Food allergies affect up to 10% of the US population, can be life-threatening, and have a significant negative impact on quality of life. Delayed dietary introduction of foods in childhood can hinder the induction of oral tolerance, an active regulatory response to foods that prevents the development of food allergy. Some children outgrow their food allergies naturally, while many others have persistent, lifelong food allergy for which there are few therapeutic options. Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a therapeutic approach of giving increasing amounts of food to attempt to desensitize the allergic individual. In this review, we focus on the immune mechanisms common to oral tolerance and response to oral immunotherapy, with the objective of determining whether true tolerance can be achieved after food allergy has been established.
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