Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Am Allergic to This Article. Or Am I Intolerant?

Interesting report that our science of allergy actually, ahem, blows.  Allergies are over-diagnosed--not a surprise.  We don't know why people shed them or develop them.  Well, that I didn't know, and is a huge gap in our knowledge.  Holy future dissertations, Batman!  Not to worry, Robin, as we have plenty of PhD students who need topics. 

Does this mean I am merely intolerant of all things that grow (trees, weeds, etc)?

The good news is that the report the NYT article is explaining is:
is part of a large project organized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to try to impose order on the chaos of food allergy testing. An expert panel will provide guidelines defining food allergies and giving criteria to diagnose and manage patients.
We were approached as in a sense the honest broker who could get parties together to look at this question,” said Dr. Matthew J. Fenton, who oversees the guidelines project for the allergy institute.
Authors of the new report — and experts on the guidelines panel — say even accepted dogma, like the idea that breast-fed babies have fewer allergies or that babies should not eat certain foods like eggs for the first year of life, have little evidence behind them.
 Some clarity:
Part of the confusion is over what is a food allergy and what is a food intolerance, Dr. Fenton said. Allergies involve the immune system, while intolerances generally do not. For example, a headache from sulfites in wine is not a food allergy. It is an intolerance. The same is true for lactose intolerance, caused by the lack of an enzyme needed to digest sugar in milk.
Ok, I have allergies.  But my relatively new yet sporadic reflux is not.  Too much food and beer apparently is simply too much food and beer. 

It is interesting to note that the chairman of the project is a mere associate professor.

Anyhow, this article is very interesting because it shows, if the authors are correct, that a basic part of health is so very poorly understood.  The next question is for the sociologists of medicine--why do we know so little this late in the game?

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