Dealing with allergies can be a chore, especially when none of your treatment options show any signs of working. You can exhaust all other options before you finally find something that works for you.
If you have been seeking alternative treatment options, you might want to consider oral immunotherapy. Believe it or not, one of the best ways to treat an allergy is by introducing the allergen to your system. When you have learned everything you need to know about immunotherapy, you can decide if this treatment is correct for you.
What is Oral Immunotherapy And How Can I use it?
Oral immunotherapy requires you to take small amounts of the allergen by mouth. This practice is introduced to the body for food allergies. At first, you will go through rapidly induced desensitization, where you can begin to tolerate an allergen through immunotherapy. After some time, you will get to the tolerance level, where allergic symptoms deteriorate.
If you are using immunotherapy, you will usually take a protein powder supplement with water or another type of mixture, such as applesauce or juice. Treatments will begin in a clinical setting where doctors can slowly increase the amount given to you. Eventually, you will reach a targeted dose if the oral immunotherapy treatments are progressing. Doses will vary depending on which food allergy you are attempting to treat.
Research has produced varying results over the past century. Most studies happened in the last 30 years or so. Food allergies to groups such as milk, egg, and fresh fruits have all shown positive results when treated with this procedure.
What Happens At The End of An Oral Immunotherapy Treatment?
When treatments are administered, you want to reach a daily dosing schedule with two goals. Ideally, you will not have to avoid your allergens anymore, enabling yourself to eat anything you like. This leads to the second goal: enjoying your former allergens like any other food.
Some people might choose to shorten the treatment sessions. This is meant to only bring up protection against accidental exposures. Shorter sessions with immunotherapy are not designed to eliminate allergies completely. In case of an accidental exposure, your body has just enough resistance to not need emergency response.
If you complete an entire schedule, you don’t necessarily have to add the food(s) back into your regular diet. You will, however, still want to occasionally add some of the food to your meals to continue your resistance to the allergy. A daily maintenance schedule can be recommended by your doctor.
How Effective Is Oral Immunotherapy at Fighting Allergies?
You can’t argue with science. All research points to the positive effects of oral immunotherapy and its use in desensitizing people to food allergies. If you start this practice and stick with it for the long term, there is a significant chance you will no longer have to avoid your food allergies.
Although this means not having to avoid these foods, there is little evidence to suggest that long-term tolerance can be obtained from oral treatment. To this day, scientists and medical researchers continue to research if this can potentially eliminate allergies completely. Right now, there will always be a necessary maintenance/daily dose.
After a certain amount of time, you might be able to discontinue the daily exposure to your allergens. Research still doesn’t know exactly how long this takes, but patients have been able to stop their treatments for a month or two at a time. After a break, all patients are put back on their previously scheduled allergy treatment.
Many of the research cases have analyzed patient allergies to common foods like eggs, milk, and fish. Most of the time, patients that successfully pass through to the maintenance stage find themselves desensitized to the food for which they are treated. In certain cases, the therapy schedule was only designed to get them to resistance.
As research continues to improve, the levels of exposure and the ability to provide better feedback helps the treatment process. Now, patients typically opt to increase exposure level to help their symptoms. There are still those who wish to go through this procedure to save themselves from emergencies. Certain treatment options are designed for this method, while others are designed to help patients reintroduce these foods to their diet.
Will I Be Safe During Oral Immunotherapy?
The risks of oral immunotherapy are minimal at worst. During your first treatment, the symptoms usually associated with food allergies will likely manifest. You’ll go through mild episodes of nausea, itching and burning, or a minor breakout of hives.
Severe reactions are very uncommon, but they do exist. It is possible for patients to experience what is classified as a severe reaction. There is potential for anaphylactic shock and other complications stemming from treatment for allergens.
Patients can usually finish the entire treatment. In some case, you might have various reasons for not being able to complete the entire treatment schedule. This could be anything from scheduling conflicts to not being able to tolerate any symptoms.
If you have higher tolerance for gastrointestinal pain or burning sensations, you might be more equipped to handle the side effects of treatment. In very rare cases, patients had to discontinue treatment due to complications developed from the therapy.
The drop-out rate was also affected by the ability to slow down a schedule of doses when adjustments were needed. Thanks to people being able to adjust their schedules with treatment options, doctors and researchers worked with patients to come up with the best options for using immunotherapy in their daily routines.
What Foods Can Be Treated With Oral Immunotherapy?
Image via Pexels
The previous foods mentioned in the course of oral immunotherapy are just a selection of what can be treated. There are different treatment schedules and options for different foods, but for the most part, they are built on the same basic idea of desensitization. The same principle of treatment could be used in other treatment areas for medicine, and it works similarly to the treatment of other allergies to areas such as medicines or skin reactions.
There are currently immunotherapy treatments for plenty of common allergy areas. Oral exposure can be sought for sesame seeds, tree nuts, and shrimp, on top of the other common foods covered here.
What Should I Consider Before Starting Oral Immunotherapy?
Before you begin, you may want to ask yourself about the necessity of it. How bad is your allergic reaction to a given food? It’s a common situation of risk vs. reward, but you should also keep in mind the high cost of treatment. You would also want to be sure that your quality of life will be greatly improved by the ability to eat a certain food once again.
By beginning this treatment plan, you are taking a big step in conquering your own body. It’s a great mental exercise and helps boost your confidence in other areas. If the human body can beat allergies, it might inspire you to take up other physical activities. Once you have built up the correct resistance to your allergens, you can try your hand at a brand-new exercise program.
During your treatment, keep your doctors aware of all new treatments and medications involved in your continuing immunotherapy. Certain drugs do not interact well with certain types of food. If you don’t keep everyone in the loop, you could risk a severe reaction that could have been avoided by keeping your details straight.
If your family shares the same allergy, you might consider trying the program with them. By helping your loved ones go along with a session, you can support them by explaining your own experience with the program. A good portion of the fear associated with a new treatment in medicine can be alleviated with your own input.
Final Thoughts On Oral Immunotherapy and Allergies
Having an allergy to a delicious food doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Thanks to advances in medical science, you can build up your resistance to whatever food has set off your body’s alarms.
While you can never guarantee what the treatment will do to you personally, there is an amazing amount of evidence in your favor. If you have a dairy allergy, you may not be drinking milkshakes every day, but you can comfortably eat at a restaurant without worrying about cross-contamination.
Oral immunotherapy might be the start of a brand-new chapter in your life. Talk to your family doctor or allergist about a potential course of treatment. Don’t give up on being able to enjoy all kinds of foods again.
Featured Image: Image via Pexels