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What are allergies?
Enhancing the immune system
Symptoms and diseases
What are allergies?
Allergies is a word we hear a lot these days; everybody seems to have them, especially kids.
Atopic children -- those prone to allergies -- have chronic runny noses, red itchy eyes and a little crease
just above the tips of their noses from constantly swiping off a drip. This gesture is ruefully called the "allergic salute"
in naturopathic paediatrics. Often when people say they have "allergies" they actually mean they have "sensitivities" to
certain foods. An allergic reaction has many different manifestations, most of them quite profound.
These reactions range from anaphylactic shock and death (for example an extreme reaction to a bee sting where
the bronchial airways swell shut) to chronic fatigue, malaise and foggy thinking from constant exposure to the allergen.
Besides foods, people can be both allergic to, or have sensitivities to, pollens, dander, moulds, preservatives,
pesticides, various building materials, and even to their own hormones and tissues (as in auto-immune diseases).
It is important to recognize that a "reaction" to something our body doesn't like indicates a healthy, active immune system.
We are designed so that our secretions (stool, urine, tears, sweat, mucus) increase in the valiant attempt to expel foreign
particles. Fever, for example, is the body's natural mechanism to kill bacteria and viruses, most of which cannot tolerate
above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when a mere bite of cheese or sniff of a lush Spring breeze sets us off into a
choking fit, that's clearly an overreaction which needs to be remedied.
In general, the best way to escape the miserable effects of 'hay fever' and other reactions to airborne allergens is to
avoid them. It is very difficult to avoid things that fly through your front door, through the car window, even into
the bedroom. But all is not lost, and I'm not talking about resorting to antihistamines.
If you work outside, such as construction work, you may want to consider wearing a light paper nose and mouth mask to
filter out the bigger particles.
Also, it may be well worth your money to invest in a home air filtration system. Many folks with dust allergies have
discovered Rainbow vacuum cleaners which work with a water filtration system (rather than a bag) for collecting the
Try to wash your hands frequently. If you're allergic to airborne pollens and/or dust you may also be sensitive to cat and
dog dander. Don't pet the animal then rub your face. Anytime you touch a surface that is likely to be sprinkled with whatever
ails you, wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards.
Enhancing immune system
The fact of having allergies may signal a weakened immune system. You can never go wrong enhancing your immunity by minimizing toxic input (refined sugar, refined flour, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, exposure to solvents, exposure to burning hydrocarbons, etc). Also, get the basics every day: fresh air, pure water, adequate rest, adequate exercise, and dark green vegetables.
Depending on your individual situation, if you suffer from allergies you may benefit from seasonal supplementation with
extra Vitamin C (up to 10 grams daily), Vitamin B5 (up to 800 mg daily) and Zinc picolinate (up to 150 mg daily).
Potent anti-inflammatory substances derived from food sources include bromelain from pineapple, papain from papaya and quercitin from the spice Turmeric. Turmeric (also known as curcumin) is a major ingredient in curry and used throughout
Far Eastern cuisine not only for flavour, but for its medicinal properties. The agents of inflammation in your body (cytokines, leukotrienes, etc.) are derived largely from something called arachadonic acid which is generously supplied by red meat.
While a small amount of arachadonic acid is crucial for life, it can be synthesized internally so it is best to eliminate red meat
from your diet entirely if you are prone to hay fever or other allergies. There is a class of fats, called the Omega-3 oils, which
are extremely beneficial in decreasing inflammation in the body. These oils are found in the pressed evening primrose flowers,
in cold-pressed flax seeds, and in fish. Eat fish generously during hay fever season, and take one tablespoon of Flax oil or
Evening Primrose oil daily all year around.
Some folks have been greatly helped by taking "desensitization" drops which are a very dilute mixture of whatever substances
they are allergic to, taken under the tongue in dropper form during allergy season. This can be thought of as a kind of
"vaccination" and is usually available through a natural health-care provider.
Anti-histamines tend to make you drowsy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as aspirin, ibuprofen) MUST be avoided
to combat allergic reactions because they will ultimately damage the mucous membranes of the gut and lungs, thus setting you
up for chronic hypersensitivity to all sorts of things to which you are regularly exposed.
A food allergy can be defined as a chronic or immediate inappropriate reaction to ingestion of a food. Broadly speaking,
if the immune system is involved in the reaction, it is called an allergenic response. If the immune system is not involved,
such as in upset stomach, nausea, cramping, or headache, it is called a food "sensitivity" response.
This distinction may seem academic, but it is important to distinguish to provide proper treatment.
With a bona fide food allergy, whose classic symptoms will be discussed below, the best approach is to
"decrease the burden," in other words avoid the allergen whenever possible.
After a period of clearing the offending food from the bloodstream (which may take 7 days to 7 months to forever)
some people may be able to take the food in frequently (no more than every 4 days) without ill result.
The very best way to determine food allergenicity is the "elimination and challenge" diet .
Food sensitivities may be healed by heeding Hippocrates' maxim, written many hundreds of years ago,
"to many this has been the commencement of a serious disease when they have merely taken twice in a day the same food
which they have been in the custom of taking once."
Some foods contain histamine, the biological chemical responsible for itchiness, red skin rashes and increased mucous
production. This is why you can buy synthetic "antihistamines" in the drug store to temporarily quell symptoms of allergy.
Much better to avoid the foods: sausage, sauerkraut, tuna, wine, preserves, spinach, tomato.
Other foods cause excessive release of histamine from the white blood cells ("mast" cells) that store it: eggs, milk, shellfish, strawberries, tomatoes, chocolate, bananas, papayas, pineapples, certain nuts, alcohol. How about supporting our natural antihistamine, cortisol, which is secreted from the adrenal gland cortex? Licorice root is excellent for adrenal support.
Check it out. Each and every person in a unique individual, and treatment must reflect this principle.
Ironically, the most common food allergens are ones that are ubiquitous in the American diet: wheat, corn, milk, sugar, soy.
It is almost impossible to find canned, boxed or prepared foods without most of these ingredients lurking silently within.
"Amaranth" and most all other cookies have wheat as the first ingredient; sparkling "natural" sodas contain corn syrup;
good old Campbell's soups may contain lactose, dextrose, corn starch, soy oil.
Why are so many people suffering from food allergies today? Hearken back to the quote from Hippocrates. Because we eat wheat, milk, orange juice, sugar, corn and soy constantly, daily, without a break.
Warning signs of food allergies:
· Dark circles under the eyes (allergic "shiners")
· Puffiness under the eyes
· Horizontal creases in the lower eyelids
· Fluid retention and bloating (not the premenstrual kind)
· Chronic swollen glands (under the jaw, armpits, groin)
Symptoms and diseases associated with food allergies:
· Gastrointestinal: Canker sores, celiac disease (an extreme intolerance to a fraction of wheat called gliadin, which
produces crippling diarrhea and weight loss), stomach ulcer, gas, irritable colon, malabsorption, ulcerative colitis
(may often produces blood in the stool and a constant hungry feeling).
· Genitourinary: Bed-wetting (eneuresis), chronic bladder infections (cystitis), kidney disease
· Immune: Chronic infections including ear infections
· Mental/Emotional: Anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, insomnia, irritability, mental confusion,
personality change, seizures.
· Musculoskeletal: Bursitis, joint pain, low back pain.
· Respiratory: Asthma, chronic bronchitis, wheezing.
· Skin: Acne, eczema (dry or weeping, itchy, thickened, reddened patches of skin usually on the face, wrists and
inside elbows and knees), hives, itching, skin rash.
· Other: Irregular heart rate, edema (fluid swelling), fainting spells, fatigue, headache, hyperglycemia, itchy nose or
throat, migraines, sinusitis.
Treatment of food allergies
In general, besides avoiding allergenic foods, here are a few general principles for minimizing adverse reactions to
common foods. First, get plenty of foods containing Vitamin C, or take a daily supplement.
Vitamin C strengthens cell membranes, including the cell membrane of the histamine-containing mast cells.
Digestive enzymes, particularly when eating a high-protein meal, may be in order.
Many of us suffer from inflammatory responses to undigested protein fragments in the blood stream, that seeped in
through our intestines before sufficient digestion into simple amino acids.
Essential fatty acids, at least 1 tablespoon daily of raw, cold vegetable, fish or evening primrose oils, help decrease
the inflammatory reactions (caused by the 1 and 3 series prostaglandins) and maintain T-cell function.
Vegetables are BY FAR the least allergenic foods, and high in the vital nutrients that preserve the integrity of our tissues.
Some people may need to avoid the nightshade family of vegetables because of reaction to the oxylates they contain.
These foods are tomato (primary offender), eggplant, potato, red & green peppers and tobacco.
Go easy on the fruit -- which is high in the monosaccharides (simple sugars) fructose and glucose.
One fruit drink a day is plenty. Go whole hog on vegetables, though, and don't forget you can JUICE your dark leafy greens.
Please be advised: This information is provided for personal interest.
As every individual case is different, it is essential that a certified health professional be consulted before initiating any
Should you wish to discuss the specifics of your case you can contact Dr. Comas (416) 515-8493
or e-mail: Dr-Comas@NaturalMedicineSolutions.com