Barrier Function Default

This theory espouses the fact that certain of our bodily systems are designed as barriers to keep the outside out. For example, digestion is designed to break down complex food molecules into their component nutrients that the body can put to use. Any malfunction of digestion, whether caused by illness, medication, genetic deficiency or other agency, can lead to improper digestion and the potential of leaky gut syndrome. Although, as we have previously mentioned, this is not a medical diagnosis, the mechanism for the condition causing allergies is easily described and understood. Through a breakdown of the digestive process, partially digested food particles enter the bloodstream and are treated as antigens as in the above description of the process. Causes for digestive malfunction can include excessive alcohol consumption, viral, fungal or bacterial infections, parasites, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), antibiotics, excessive stress and radiation.

Likewise, the mucous coating the lining of nasal passages and lungs is designed to trap and keep out large particles that would be foreign to respiratory function. Cilia, small hair-like organs, move the particles mixed with mucous to the upper throat (pharynx) where they are expelled by coughing or swallowed and destroyed by stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Environmental irritants, dry air and some medications can damage the mucous membranes and allow the particles instead to enter the bloodstream where once again they are recognized as antigens.

Finally, the skin is the third barrier, and compromising it can also allow the introduction of allergens. Dry or damaged skin that comes into frequent contact with fabrics, dyes, chemicals in laundry detergent and other household chemicals, cosmetics, perfume and aftershave products allows sensitization most frequently. Even lotions or topical medications can be a factor, and perspiration or heat that causes the blood vessels near the skin to dilate and increase absorption can exacerbate the problem. Other factors affecting absorption through the skin include those that impair the skin’s repair functions, such as deficiency of water or essential fatty acids, hormonal irregularities, ultraviolet radiation and stress.

In considering this theory, we must wonder which comes first, the malfunction of the barrier, or the introduction of the attacker, which could cause the breach from within. Nevertheless, particularly with regard to the digestion, it is certainly a good idea to do everything in our power to maintain the barriers that Nature has given us for our internal defenses.