When the word “Allergy” was first introduced into the language of medicine about a century ago, it is unlikely that anyone envisaged the controversy that it would cause. Originally intended to mean any condition occurring as a result of an unusual reaction to substances regarded as non-self, (which included anything swallowed, inhaled or touched), the definition was soon narrowed by scientists who saw in some allergic reactions a clear parallel with the way in which the body deals with infections. Gradually, then, it was seen as a “truth” that unless this physiological response – the Type one or Antigen/Antibody response could be demonstrated, an allergy was not involved. This meant that without an obvious physical link between multiple symptoms, it could be concluded that the patients’ problems had a psychological basis and were treated as such.
The allergy debate continued until some thirty years ago, when evidence began to emerge that this “truth” was nowhere near the whole picture.
Whilst a high level of stress can be the trigger that sets off an allergy, there is likely to be also an inherited malfunction of the immune system – both these factors playing their part in development of the problem. Indeed, the symptoms of allergy can increase or decrease in severity depending on the patient’s stress level at the time.
The allergic response is inflammatory and symptoms appear in “target” organs. Skin, eyes, lungs and bowel are obvious targets, but allergic symptoms may also appear in muscles, joints, brain and other organs. The link between symptoms is not psychological, but is physical inflammation.