Oral immunotherapy has been positioned as a safe alternative to combat food allergies, especially in children.
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There are people who are more likely than others to suffer from certain food allergies, which in many cases usually develop from childhood. The truth is that each person will present themselves in different ways, according to information endorsed by the Mayo Clinic a food allergy is a reaction of the immune system that occurs shortly after eating a certain food. Even a small amount of the food that causes the allergy can cause signs and symptoms, such as digestive problems, hives, or inflammation of the airways. Although for years the treatment has been based on avoiding the consumption of these “allergenic” foods and on the intake of certain antihistamine drugs. A recent Japanese study has shown that rapid improvements in food allergies can be achieved by “Feeding therapy”, in which the culprit, such as eggs, milk, shellfish and wheat, are not completely eliminated from the diet, but are ingested in small quantities and always under medical supervision.
Based on this, many people have wondered if through this strategy it is possible to drastically reduce the cases of food allergies in children, adolescents and even adults. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan in public elementary, middle and high schools, it is estimated that between 4 and 5% of the students suffer from some type of food allergies. In this way it is a health problem that is worth attending.
Although, in many cases food allergies cause symptoms immediately after eating. In some circumstances, even a small amount of food can cause life-threatening symptoms, such as shortness of breath and low blood pressure, but in the past the common method of treating food allergies was “Remove completely” the food allergy trigger from the diet. Today science invites us to explore other paths.
It is worth mentioning that this theory is not so recent, its main antecedent occurred in 2007, since it was presented at an academic conference in Japan and was based on a hypothesis about how allergic reactions can be suppressed by eating small amounts of food under the supervision of a specialized doctor. Named “oral immunotherapy” by researchers, it is a concept that is based on applying the mechanism of the human body to form immune cells that suppress allergic reactions when people continue to eat the foods that cause allergies.
In recent years, various clinical studies have joined the theory to confirm the safety and efficacy of this method of therapy. And the surprise has been that the efficacy of treatment and preventive measures based on this mechanism has been scientifically confirmed; in fact, evidence continues to accumulate in its favor. Such is the case of a very recent study, published in January 2021 by an international journal of pediatrics from the National Center for Child Health and Development of Japan. Which was based on observing 43 children aged 2 to 6 years, who had tested positive for allergy to eggs The results? Of the 13 children who had completely eliminated eggs from their diet: 12 were still allergic, but of the 30 children who had not completely eliminated the food that caused the allergy, 16 had improved Marvelous! There is also another reference a little earlier than August 2020, in which a team of researchers from the University of Juntendo announced the detailed mechanism by which oral immunotherapy suppresses the appearance of food allergy symptoms through experiments in mice. They found that the group of cells that have the characteristic of suppressing immunity increased throughout the body.
Meanwhile, in April 2018, Cochrane, a UK-based international private academic organization, evaluated oral immunotherapy for an egg allergy using multiple studies and found it “effective”, but he also pointed out that there were cases of severe allergic reactions and therefore some people stopped participating in the studies. This proves that despite being a fairly sustainable method, there are cases in which it is not.
There is also another large sample, in which the results of a survey on some 300 medical institutions throughout Japan. Published by the Japanese Society of Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2017, it was found that only nine children who received this therapy had severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing on their own. Kiwako Yamamoto, chief of the general division of allergies at the National Center for Child Health and Development, said: “There is a possibility that children have been fed more than allowed found in the oral food challenge test. Among the most relevant conclusions, he found that allergies can be suppressed even when the amount of the offending food is much less than allowed. Therefore, if safe treatment methods are established, the risk of severe symptoms will be greatly reduced.
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