Lesson 11: The Respiratory System (page 7 of 19)

Debris is moved out of the lungs with the aid of both the cilia and the cough reflex.


When Something Goes Wrong



An allergy is a hypersensitive condition that some people experience to substances that others find harmless. It is essentially a malfunction of the immune system. The problem is not an overly active immune system, as some people believe, but a misdirection of the immune system. Allergy sufferers usually need more support for their immune systems, not less, because their immune systems are overworked, fatigued, and unable to perform efficiently.

The immune system in allergic individuals produces antibodies against the substance they are allergic to, which is known as the allergen. When the antibody reacts with the allergen an allergic reaction results. The symptoms depend on the area where the interaction takes place. In the nasal cavity it can cause sneezing and runny nose or “hay fever.” In the air passages of the lungs it can cause constriction of the bronchial tubes with coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing, or asthma. On the skin it can cause hives, welts and itching.

The allergen, the substance producing the allergic reaction, is usually a protein or protein-carbohydrate complex. It may be inhaled (e.g., molds and pollen), eaten (e.g., shellfish), contacted through the skin (e.g., wool, poison ivy) or injected under the skin (e.g., penicillin.) The antibodies react with the allergen causing the body to release chemicals, including histamine, that bring about the allergic response.

Closely related to the allergen is the antigen, the substance that triggers the initial production of antibodies. In other words, the antigen refers to the substance that causes the allergy, and the allergen refers to the substance that triggers the allergic response. Like the allergen, the antigen is usually a protein or protein-carbohydrate complex.


What Causes Allergies?

Allergies often result from a “leaky gut”. The inner membrane of the small intestines, where food absorption takes place, is designed to allow tiny particles to pass into the bloodstream while larger particles are kept out. For example, before they are allowed to pass into the bloodstream, large protein molecules must be broken down by the body’s enzymes into tiny amino acids, the building blocks of protein. When large particles, such as whole protein molecules, pass into the bloodstream due to a “leaky gut,” they act as powerful antigens. The body’s immune system treats them as foreign objects and an immune reaction occurs resulting in antibody production.


What Causes a Leaky Gut?

A leaky gut results when the intestinal mucosa (the inner lining of the intestines) becomes inflamed and damaged. This is most commonly caused by 1) drugs, especially antibiotics and NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibuprofen; 2) an overgrowth of yeast in the intestinal tract; and 3) improper digestion of food, which is usually caused by a deficiency of digestive enzymes and insufficient mastication (chewing) of food. These factors are augmented by an imbalance in the bacteria of the gut, as when the normal beneficial bacteria, the flora, is overrun by the bad bacteria and yeast.

The symptoms of allergies are brought about when the body releases certain chemicals, including ____________, as a response to being exposed to an allergen.



(Select the best answer and click on the “Continue” button.)