As I previously outlined, the Immune System has specifically to do with blood, rather than being merely a vaguely general bodily function. Responsible for general health and wellness, it deals with viruses and bacteria, such as cold, flu and infections while being responsible for handling allergens, which include anything from mold and pollen to food. Most people don’t immediately recall types of blood cells off the top of their head unless they become familiar after having experienced serious illness or having been given a blood test. Even then they may be confused by the jargon.
Recall, there are red (a.k.a. erythrocytes) and white (a.k.a. leukocytes) blood cells. Though the most common white cells are Neutrophil (immediate response), there are also Lymphocytes, of which there are two types: T, which regulate the function of other immune cells and attack infection and tumors and B, which make antibodies; protein that targets bacteria, viruses and other foreign materials. These are most commonly referenced by scientists and medical professionals when explaining the effects of a disease or how the patient’s Immune System is responding to the treatment of it.
T cells are helpers; they detect infection then tell B cells to produce antibodies. Cytotoxic Ts (a.k.a. Killer) cells destroy the infected cells to keep them from reproducing. Regulatory Ts tell the Immune System to stop fighting when they think determine the battle is over. Memory Ts are custom antibodies developed specific to the particular substance under attack; the very same will arrive to fight the substance each time they encounter it, thus making the response faster each time. This is good for fighting a cold or flu virus but bad if they determine a food, such as corn in my case, is a threat.
B cells mature into plasma cells, which produce antibodies (a.k.a. Immunoglobulins or “Ig” for short). These attach to foreign invaders and target/ mark them for destruction. Even if you’re somewhat familiar with the concept of antibodies, here’s where the various kinds get confusing:
- IgM respond first– they stay in the bloodstream to help kill bacteria.
- IgG are next– there’s a large network in blood and tissue. They bind to pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, so immune cells have an easier time destroying them.
- IgA are secreted in fluids (e.g. tears, saliva, mucus). They protect the respiratory tract and intestines from infection.
- IgE are normally present in trace amounts– they’re important in allergic reactions.
- IgD may be present on the surface of B cells but their function is not well understood at present.
While the differences may seem too technical, i.e. unimportant for a layperson, getting the terminology right is important for understanding the varying reactions to food allergies, which can certainly change over time and differ from one person to the next. This creates confusion and leads to many misconceptions about identifying a reaction. Hopefully, as blood cells and their functions are studied, they Immune System responses can be better understood.
In the meantime, please refer to my previous post, Navigating Food Sensitivity Diagnoses regarding steps to take when consulting a medical professional, who may not necessarily understand good allergies better than their patients. Incidentally, my allergy support group has discovered that– contrary to popular belief– it is possible to have an allergic reaction to more than just the protein, the supposed removal of which doesn’t consistently protect against it.