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Are Inflammation, Immunity, And Allergic Reactions A Role For Supplements?

Nov 18, 2007
Inflammation, immunity diseases and allergic reactions are all connected with your immune system, and the way the body reacts to what it considers to be foreign invaders that are a risk to your health. Although you may not understand that all three have the basic underlying cause, in fact they do, and here is why.

Inflammation manifests as pain and swelling in the inflamed area, and not only can the area also get hot, but it can also raise your temperature in general, commonly called a fever. Fever is the body's way of raising temperature above that at which foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses can live, so any inflammatory condition that results in fever by definition must be an immune response through the body trying to eliminate foreign invaders.

If your body gets injured in any way, your immune system responds, and usually calms down again if decides that the injury is not serious. Your immune system is actually initiated by what are known as pro-inflammatory hormones, such as prostaglandins that stimulate the nerves to signal pain and swell the blood vessels close to the injury to make room for the large white blood cells when they arrive. That also allows blood and plasma to rush out and cause swelling at the site of the injury. Other prostaglandins act to quell the immune response, and get your body back to normal.

Another such hormone is a cytokine, which informs the brain of the intrusion. Some cytokines called leukocytes stop the immune system when necessary to prevent the destruction of healthy tissue, and also halt the inflammatory response. If the leukocytes are not working properly, the body can be severely damaged as the immune system becomes uncontrolled and starts to attack healthy tissue.

Then there are the histamines that allow you to expel the agents causing the problem by sneezing, watery eyes, runny noses and scratching. They lead lymphatic fluid and blood to the site of the problem in order that the invasion can be attacked and destroyed.

It is the histamines that provide what is commonly referred to as an allergic reaction, which is really the immune system coming into action to remove invaders such as pollen, dust mites and any other agent that can cause an allergy. Immunity is caused by introducing small amounts of the agent into the blood, so that the immune system can develop a memory of them. Then, when the same invader returns at a later date, the system can immediately attack them with the antibodies that have been produced.

All of these: inflammation, immunity and allergies, are caused by the reaction of the immune system to what it perceives as an invader. Normally these are bacteria and viruses, but sometimes they react to other foreign bodies such as pollen. In some people this provokes no response at all, while in others it provokes the immune system to create antibodies against the pollen, and emit histamine to expel it.

Substances that cause allergies are referred to as allergens. Many allergens are environmental, such as dust, pollen and peanuts. Some people are allergic to certain animals, such as cats or dogs, and others to chemicals in the air such as hydrocarbon emissions, particularly when in particulate form.

The symptoms can be simple, such as a runny nose, a cough and hay fever or more complex such as hives, eczema and asthma. All of these are caused by the immune system reacting to an invader. There are also foods that cause internal inflammation, such as shellfish and whitefish, eggs and tomatoes. Many of these can be extreme, leading to serious illness and can even be fatal. So what can be done to treat people who are particularly prone to inflammation and allergic reactions?

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce inflammation, unlike their Omega-6 cousins that appear to increase it. Omega-3 oils contain chemicals known as eicosanoids, of which the prostaglandins are an example. While this might seem paradoxical, since prostaglandins are what set off the whole process, there are many types of these. Prostaglandin E2 is the type that leads to allergic immune reactions, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce the concentration of these in the blood.

Those who eat little fish tend to suffer more from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and other conditions indicating a lack of control of the immune system. On the other hand, processed foods contain more omega-6 fatty acids that can promote these conditions. The major components of omega-3 oils are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and also DHA, docosahexaenoic acid. These are all anti-inflammatories and have been shown to have very positive effects on inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and eczema. Each of these is a different type of inflammatory condition caused by inappropriate immune response.

However, it not just fish oils that can help resolve problems with our immune system. Quercetin is what is known as a flavonoid. It is a strong anti-oxidant and natural anti-histamine that combats histamine release and the swelling associated with the immune response to allergens. It also counters the inflammatory agents of arthritis and so helps to reduce the pain associated with many of these conditions. It appears to work better in conjunction with bromelain, a very powerful anti-inflammatory that also possesses anti-allergen response properties. Bromelain is extracted from pineapple stems.

Another natural product is a resin extract that is obtained from the Boswellia serrata tree. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and has been recommended for the treatment of arthritis (rheumatoid and osteo), Crohn's disease and has been suggested as a treatment for asthma, though studies are still under way. However, world wide experience is that Boswellia is effective against gout, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis, to name another three totally different inflammatory conditions.

What all of this indicates are two things. First that inflammation, immunity and allergic reactions are connected conditions, and due to either poor control over or an over stimulated immune response to what the body perceives as being abnormal, in the way that hormones and other chemicals that are used to control our immunity detect it to be.

Secondly, there are many natural products that can be used as supplements to treat these effects caused by the immune system, and that their effectiveness has been proven, if not by scientific study, then by generations of traditional application as treatments of the symptoms of the conditions concerned.

However, although many have been proved by scientific study, others have not, and you should always refer to your physician before undergoing any treatment other than that prescribed. Also, there is incontrovertible evidence that the role for supplements in the treatment of inflammation, immunity and allergic reactions are beneficial. Many use nothing else.
About the Author
More information on inflammation, immunity, and natural supplements can be found at VitaNet, LLC Health Foods; your source for discount vitamin supplements.
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