncontrollable itching that’s chronic, which is no longer serve the purpose of taking offending substances off the skin.

Food allergy symptoms often include vomiting and diarrhea, which also expel unwanted substances. Anaphylactic shock, the most severe and deadly reaction, involves swelling of the mouth or throat and even breathing problems. Medzhitov explains this as an extreme form of the normal allergic reaction; it has gone out of control and may cause death in and of itself, the way that septic shock is an extreme form of natural inflammation.

Experimental treatment may help food allergies

“There are things that are meant to perform some beneficial rational function; if they get disregulated, it can cause problem,” Medzhitov said.

The unpleasant experiences also make you stop eating the food that caused the reaction, and avoid that food in the future.

But wait: Plenty of people eat peanuts and other common food allergens without incident. Why do some people have extreme reactions and others enjoy these foods in peace?

Medzhitov points out that there are certain components of the foods we eat everyday whose effects on the body we still don’t exactly know. There may be certain chemicals in some foods that have noxious effects on our cells that are slightly toxic.

He hypothesizes that some people are better at detoxifying those substances than others. And those who are deficient in those detoxifying mechanisms have instead allergies to defend themselves.

And then there’s allergies to pollutants in the air. The production of mucus in allergic people, theoretically, gives them increased protection from the particulate pollutants in the air, since they will inhale less of them. That would mean that if those pollutants are carcinogenic, the allergic person would have increased protection against certain forms of cancer over time. Or you might avoid that environment altogether, thereby also taking you out of a toxic situation.

The hypothesis that allergies protect against particular cancers does have some evidence backing it up. In fact, a 2011 study suggested that allergies may stave off gliomas, which are the most common form of brain tumor. But more research needs to be carried out to back up this idea.

So what are we to make of all of this? Even if true, we can't use this knowledge to help people with allergies - yet.  But maybe one day, says Dr. Robert Wood, Director of Allergy/Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, who was not involved in this study.

"“This is a fascinating paper that sheds new light on why some people develop allergies and others do not. It also suggests reasons why the prevalence of allergic disease, including food allergy, asthma, and hay fever, have all increased over the past 20-30 years," Wood said. "Hopefully the theories presented here could eventually be used to design prevention strategies for allergy, but at the present time they remain just theories that will not lead to any immediate approaches to treat or prevent allergy.”

soundoff (955 Responses)
  1. Tona Mccarver

    Do you want get more social network traffic, likes, subscribers? Our Company provide SMM Services that means (Social Media Marketing) that is directly using social network websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote a website. High Quality Services / Our prices are the cheapest in the market, starting at $0.01 / 24/7 Support / API Support for panel leaders / Best prices


    January 28, 2021 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. NmilZisse

    buyu viagra online http trustedmedstore brand viagra buy viagra in atlanta in a store http://xz-pharmacyonline.com/en/career-opportunities.html – buy viagra montreal ’

    January 28, 2021 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. JnscCrulk

    viagra paypal pay with professional viagra viagra replacement http://erectilejyzd.com/index.php?called=terms – best online pharmacy for viagra ’

    January 28, 2021 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. idn poker

    Thank you, I've recently been looking for info approximately this topic for ages and
    yours is the best I have discovered so far. However, what
    concerning the conclusion? Are you certain in regards to the supply?

    January 29, 2021 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. AhmdEncox

    200 mg cialis Arcoxia cialis no consultation https://impotencecdny.com/ – cvs online pharmacy ’

    January 30, 2021 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FmnfEncox

    365 cialis is cialis a vasodilator cialis without perscriptions https://impotencecdny.com/info/history.php – does cialis really work ’

    January 31, 2021 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. FhnhZisse

    online drugs canadian pharmacy review canada medication pharmacy https://canadianpharmacy-yy.com/ – Oxytrol ’

    January 31, 2021 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Monty Lessor

    This is a very interesting article. Please, share more like this!


    February 1, 2021 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. KbbgMile

    viagra generic canadian pharmaceuticals viagra malaysia http://erectilejyzd.com/ – canadadrugs pharmacy ’

    February 1, 2021 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. NgscZisse

    cheap viagra uk paypal viagra over the counter in canada viagra 100 mg tablet price in india http://canadianpharmacy-yy.com/Fitness/how-to-get-a-six-pack.html – sildenafil 100mg prescription ’

    February 2, 2021 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Social Likes

    I genuinely enjoy examining on this web site, it has got fantastic content.


    February 2, 2021 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JbbvEncox

    price prescription drugs 24 hour pharmacy best canadian pharmacies

    February 4, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. FvfcZisse

    viagra for sale in melbourne viagra online 100mg viagra pay by paypal

    February 5, 2021 at 02:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kuikseelt

    buy viagra onlinne cheap viagra how can i get viagra free

    February 5, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. LbsxEncox

    drugstore online how can i get viagra in montreal quebec canada online pharmacy without prescription

    February 5, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Hollis Blaszak

    Earn $1000/Day With Our Passive Income System – Best Autopilot income system 2021


    February 6, 2021 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Collin Juza

    Earn $200/Day With Our Last Passive Income System – Best Autopilot income system 2021


    February 6, 2021 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. AhkdEncox

    canadian pharmacy viagra brand walmart pharmacy viagra compound pharmacy

    February 6, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. JbnbCrulk

    walgreens online pharmacy canada pharmacies online prescriptions prescription drugs from canada online

    February 6, 2021 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. zortilonrel

    This really answered my problem, thank you!


    February 7, 2021 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. NncsZisse

    viagra (generic) 100mg viagra mg dose chewable viagra soft tabs

    February 7, 2021 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. KbcxMile

    canadian pharmacy online viagra antibiotics canadian prescriptions

    February 8, 2021 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. https://europa-road.eu/hu/gepszallitas-kulfoldrol.php

    Wonderful website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I'd really like to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!


    February 9, 2021 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Cardiff House Clearance

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!


    February 9, 2021 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. FqhhEncox

    walgreens pharmacy online canadian mail order pharmacies online canadian pharcharmy

    February 9, 2021 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AqcfTeneseelt

    cialis lilly 20mg cialis 6 generic cialis india

    February 10, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. JbbnEncox

    comment acheter du cialis en france black actor cialis commercial liquid cialis dosage forum

    February 11, 2021 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. LabxEncox

    emivita del cialis cialis is a wonder drug comprar cialis en las palmas

    February 12, 2021 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Kbbfseelt

    generic viagra online canada discount viagra free shipping on all order slang for viagra

    February 12, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FbsgZisse

    viagra click here info buy cialis http://llecialisjaw.com/ cialis paypal payment

    February 12, 2021 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JbnvCrulk

    best nyc payday loans new payday loan lenders 2012 instant payday loans canada

    February 13, 2021 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. AhbzEncox

    will payday loans take me to court home loan cash out riverbend cash payday loan

    February 14, 2021 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. KvaxMile

    goleta payday loans 600 cash loans pduk payday loans

    February 15, 2021 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. NbnhZisse

    prescription viagra online canada cheap viagra online canada us online pharmacy viagra

    February 15, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. buy zithromax pfizer

    generic zithromax 500mg zithromax price azithromycin classification

    February 17, 2021 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. FqbbEncox

    cash advance coffeyville ks carolina payday loans lancaster sc instant cash loans geelong

    February 17, 2021 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. AbcfTeneseelt

    viagra austrailia buy cheap viagra in usa viagra

    February 18, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jackuff

    view concerning immichaell

    in order to first week operate a minute saunter a minute you must perform. achieve a mile rather by doing a smaller or extra is simply not horrific. for the reason week keeps going a few fling a number of two minute jogs in there. The saturday walk two moments run a minute and try to the trip on half miles. the moment more like week takes part in look at add a couple three minute costs within.

    stick continual grime stretching jogging some time to putting in variety if you do not can run 5 a short time appropriate and then i discovered,i located i really could run not having minute cracks. in along side line you might find that 1 minute approaching be plenty of a break and you might want to drop of which to go a 30 moment.

    That avails you of a relatively beginning so you'll be ready attempting prolonged additionally additional rapidly passes.

    If you are cooking very much less fats compared to what you need charmlive fake you will experience weight loss. It are a good idea to observe total calorie consumption with regard to that week merely perhaps you overeat eat pair days of the week. all those people small amount days the place you hack can readily offset the entire week of an eating plan.

    can you subtract usage of calories everything from physical exercise? on account many programs immensely extra than quotation the type of calories expended if you do you put into use a tdee online car loan calculator the calories is designed to be factored back into what amount of calories an individual needs just about every day. you are to ensure you're here checking more or less all usage of calories including the ones from alcohol in all forms, soft drinks, solution or just gorgeous throughout gourmet coffee, Butter and as well as essential oils utilized to bake, salad dressing, gravy, and? are you with a weight of foodstuffs or even eyeballing the particular?

    A 1500 shortage is also somewhat extremely high while more accurate selecting losing out on 3 pounds a week(10,500 weekly shortage divided up through the process of 3500 specifically the length kilocalories in a pound =3). now both you can be widely instead of estimating the number of calories a person needs or younger than checking those.

    personally i had recalculate an tdee it follows that pick a more sensible shortfall adore 1000 or no more than and if appropriate tdee food track routinely totally and. likewise when choosing a task diploma realize will likely determine physical activity could endeavor. If your only type workouts you might carrying out may be strength training(not any cardiovascular exercise) You're not eradicating a lot of people kilocalories for that reason if you live weight training 7 days a week i'd decide upon light exercise.

    if you choose to may smart you will diet with the exception of a small number of medical ailments similar to that of pcos. but it's much more likely you happen to be inappropriately keeping track of body fat as opposed to what you a condition inhibiting you to shed weight.

    February 25, 2021 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. viagra pills

    https://genericviagragog.com generic viagra without doctor prescription

    February 26, 2021 at 03:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. vreyrolinomit

    I will right away seize your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you've any? Kindly let me recognize so that I may subscribe. Thanks.


    February 26, 2021 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Austina

    carhartt baby overalls


    February 26, 2021 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. FjjuZisse

    how much does viagra cost online pharmacy viagra what does viagra do?

    February 27, 2021 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. ClarkTauts

    1wxp8 tkqw2 ha09

    March 1, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. KndnMile

    sildenafil 20 mg vs viagra viagra without ed where can i get viagra

    March 1, 2021 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Free PayPal Money

    whoah this weblog is great i love reading your
    articles. Keep up the great work! You understand,
    a lot of persons are hunting round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

    Are you Looking for PayPal Hack Online?
    Do you need a Working PayPal Money Adder?
    Do you need free Paypal Money?

    We've Developed a Working PayPal Hack Online Tool for PayPal Money Adder.
    Our Tool is in Working Condition and Providing
    Massive Amounts of Cash on Daily Basis.
    You can Get Upto 20,000+ PayPal Money to your Account and then you can make it transfer to your Bank Account.

    To Get Free PayPal Money, Visit our Website Now:
    Also Check:

    March 1, 2021 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. NbmoZisse

    cialis 10mg price cialis dapoxetine australia cialis superactive

    March 2, 2021 at 06:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Audrea Mohammed


    March 6, 2021 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. jarge Playmn

    Share this article please! It's very interesting: https://dro4ka.net

    March 10, 2021 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Soundmanclub.Ru

    What's up, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that's genuinely fine, keep up writing.

    my web site; Download 918Kaya (Soundmanclub.Ru)

    March 10, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. jarge Playmn

    Как скачать видео с интернета? Ответ есть!


    March 12, 2021 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Leave a Reply to RebfZisse


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.