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. Jocelyn

    Very well worded!


    March 12, 2021 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. 918kaya ewallet

    Great weblog right here! Additionally your site rather a lot up very fast!
    What host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate link in your
    host? I want my website loaded up as quickly as
    yours lol

    Look at my web page – 918kaya ewallet

    March 13, 2021 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KipQStpeters

    Excellent post. I had been checking constantly this blog and I'm impressed!
    Extremely helpful info specially the final part 🙂 I maintain such info a whole lot.

    I had been searching for this certain info for the long time.

    Thanks a lot and have a great time.

    my web page :: KipQStpeters

    March 17, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sensual massage london

    Thanks again for the blog post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.


    March 22, 2021 at 05:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JvqqEncox

    https://dissertationahelp.com/ – help writing dissertation dissertation writing coach dissertation ideas umi dissertation publishing

    March 23, 2021 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LmoppEncox

    http://essaywriteris.com/ – write my essay 4 me cheap essay services essay writer program best essay writers review

    March 24, 2021 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jarge Playmn

    Порно Фильмы – Огромная онлайн коллекция с бесплатным порно видео и ежедневными обновлениеми на любой вкус. Русское, домашнее, секс видео зрелых, анал, красивые девушки, бдсм, видео молодых, жены, измены, сиськи и другие категории. Смотреть порно фильмы можно как на компьютере так и на мобильном телефоне!

    March 24, 2021 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply

    online homework help reviews custom essays service will writing service crawley need help with coursework

    March 27, 2021 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. GrvCrulk

    https://kloviagrli.com/ – reddit viagra https://vigedon.com/ – is viagra sold over the counter https://llecialisjaw.com/ – cialis mexico https://jwcialislrt.com/ – bph cialis https://jecialisbn.com/ – cialis manufacturer coupon 2018

    March 27, 2021 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. vSokbKCerS

    doing homework clipart why do we have to write essays buy business plan pro fast writing service

    March 28, 2021 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jarge Playmn

    Hello! It's a best video downloader online – FastFrom, allows to save all videos from internet to you mobile or PC.


    March 29, 2021 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. XvceOUqqum

    springfield mo resume writing service legit essay writing services geography homework help online persuasive essay body paragraph order

    March 29, 2021 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. BrfgMile

    https://ljcialishe.com/ – cialis vs viagra cost https://cialisvja.com/ – cialis 100mg https://viagraonlinejc.com/ – how to take viagra with water or milk https://viagratx.com/ – how long before sex do you take viagra https://buycialisxz.com/ – cialis patent expiration 2016

    March 29, 2021 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. WsEbiwpdYw

    homework help 4chan definition essay help service level agreement literature review online paper writing service

    March 30, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. DJfrLurSOn

    buy and sell of palay business plan chicken run essay help best college admissions essays sell essays online

    April 1, 2021 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. AbgcEncox

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – thesis proposal example writing my thesis thesis advice umi thesis

    April 2, 2021 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ASJymMCULu

    chegg homework help my questions help with help with essay uk will writing service bristol homework help bronx

    April 2, 2021 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. zonWCyxUNW

    write my paper for me essay about doing household chores louisiana purchase thesis statement easter islands end

    April 3, 2021 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BKZhVjkhJb

    dance homework help buy a essay online writing custom xslt function shaytards help me with my homework dad

    April 4, 2021 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LsBHAsAvqD

    does homework really help students cheapest essay writing service usa model question paper for civil service exam doing your literature review jesson

    April 5, 2021 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. BLcPTqVCGN

    cv writing service stoke on trent essay writing service brisbane best buy case study strategic management good topics for presentations

    April 5, 2021 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ezQZQbUTKT

    okay google do my homework romeo and juliet essay help how can we help homeless essay reflection paper nstp community service

    April 5, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. FcMomRvyiU

    business plan security service company help with help with tok essay 2015 homework service singapore essay writing service for college

    April 6, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rmHyLaodNR

    coursework help london service uk essay marking service homework help christianity paid essay writing service

    April 10, 2021 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ghsXUtLCuw

    report writing fire service money cant buy me love essay best essay editing service help writing narrative essay

    April 11, 2021 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RoRrpBpoIC

    reflection paper on community service essay grading service for teachers research paper editing service citizenship coursework help

    April 12, 2021 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. nyCosFQrPZ

    buy my dissertation york university essay writing help dissertation help edinburgh pay it forward summary essay

    April 14, 2021 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. ZsesoZDphY

    help me to do homework navy rotc essay help essay importance of customer service doing math homework online

    April 15, 2021 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. QrwdFrvxuE

    perfect essay writing service mba essay service review a new world order selected essays writing essays help

    April 16, 2021 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. url

    Good replies in return of this issue with solid arguments and describing everything on the topic of that.

    April 17, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. qUryyYJEpb

    best college admissions essays civil service essay paper 2015 about dog essay get paid for doing others homework

    April 18, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. xHjjHfMFOA

    custom essay writing services epik essay help paper writing website engineering coursework writing service

    April 19, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. FxDvbCwfaY

    sleepy while doing homework service improvement essay nhs assignment writing service usa term paper typing service

    April 21, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. KbLcYHTNKw

    sports medicine research topics bmat essay help i need help coming up with a thesis statement parabola homework assignment help

    April 22, 2021 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Dan Schuur

    world is changing


    April 23, 2021 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. JbsdEncox

    Trazodone canadian pharmacy online viagra weight loss

    April 23, 2021 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. BbdfMile

    viagra pfizer http://gensitecil.com/ buy cheap viagra

    April 23, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. LhdvZisse

    what is super cialis, cialis dapoxetine http://asciled.com/ – cialis or viagra ? cialis free trial no prescription

    April 24, 2021 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. houses for sale twin lakes idaho

    I was able to find good info from your blog articles.


    April 24, 2021 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Renovation Orange County


    April 24, 2021 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. New Forklift Cylinders California

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    April 24, 2021 at 04:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. JbsdEncox

    Frumil http://onlinecanda21.com/ Glucophage

    April 24, 2021 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. LrbsEncox

    levitra dosage drug use levitra levitra price

    April 24, 2021 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. GvdbCrulk

    tadalafil 20mg uk https://boxtadafil.com/ – combitic global tadalafil buy tadalafil 20mg

    April 24, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RfvbZisse

    cialis online canada paypal http://cileve.com/ – cialis buy info/ cialis american express

    April 24, 2021 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. rv refrigerator repair near me


    April 25, 2021 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Remodeling Orange County


    April 25, 2021 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. LhdvZisse

    buy cialis free shipping https://asciled.com/ – brand cialis australia san antonio cialis doctor

    April 26, 2021 at 04:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. AbdgEncox

    cheap viagra online canadian pharmacy https://canadianeve21.com/ – drugstore online Eriacta

    April 26, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. LrbsEncox

    levitra 10 mg costo levitra patent levitra online canada

    April 26, 2021 at 16:51 | 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 Camper Repair Near Me


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.