Suffering from a constant runny nose?
Itchy eyes or an unexplained itchy skin rash?
Fed up of relying on Claritin or Zyrtec for some relief?
Did you know simple dietary changes resolve most allergic symptoms?
Did you know that stress worsens allergic symptoms?
Get the answers your have been looking for with natural medicine!
Environmental allergies leading to teary itchy eyes, chronic runny noses and skin rashes are on the rise in developed countries. Allergic individuals have explored the world of anti-histamine medications (Claritin, Zyrtec etc…) and have usually visited a number of allergists and EENT practitioners. A skin prick test or IgE blood test may reveal a number of strong environmental triggers such as dustmites, cat dander and many others. It can be a very frustrating condition to experience and will often lead to recurrent sinus infections or colds and flus due to the constant excessive mucus production in the nose, sinus and throat areas. In children, this can also translate in frequent middle ear infections leading to recurrent antibiotic use. Learn how to change your diet to stop allergic symptoms once and for all.
Allergies in Children
Allergies can begin as early as infancy where cow’s milk allergy, in particular, is one of the most common problems seen in the pediatrician’s office. Introduction of cow’s milk-based formulas before 6 months is significantly associated with allergies to cow’s milk. It is still controversial as to whether early introduction of other food items is related to the development of allergies in infants. It seems quite clear, however, that a number of simple measures can help decrease the development of allergic symptoms in infants. These include exclusive breastfeeding until 4-6 months of age, reduced exposure to common indoor/outdoor allergens and tobacco smoke. Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to decrease their own intake of allergenic foods such as gluten or dairy, as intact substances from these foods can act as allergens and pass into the breast milk. This can appear in the infant in the form of colic, fussiness, rash, eczema, or congestion. These symptoms typically dissipate following the mother’s elimination of the allergenic foods.
It is important for parents to monitor changes in their infants when introducing new foods, especially those that are known to be common allergens (i.e. gluten, dairy, soy) for IgG-mediated intolerances. This is because these foods are suspected to play a role in the development of chronic ear infections, eczema and repetitive upper respiratory tract infections in infants and children.
What is an Allergy?
While there is a genetic susceptibility to allergies, environmental factors can play a significant role. Naturopathic Doctors refer to this as the “total load”, in that a cumulative effect of stress (mental emotional, physical), continual exposure to the allergens, a weak immune system, alcohol, smoking, and chemical pollutants (in the air, water and food), can overwhelm the immune system and eventually lead to the allergy cascade.
An allergy is an abnormal immune reaction to an allergen resulting in a broad range of inflammatory response. An allergen is any substance that is regarded as foreign by the immune system, and therefore capable of stimulating an immune response. Exposure to an allergen can occur either through inhalation, contact or ingestion. The most common outdoor and indoor environmental allergens are grass, molds, trees such as pine and oak, weeds, pets, dust mite, and house dust. Examples of common food allergies include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy, and wheat. Allergic reactions can also arise from certain medications, food coloring, and insect venom.
An allergic reaction is the body’s response to an “invader” (i.e. the allergen); eliciting symptoms such as skin rash, sneezing, headaches, digestive distress, or more seriously, an anaphylactic response, which can be life threatening. The intensity of the reaction depends on the type of immune response, which is mediated by various antibodies called “IgE” or “IgG”.If the response is IgE mediated, it activates certain white blood cells called mast cells, leading to an extreme inflammatory response. These reactions occur immediately after exposure to the allergen . Common IgE allergic reactions include hives, asthma, swelling, and hay fever. Since these reactions are more intense and have a sudden onset, the relationship between the offending allergen and the symptoms is very evident. However, if the response IgG mediated, the reactions are more delayed, and may take several hours to days. This makes it more difficult to recognize and connect the allergic response to a particular allergen. The symptoms of IgG reactions can also be more subtle, low grade, and chronic in nature. This includes symptoms such as fatigue, general aches and pains, irritability, hyperactivity, recurrent colds and ear infections, chronic nasal congestion, constipation and/or diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, food cravings, trouble maintaining weight, acne, eczema, cancer sores, migraines, bedwetting, infant colic, and asthma.
Are there Lab Tests for Allergies?
The most common conventional method to test for allergies is the skin prick test. This involves making a small series of pricks into the skin, typically on the forearm or back, with small amounts of the suspected allergen. Should the patient have allergies to that substance an inflammatory reaction, such as a wheal develops within 30 minutes. While this testing is effective for detecting IgE mediated allergies, especially environmental allergens, it is not as sensitive for IgG mediated food allergens. Another downfall of the test is the discomfort due to the nature of the test itself.
Blood testing is another way to test for allergies. Many conventional labs offer IgE testing, which can be a more comfortable alternative to the skin prick test. There are also a few specialized laboratory companies that test for IgG delayed food sensitivity allergies. Identifying IgG sensitivities can provide a great deal of information to those with chronic lingering symptoms. In addition to using IgG testing, the Elimination Diet can provide insights into the effects that particular foods have on the individual. The Elimination Diet consists of complete avoidance of all the suspected food allergens for at least 2 weeks, followed by their introduction, one at a time. If symptoms disappear while certain foods are avoided, then it is diagnostic – we know that the patient has an allergy to that particular food. This is further confirmed when the food is re-introduced and symptoms concomitantly return. The Elimination Diet is a powerful way to make the connection of how particular foods affect the individual’s energy and overall health.
Allergies Have To Do With Intestinal Health & Diet
Allergies and chronic EENT conditions are most often linked to intestinal health. Just like eczema, they are part of the “atopic triad”, which also includes asthma at times. Indeed, some people are genetically more prone to developing environmental allergies and oftentimes will have a family history of allergies and eczema or asthma. Allergies can typically be significantly improved by carefully balancing the intestinal environment. Indeed, 80% of our immune system’s white blood cells reside in the gut and become overly active when our intestinal health is compromised due to the use of antibiotics and the consumption of processed foods. Those intestinal offenses gradually lead to a suboptimal intestinal environment, with the slow development of food intolerances and increased intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”). Working on balancing intestinal health is thus the the main treatment of chronic allergies, sinusitis and recurrent ear infections. The simple removal of food intolerances can work surprisingly fast, especially in children. The IgG blood test can be a good way of identifying those foods that act as allergenic triggers.
If allergic symptoms have been going on for many months or years, and depending on our genetic constitution, the naturopathic treatment may also involve the usage of herbs that support the adrenal glands. The latter normally produce cortisol, one of our main anti-inflammatory hormones. The constant inflammation due to allergies leads to large amounts of cortisol production and, if the situation persists, the adrenals eventually become “fatigued” – leading to poor immunity, low vitality and a number of other symptoms. Tonifying the adrenals through vitamins and herbs can thus helps balance the whole terrain again and strengthen the organism against further allergenic offenses.
Naturopathic Doctors begin treatment of allergies by taking a thorough medical assessment. It is important to gather information about the patient’s chief concern; dietary habits, stress levels and any other factor and contributes to the patient’s state of health. In the treatment of allergies, it is important to address both the health of the digestive tract and that of the immune system. This is because about 70 percent of the body’s immune system is found in the digestive tract. The digestive tract’s immune system is called GALT: Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. These produce and store immune cells that attack infectious agents. Insufficient acquisition of microflora such as Lactobaccilli, can contribute to both a weakened digestive and immune dysfunction, making the individual more susceptible to allergies. Digestive function can also be weakened by eating high processed foods, taking antibiotics, NSAIDS, birth control pills, excess alcohol, and chronic stress.
It is important to identify and treat the root cause of health problems, and to remove the obstacles to cure, thereby allow the body to heal itself. It is best to keep the home free of chemicals and mold, to dust furniture, drapes, and bedding, to vacuum frequently, and to keep carpets, curtains, and heating vents clean. Using natural products and avoiding unnecessary chemical exposure, in the form of air fresheners, furniture polish, fabric softeners, and certain soaps and laundry detergents is recommended. In the case of food allergies, blood testing and the Elimination Diet are used to identify and remove the offending allergens. All of these steps remove the body’s total burden and strengthen the immune system, thus reducing the allergic response. In a more sensitive individual, pillow and mattress covers, and using HEPA Filters and vacuum cleaners with HEPA can add further protection.
The naturopathic treatment of allergies and EENT issues takes time – typically 6 weeks to 6 months for sustainable improvements to be seen.