I have included part of a fine article by Stan M. Gardner,MD with a link to Meridian Magazine so that you can read the entire article if you choose. I don’t offer it here because I believe this article is a cure-all or a seminal type of breakthrough article, but that each of us needs to absorb as much knowledge as possible in many fields if we truly intend to stay abreast of life and how to cope with it. Don White
Recently a young woman came into my office with a common complaint: With the advent of pollen season, her eyes were watering and itchy; she was congested and miserable and unable to sleep, sneezing constantly. Many of you relate.
In order for us to understand an immune system gone awry (which is what allergies are all about), we must first understand the normal immune response. When any foreign particle enters our body, a host of defenders rushes to the site. These defenders are called “white blood cells,” and they perceive the foreign substance as the enemy.
We call the foreign substances “antigens.” These may be infectious agents, pollen in the air, dander from animals, mold spores, chemicals, or other allergens.
Some of the defenders are called “macrophages.” They are capable of digesting the foreign material, much like PacMan. Another white blood cell, called a “basophil,” releases pro-inflammatory substances. In medical jargon, these pro-inflammatory substances have names like interleukins, cytokines, prostaglandins, and histamines. These cause inflammation, pain, and swelling at the local site.
These basophils also stimulate the immune system, which attracts antibodies and T lymphocytes to the area. The antibodies bind to the infectious agent and create what we call an antigen-antibody complex. All that means is that the antigen and the antibody have connected to each other. The liver destroys these antigen-antibody complexes.
The other thing the antibodies do is initiate a series of steps called a “complement cascade,” which causes the lysis, or destruction, of the antigen.
This cascade will also digest the dead parts and release more pro-inflammatory substances. The T lymphocytes consist of three different types: one has a memory that remembers the previous exposure to this particular (usually infectious) agent. This is similar to when we get exposed to a virus as a child. Our body creates these memory lymphocytes that immediately attack that same virus in later years, so the virus cannot cause symptoms of an actual infection. There are also T lymphocytes that are called helper cells that assist in the overall destruction of these foreign agents.
Perhaps the most important of the T lymphocytes are called killer cells. Why are they called “killer cells?” Because they have the capability of providing the final blow to kill infectious agents and cancer cells.
When the immune system is functioning properly, it provides an excellent protection against the many foreign substances that exist in our world. When, however, the reaction to these foreign substances is prolonged or overwhelming, we see the abnormal immune response that may create allergies, autoimmune disease, recurrent infections, or even cancer.
For more on Allergies, read the entire article at Meridian Magazine: