Allergies Are An Inappropriate Immune Response. What’s Appropriate?

To understand allergies and their negative immune response I have chosen to start with understanding what happens when the immune system responds appropriately.

If our bodies immune response played to a soundtrack, it would be Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4. Starts slow, then works itself into a frenzy.

With the help of Paul Andersen’s excellent walk through of the immune system, I will attempt to break down what I have learned.

The Immune System Breakdown

We start with an antigen (invader).

The foreign substance is identified and eaten by a macrophage. (A type of white blood cell that ingests foreign material.)

The macrophage secrets enzymes (Protein that initiates a chemical reaction but won’t be altered itself) breaking up the antigen.

A little bit of the foreign substance left from the break up rises to the top of the macrophage. The macrophage then introduces the antigen to the T-cell. (White blood cell produced to regulate the immune system’s response to diseased or malignant cells.)

 T-helper cell (Provides help to other cells in the immune response) is activated producing activated Killer T-cells (specializes in attacking virus, cancer, and bacteria cells) AND Activated B-cells. (A type of white blood cell that produces antibodies.) They will clone and multiply.

The B-cell looks for antigens that match the produced receptors. The B-cell grabs onto the bacteria.

The Helper T-cell is a champ providing protein needed to a created  activated B-cells AND Killer T-cells.

Once the B-cell is activated it breaks up and produces a plasma cell (antibodies) that will attack the bacteria and create a memory cell.(These cells have a prolonged life span and can thereby “remember” specific intruders.)

The antigens in the humors of the body are attacked by antibodies and bacteria is ridden.

The Killer T-cell that is already attached to the cell infected by the antigen will secrete enzymes and the invaders will be eliminated.

A Little Awesomeness 

I found it AWESOME this complex process leaves behind memory cells stored in the body in case the same invader returns. It will be activated, and you will heal much quicker from the invader.

Now that we understand an immune system that functions appropriately, the focus for the next few weeks can be on understanding allergies and their inappropriate immune response.

Much love,


References and Medical Definitons:

Here are the medical terms I wanted to understand. I pulled the definitions form Medline Plus, medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary, and MedicineNet.


Antigen:  “An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen.”

Macrophage: “A type of white blood cell that ingests foreign material. Macrophages are key players in the immune response to foreign invaders of the body, such as infectious microorganisms. They are normally found in the liver, spleen, and connective tissues of the body.”

T-cell: “A type of white blood cell produced in the thymus gland that regulates the immune system’s response to diseased or malignant cells.”

T-helper cells: ” A type of T cell that provides help to other cells in the immune response by recognizing foreign antigens and secreting substances called cytokines that activate T and B cells.”

Killer T-cells: “Specialized in attacking cells of the body infected by viruses and sometimes also by bacteria”

B-cells:”A type of white blood cell and, specifically, a type of lymphocyte.”

Enzymes: “A protein that catalyzes chemical reactions of other substances without itself being destroyed or altered upon completion of the reactions.

Memory cell:”These cells have a prolonged life span and can thereby “remember” specific intruders.”




Go Ahead It’s Just Sprinkling-Breaking Beyond Life Barriers

Sitting down tying my shoes I heard Gram yell over from the next room… “Mija, it’s starting to rain.”

I quickly finished tying up my shoes and walked over to acknowledge Gram. I could sense my defenses rising and a hesitance about walking in the rain.

“Should I take a jacket? Maybe I shouldn’t go?”

Grams response… “Mija, go ahead it’s just sprinkling.”

I threw on my hat, grabbed for my walking stick, and headed out the door.

The intensity of the sprinkling started picking up after rounding the corner of the second block. I slowed down and contemplated turning back. I thought to myself…

“I don’t have an umbrella. What if the concrete gets too slippery and I fall. I should seriously turn back…”.

I quickly convinced myself to keep going (“Gram says it’s just sprinkling!”).

About a mile, into the walk the sprinkling turned to rain and it started coming down hard. I was about to get annoyed, and then something happened.

I found myself at the intersection where I normally turn around and head back home. Next thing you know I was pushing on the traffic signal button with the intention of walking across the street.

Beyond that intersection, about half a mile up is the grocery store and Target. When I first moved in with Gram I could only dream of walking to the grocery store. I envisioned walking to the store, shopping independently, purchasing a few items, and walking back home.

On a day filled with excuses and my walk threatened by weather, I realized I was MUCH CLOSER to my goal of shopping independence than ever!

I moved beyond that intersection, reached the grocery store in the pouring rain, turned around and headed home.

Walking home in the rain felt AWESOME! I didn’t have time to worry about feeling yucky because I was so pumped that I hit a significant milestone.

The WEIRD THING was, the last few blocks walking back home the rain let up, and it was back to… “It’s just sprinkling!”.

As I headed up the driveway, Gram greeted me at the door.

“I feel so guilty that I pushed you to go. I didn’t think it was going to start raining like that…”.

My response…

“Gram! I made it to the store, take my picture.”.


Had to share this photo! Gram’s first few shots using the iPhone camera. Guess you don’t need to see my head. heheh Pants, shoes and 1/2 of my shirt were soaked. Rain never felt so good!

The lesson…

Hesitation, fear, excuses, pressure, outside factors are simply distractions. When all those barriers are up, and you push beyond those distractions you began to reach the seemingly “impossible” goals.

Much love,

Got Allergies?

Chronic allergies?

This month’s focus is going to be on severe allergies. I am going to take one for the team and display my allergy ignorance.

My assumptions about allergies are as follows:

  • Seasonal
  • Avoidable
  • Caused by peanut butter or seafood
  • Life threatening but in extremely rare cases
  • Can be easily treated with medication


I am EXCITED to be spending time with 12-12-12 project member Sarah Mills. With her guidance, I will test my assumptions, learn, and report back my findings.

Much love,

12-12-12 The Lesson: Life may go different than planned

I can’t imagine a world where people plan and prepare to get sick.

MOST OF US travel through life at the speed of a hamster on a wheel.

You become bombarded by the stresses of life and IF YOUR SELF AWARE you recognize the importance of slowing down and appreciating memorable moments.

When your life becomes derailed by an illness you may entertain the thought that LIFE IS OVER.

But this month’s 12-12-12 project member Sarah Levis reminds us to re-evaluate your “life is over,” thought process…

“Just because your life goes a different way than you planned, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily has to be worse than you planned.”

I hope that this is something that everybody can take something from. I think one of the things that I’ve learned most from what I’ve gone through is just because your life goes a different way than you planned, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily has to be worse than you planned. I definitely haven’t pictured everything that’s happened to me since the stroke happening, but there have certainly been many, many blessings in my life that have come as a direct result of meeting the people that I have, being in the places that I have – even having to live back in my home community, which I didn’t think would ever happen. It is what you make it.

Here, is the reality. Sarah has had two strokes before age 35. She is living with physical disabilities that stemmed from the stroke. She had to go through months of grueling rehabilitation to regain her independence and at the end of the day she still believes that LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.

Much love,

Podcast August 12-12-12 With Project Member Sarah Levis- Brain AVM


This month’s 12-12-12 project medical podcast with Sarah Levis.

What type of mindset do you have to be in to get up each day, relearning how to walk, feed yourself, brush your teeth and learn to carry on after a brain arteriovenous malformation causes a stroke?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download the audio

See the transcript

Sarah gives us a glimpse into her life and openly shares her medical story. Thank you Sarah for taking this journey with me. You are an awesome woman!

Much love,

You Get News That An Old Friend From High School Just Had a Stroke

Emotions are racing and you move from shock, sadness, to concern.

Your NOT SURE EXACTLY what happens to the body when someone has a stroke, but you know enough to associate the word with a terrible medical event.

Majority of us would respond exactly the way I just detailed when hearing about MOST major medical events.

The word recovery ALMOST NEVER enters the mind. Fixation on the event itself set’s precedence, and we can’t fathom what a person going through a serious medical event endures after the onset.

A few major medical events and their possible recovery and treatment paths:

  • Cancer leading to chemotherapy treatment.
  • Stroke requiring open brain surgery leading to post-stroke rehabilitation.
  • Arthritis leading to infusion treatments.
  • Rare form of liver disease leading to transplant wait list. After transplant comes months of immunosuppressive medications to prevent the body from rejecting the new liver.
  • Vestibular(balance) disorder leading to balance retraining through vestibular rehabilitation.

These major medical events require treatment protocols in attempt to heal the body.

These recovery modalities are often times painful, emotionally devastating, scary, physically taxing, ongoing and are accompanied with a slew of other unpleasantries.

This months 12-12-12 project, learning about brain AVM, has had a lasting impact on me.

Project member Sarah had TWO STROKES before the age of 35, YET that’s not where her story ends. Sarah had to endure several months of rehabilitation to gain her independence.  She is left with daily physical reminders of the stroke.

SO when you hear that someone is going through a major medical event, find a way to support them beyond your initial shock. They are working to hold onto who they used to be while accepting the reality of a life that has been drastically altered.

Sarah shared with me an awesome blog called Hope Heals. The blog chronicles the life of a woman names Katherine Wolf and her message of hope after suffering from an arteriovenous malformation.

This video is the PERFECT example of how a major medical event can turn a person’s world upside down.

Much love,