Immunological and Molecular Mechanisms

Despite the gastrointestinal barrier, small amounts of immunologically intact proteins enter the circulation and are distributed throughout the body. In normal individuals, the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), although capable of mounting a rapid and potent response against foreign substances, develop tolerance to ingested food antigens. The means by which tolerance develops is poorly understood, but it is believed that failure to develop tolerance leads to food allergy. The relatively low salivary secretory IgA concentrations, together with the large amount of ingested protein, contributes to the large amount of food antigens confronting the immature GALT. In genetically predisposed infants, these food antigens may stimulate the excessive production of IgE antibodies or other abnormal immune responses.

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