Some people get sniffles and a headache if they're near a cat. Others must stay in the house when certain flowers are in bloom.
Allergic reactions are the body's stress signals. If you ignore them, they get worse and can cause chronic problems. Fight back with awareness, proper testing, and diet.
Some people get sniffles and a headache if they're near a cat. Others must stay in the house when certain flowers are in bloom. Unlucky sufferers may develop digestive upset if they eat even the tiniest amounts of certain foods. Allergies plague many of us.
Seasonal or situational allergies come in different disguises and can cause unbearable symptoms. Common foods and environmental exposures from grass to air pollution can trigger these unwanted visitors.
Allergy or Hypersensitivity?
In a true allergic reaction, the body first releases antibodies, followed by the release of other immune mediators. An immune reaction can range from a skin rash to extreme reactions resulting in death (called anaphalaxis). The most common triggers of this type of severe allergic reaction are peanuts, walnuts, fish, shellfish, dairy products, eggs, wasp or bee stings, latex (rubber), penicillin-group antibiotics, and often pollens and grasses.
Masked allergies are milder reactions called hypersensitivities or intolerances. They produce a weaker response from the immune system and do not include the direct release of immune mediators. Since these reactions are often delayed, people find it difficult to associate their symptoms with a particular food or chemical.
People often suffer unnecessarily with allergy-related conditions. Allergic reactions can vary from a runny nose, itchy eyes and headaches to chronic cough, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and skin problems. These symptoms occur as the immune system tries to fight the invading substance. An allergy will most often cause the following symptoms in the weakest areas of the body:
respiratory system - asthma, chronic sinusitis, rhinitis, bronchitis, repeated colds
cardiovascular system - angina, heart palpitations, high blood pressure
skeletal system - rheumatoid arthritis, muscle pain, osteoporosis
nervous system - behavioral problems, depression, learning disorders, insomnia, anxiety, migraine and other headaches
genital-urinary system - cystitis without infection, impotence, herpes and chronic vaginitis.
Allergies are symptoms of an underlying problem. Without treatment, the immune system will become chronically stressed and produce a greater risk of more serious conditions such as autoimmune disease, cancer and chronic viral problems.
Accurate Testing a Challenge
It's hard to pinpoint the many different ways that an allergy manifests itself in body tissues. Of the countless tests devised, all have strengths and weaknesses. Common tests in use are:
RAST (radioallergosorbent test) and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) - Both measure the amount of antibodies, IgE and IgG respectively, involved in the defence against the antigen or allergic substance. ELISA is the most popular test with physicians of environmental medicine.
Skin test (intradermal provocative test) - A small amount of extract is injected under the skin; a skin bump might occur as a reaction and symptoms recorded. The same test can be done by placing an extract under the tongue.
Cytotoxic test - This determines the change in the shape of white blood cells after exposure to specific foods. Popular opinion among allergy testers reveals that current methods of performing this test give invalid results.
Energetic assessments - These methods detect disturbances in the body when it is exposed to an allergic substance. One example is the elimination-provocation technique: A substance is placed under the tongue, and a major muscle group, when challenged with the test substance, weakens.
What Causes Allergy-Related Symptoms?
To alleviate or eliminate allergies, the many underlying causes of related symptoms must be understood and addressed:
Lifestyle - Environmental influences, poor diet, lifestyle choices, nutritional deficiencies or metabolic disturbances all play a part. Diets containing high amounts of refined sugars and carbohydrates, food additives, heated oils, foods from nutrient-depleted soils and denatured foods contribute to acquired weakness.
Pollution - Increased environmental pollution forms a major cause of allergies and other illness.
Toxic overload - An imbalance of micro-organisms in the intestines results from antibiotics, the birth control pill, hormone replacement therapy and excess sugar. When an overload of toxins overtaxes the liver, the immune system intervenes.
Increased stress - The primary organs responsible for stress adaptation are the adrenal glands; when they become overtaxed, the immune system responds and allergy-related symptoms are more likely to occur.
Life is a continual process of adaptation to our outer and inner environments. To maintain optimal health requires our care and commitment to our health on all levels: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.
Treat the Cause
Eliminate the most common allergens for the first four weeks (dairy products, wheat, eggs and corn) and also eliminate all refined and denatured foods (junk foods and refined carbohydrates) permanently. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, organic when possible, hormone-free animal products and whole, unrefined grains such as rice, quinoa, oats and barley.
Do cardiovascular exercise at least three to four times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Drink at least 2.5 litres of water daily.
Support the intestines: Take an acidophilus/bifidus supplement.
Take antioxidants to support the cells damaged by free radicals and help with the inflammatory process of the allergic reaction. Common ones are vitamin C (1,000 milligrams three times daily); vitamin E (800 IU/day); proanthocyandins in the form of grapeseed or pinebark extracts (120 mg/daily); lipoic acid (200 mg daily); quercitin (500 mg three times daily, with vitamin C.
Essential fatty acids (omega-3 and -6): take evening primrose oil (1,000 mg/day), flax oil (one to two tablespoons daily).
Plant enzyme therapy taken between meals helps decrease metabolic waste resulting from incomplete digestion, thereby decreasing the toxic load. Enzymes also decrease inflammatory reactions due to antibody reactions.
Liver and adrenal support is crucial in the treatment of allergies. Find a variety of good support products at your health food store, as well as homeopathics and a variety of allergy remedies.
Think wellness: The importance of the body-mind connection probably forms the most valuable part of treatment of all physical conditions. Physical symptoms are simply signals from the body asking you to look within to see if conflict occurs between the mind and heart. Ask your higher knowing: What is this situation trying to tell me, and what do I have to learn from this situation?
The attitude of gratitude: Express gratitude for every life situation, no matter how difficult, as it forms an opportunity to take another step toward becoming the best person you know you are and can be. There is no coincidence in life, no mistakes only learning.
Karen Jensen, ND
Karen Jensen, ND is the co-author of No More HRT: Menopause, Treat the Cause (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2002) and The Complete Athlete (alive Books, 1998).