Not only has the Huffington Post run a poorly informed and incredibly biased article by Jim Carrey (much better known as The Mask and Ace Ventura than a medical expert) on the autism-vaccine link, they're also pimping a link to some site called Intent with an article entitled "The Self Against the Self: Deal With Seasonal Allergies Naturally and Cheaply". The Sciborgs Orac, Abel Pharmboy, and PalMD have ably knocked the wind out of the "ZOMGVAXXIENZ!" argument cloud fogging Mr. Carrey's brain. So I will be burning the latter article.
"The Self Against the Self: Deal With Seasonal Allergies Naturally and Cheaply" contains some vague mystical advice about how to use Zen and Detoxification to get rid of allergy symptoms. It was written by one Debbie Mandel (website), author of several spiritual self-help books, and whose Intent bio says she will help you build immunity to feeling bad. Note that she is not an immunologist, nor even a biologist, but she'll tell you how to build immunity anyway. I wouldn't have a problem with this claim because building immunity can, sometimes, have a different connotation of inuring one against something unfavorable IF she hadn't actually tried, and failed epically, to invoke actual immunology.
Your response to allergens correlates to how balanced you are regarding: eating, exercising, sleeping and stress-management. Allergies are actually an auto-immune response which translates into: the self against the self. [boldface hers]First the less egregious problem about homeostatic health and allergies: No, allergen responses don't much depend on whether you're stressed out about work or not. Just ask someone with an acute peanut allergy. Allergic responses are, however, modulated through general systemic inflammation if it exists, but this isn't much relevant unless you're morbidly obese (excess fat can increase inflammation).
This second claim, though, is either sheer stupidity or inability to do research. Allergies and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis are NOT the same thing. Some cases of autoimmunity may have similar underlying immune responses as allergy, but this does not mean they are alike. It is true that allergies are an abnormal immune response, but not against the self. Allergens are strictly defined as harmless environmental substances that evoke an immune response as if they were harmful. Or, as a professor once put it, allergens are nonharmful nonself being treated by the immune system as though they are harmful nonself.
The human body, and its immune cells, come into daily contact with millions of nonself molecules and doesn't have an allergic reaction to them. The immune system is generally quite good at distinguishing between what can harm us and what cannot. Allergies arise when the immune system mistakes something that is harmless, like pollen, as harmful and reacts to it.
Here's how allergies basically work (my explanation):
1) Dendritic cells present antigen in MHCII to CD4+ T-cells all the time without much caring what they're presenting. Sometimes harmless antigen gets presented.At no point in this is the immune system reacting against host antigens. In fact, the immune system tries very hard to kill all host-reactive T-cells as they're being made (this results in >99% of all developing T-cells being killed off). If Debbie Mandel had done her research before making up the above assertion, she'd have known better. This is irresponsible, dishonest, and lazy. Although I guess the immune system reacting against harmless environmental substances just isn't as fear-inducing as a self-reactive immune system.
2) Some naive CD4+ T-cells are, by virtue of the recombination and mutagenesis that occur as the T-cell receptors are being formed, naturally reactive against that harmless antigen.
3) Harmless antigen-reactive CD4+ T-cells proliferate and usually differentiate into a TH2-type response. The TH2 T-cell phenotype is characterized by secretion of IL-4.
4) TH2 T-cells talk to B-cells and get them to make antibodies against the harmless antigen, now an allergen. Allergen-specific antibodies are usually of the IgE isotype.
5) IgE gets made and secreted into the plasma, where it can become the receptor for mast cells and basophils. Eosinophils get involved in this, too.
6) When an allergen binds mast cell-IgE, it signals the mast cell to release allergy symptom-causing histamines, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. These chemicals are generally what allergy medications try to work against.
7) Some allergen-reactive TH2 T-cells and their corresponding B-cells will become memory cells, ready to spring back into action at the drop of their allergen.
Your response to allergens correlates to how balanced you are regarding: eating, exercising, sleeping and stress-management. Allergies are actually an auto-immune response which translates into: the self against the self. So, it makes absolute sense that when you are intact and whole, your allergies will dissipate and no longer bother you; your immune system will be more vigilant. I present myself as a test case.It only makes sense if you're poorly informed. Memory immune cells last for many many many years, or else vaccines wouldn't work at all. Presenting herself as a test case is also stupid. How many times do we need to tell people that anecdotes do not equal evidence!?
For years I was an allergy sufferer. My sinus headaches, dizziness, itchy eyes and occasional tiredness always arrived with spring. Every morning I woke up to coffee and Allegra D 180 mg. However, in the past few years I rarely have any symptoms except for the occasional itchy eye and more important, no more killer headaches and sinus pressure!
What has changed? I stopped taking the medication five years ago, ate more fruits and vegetables and basically stopped fighting Mother Nature; I vowed to get along with her no matter what the weather. Brazenly, I went out to my garden, in the trenches, fertilizing, weeding, mulching and pruning without the fear or the expectation of an allergic reaction. I made up my mind not to have any symptoms and oh yes, I almost forgot, I managed my stress.
Note that she doesn't mention how long it took her to stop having symptoms. In all probability, she was quite miserable for the first couple years. What she did here was not Mystical Woo Magic, it was a clumsy and messy version of hyposensitization treatment. In clinical hyposensitization treatment, patients with allergies are inoculated with progressively greater doses of purified allergens. Hyposensitization does not exactly cure allergies, but it does relieve symptoms by skewing the immune response away from a TH2 IgE to a TH1 IgG, which doesn't rely on the mast cells or basophils that can mediate allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. Ms. Mandel would have gotten the same results clinically (but that would have meant vaccine-like injections, which might contain Teh Mercury and Teh Aluminumz! ZOMGs!).
Ultimately, this might have been an interesting and useful article if Debbie Mandel had done their research properly. As it is, her failure to do so has made her writing as flimsy as her detoxicification and Teh Evil Sugarz screeds.
Post Script: Please note that I do not have a problem with people writing about the immune system in the popular media. In fact, I support the information and principles getting more exposure because I think the immune system is The Awesome Eleventy Coolness. If I could, I'd pass out the DC-->T-cell-->B-cell-->antibody dogma in tasty ladlefuls on the street corners if it could be made into a pudding. However, I have a big problem with non-scientists who are completely unqualified trying to assume professional authority and opine about the mechanics of the immune system, or any science for that matter, when they have not done the research thoroughly. That's just irresponsible.