If you have allergies, you may ask yourself why. We often ask ourselves if allergies are genetic or a factor of our environment. Why do you suffer from allergies when your neighbor or friend doesn’t?
Maybe your close relative, such as your mother or sibling, has the same allergy as you do. Does this mean allergies are genetic?
It is possible!
Conditions such as allergies, eczema, and asthma follow a similar pattern when genetics play a role.
So, are allergies genetic? The answer is more complicated than yes or no. Although, allergies do have a genetic component that may increase your chances of having them.
What Are Allergies?
Let’s start from the basics and determine what allergies are. Why do we experience such various reactions?
The immune system handles producing antibodies, which when a person with allergies is exposed to a certain allergen will lead to allergy symptoms.
These symptoms may include skin rashes such as hives, sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, swelling of the throat or tongue, or inflammation of the sinuses or digestive tract.
While most allergies show mild symptoms, some can be life-threatening.
Allergies and Genetics
Your parents pass down genetic traits to you, as their parents passed traits to them. These inherited genes can determine your eye and hair color, height, and even illness and allergies.
The best way to predict and diagnose someone with an allergy is to look at the family history. A person with more than two direct relatives with allergies is almost three times more likely to develop allergies compared to someone who doesn’t.
The exact cause of allergies and their underlying mechanism is still misunderstood. Research is still ongoing, though.
Genetics is not the only cause of allergies. Predisposition is not predestination. Your lifestyle choices and environmental factors also play an important role.
Research and Studies
Researchers have and continue to study the possible link between genetics and allergies.
Allergies and Identical Twins
One study focused on identical twins and allergies. Researchers found identical twins don’t always share the same allergies.
If one twin is allergic to peanuts, there is a 65% chance that the other twin will have it too. While identical twins may have an allergy to the same substance, the reactions may be different.
Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS)
Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) look at the association between genetic variants and particular diseases. These studies scan genomes from individuals to search for genetic markers to predict disease.
Once found, researchers explore how these genes contribute to the development of diseases. They then study and create prevention and treatment methods for the diseases.
GWAS studies for allergies confirmed known genetic markers and recently identified ones that could lead to allergies.
Certain markers show overlapping susceptibility amongst eczema, allergies, and asthma. Researchers knew this for a while, as these conditions often run together and share a similar underlying mechanism.
Link Between Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases
Researchers also suggest that genetics could link allergies and autoimmune diseases.
A Danish study found people with allergies show certain changes in ten sites of the genome. These genome changes were not seen in people without allergies.
Three out of these ten genes linked to allergies were also associated with autoimmune diseases. These diseases include type 1 diabetes, MS, and inflammatory bowel disease.
This research clearly shows a connection between allergies and autoimmune diseases. If a person suffers from allergies, they are more likely to have an autoimmune disease too.
Lifestyle Choices Also Play a Part
Your lifestyle may also play a part in which allergies you develop genetically. Making healthy choices and taking care of yourself can prevent and manage allergies.
Make sure you sleep well. Just one night of poor sleep can disrupt and inhibit normal gene activity. These affected genes contribute to immune system function, inflammation, stress, metabolism, and more.
Eat a healthy diet. As a way to boost your immune system and improve allergy symptoms, you should have a healthy gut flora.
Avoid processed foods and adopt a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet is ideal. It offers a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, lean meats and fish, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds. You can contact a healthcare provider or nutritionist for a custom diet.
If you suspect that you have a food allergy, contact a health provider to run sensitivity tests. They can also help you manage and treat your allergies as needed.