This discussion will be about airborne and food allergies, what they are, and what to do to eliminate allergic reactions. First of all, what are "allergic reactions?" Allergic reactions are simply an abnormal overreaction by the immune system to food, airborne particles, chemicals, or even stressful emotional events. We can have allergic reactions to a food such as an egg, an airborne pollen such as ragweed, a chemical such as gasoline fumes, or even a stressful emotional event. There are many contributing factors to allergic reactions. Poor digestion, an overloaded liver, leaky gut syndrome, intestinal dysbiosis, heavy metal toxicity, and poor adrenal function are some of the leading causes of an overactive immune system and resultant allergic complaints. I also want to mention that food sensitivities often contribute to a tendency for airborne allergic reactions!
I see most of my patients, as they become healthier, lose all sensitivities to foods and airborne irritants. I tell people that if your neighbor can breathe the same air as you or eat the same food as you and not have allergic reactions to the air or food, then you can too! Our job as a team, both doctor and patient, is to relieve burdens off of the body and mind as much as possible so that with improvement in body function we can more normally process foods, air, and stressors. Most people with airborne allergies have at root of their problems some unidentified food allergies, infections, and liver congestion. Because I see airborne allergies as being caused by similar problems that cause food allergic reactions I will discuss "allergic reactions" as being just one thing.
There are at least 3 types of allergic reactions to stressors. The first type of reaction is a fast response which is mediated by IgE antibodies. These allergic responses are usually associated with itching, sneezing, rashes, trouble breathing, hives, etc. These fast acting allergies are responsible for people's reactions to bee stings, sneezing attacks from ragweed and pollens, or rashes after eating strawberries. They can be life-threatening. People often know that they have these types of allergies because they can be obvious. A way of testing for IgE mediate allergies is by the skin scratch method. I dislike this type of allergy testing because skin testing only looks for IgE mediated responses and there are other important types of allergies which I will discuss. Having a skin scratch test is like smelling smoke in your house and just looking in the bathroom for the fire!
The second type of allergic response to foods is a slow response which is mediated by IgG type antibodies. This delayed allergic response can be delayed from hours to days, up to 72 hours in some instances after exposure to an irritant. Because these reactions are so delayed it is difficult to make a connection between source of irritation and symptoms. If you have a piece of chocolate cake and 1 to 3 days later get a headache it is difficult to realize that it might have been the chocolate cake that gave it to you! I find that these delayed response allergies are responsible for many of my patients'complaints including digestive complaints, headaches, fatigue, mood changes, chronic immune suppression and resultant frequent infections, sinus problems, ear problems in children, colic in infants, hyperactivity, tonsilitis, diarrhea, rashes, and even aches and pains in joints. Two ways of testing for these allergies are blood testing and neurologic testing. For people who have IgG reactions to foods it is important to identify these foods, avoid these foods for several weeks, support digestion, supply missing nutrition, and desensitize with acupuncture, NAET, cold laser therapy, or other techniques. Frequently people return to me with a large enough improvement in health that they can reintroduce these foods into their diet and suffer no more reactions!
A third type of allergic response is a gut-mediated response or IgA allergic response. This is where the intestines themselves and the immune system associated with them respond to foods in the gut. These types of reactions are probably responsible for many of the digestive disorders people complain of such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, etc. This allergic response can be tested for with certain laboratory testing or neurologic testing. This type of allergic response is still rather new to most doctors and is slowly being incorporated into progressive clinics testing procedures. IgA allergies are treated the same way as IgG reactions.
I have no doubt that there are other yet unrealized ways that the body may be reactive to certain substances. It is not uncommon for a person to have tests that show no allergic connection to a certain food and yet you know that when you eat this food you feel bad and have symptoms. This is just an example of how you can have unpleasant reactions to substances and yet we are unable to find the exact connection. The gold standard in all allergy testing is using your common sense: Do you feel better when you avoid this food? Do you feel better when you avoid breathing pollen laden air? If so, we probably are on the right track. Since it is difficult to avoid breathing air during pollen season, I focus on other areas of a person's health like hidden food allergies, digestion, liver function, dysbiosis. When a person has these other problems cleared up usually a person can handle breathing the air during "allergy season"and have no symptoms.
The following categories are small discussions of factors that influence allergies, both food and airborne. Not every person has all of these problems but most patients have several factors contributing to their poor health and allergic symptoms. I hope the following discussion will help enlighten you to causes of allergies and what to do about them!
Dysbiosis is just a two dollar word for abnormal balance of microorganisms in the intestines. When the normal balance of bacteria and microbes is thrown off by antibiotic usage, poor dietary choices, hormone therapy (the pill), steroid use (cortisone), or other reasons, then one particular microbe can become predominant and cause digestive problems that affect allergic responses. Here are some common categories of "gut bugs"that can cause a host of problems:
*yeast/fungal/mold- a common infection these days. It is found in 90% of the patients that I treat. Exposure to high levels of antibiotics, steroids (topical or ingested), hormones (birth control pills, artificial thyroid hormones, estrogen replacement therapy, etc), or a high sugar diet makes individuals prone to yeast problems. To clear out a fungal or yeast problem a patient (and often their spouse) need to take special yeast killing medicines and follow a strict diet for 3 weeks. In worst case scenarios houses, workplace, and automobile air quality may need to be screened. Occasionally a "sick building" will be at the root of sick people's fungal illness and resultant complaints.
*parasites- a common infection found in my patients. Exposure to poorly handled meats or vegetables, poor water supply, pets, or travel to foreign countries may increase risk of parasite infections. Parasites need to be treated with special antiparasitic medications. Antibiotics will not work on parasites.
*viruses- many people have compromised immune systems. With lowered immune system function certain people are prone to long standing viral infections. Viruses are not easily eradicated except by your own immune system and white blood cells. Any therapy for viral infections needs to be aimed at improving immune system function. Specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals will help.
*bacterial infections- certain bacteria are long term infections such as H. Pylori (a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach and upper digestive tract and causes ulcers and digestive problems). Certain bacteria may need to be treated with antibiotic herbs or medicines.
*Ask your health care provider to screen for systemic yeast infections, parasite infections, viral burdens, and possible low grade bacterial infections. The most common way to screen for yeast and parasite infections is with a stool sample being shipped to a qualified laboratory such as Great Smokies Labs for analysis.
This syndrome is basically what it sounds like. The intestines have become damaged (usually from infections) and is leaking unwanted particles into the blood stream. This syndrome is associated with allergic reactions, arthritis, headaches, and a host of other problems. Eventually autoimmune problems seem to crop up somewhere down the road if leaky gut syndrome exposes the internal body to enough foreign proteins. The immune system actively tries to combat foreign proteins. If the immune system is hyperactive for long enough it can become confused and the immune system will start attacking our own body. Examples of autoimmune diseases are Multiple Sclerosis, Chron's Disease, Parkinson's Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Leaky gut syndrome often spontaneously heals when infections are removed. Occasionally herbal formulas and certain vitamins, mineral, or amino acids are required to speed healing of the intestinal lining. It is worth mentioning that leaky gut syndrome will not heal with just healing nutrients alone. If there are untreated infections in the GI tract that are eating up your intestines, repairing the intestines with healing nutrients will not be permanent.
A normally functioning liver will help to detoxify the body of toxins AND filter the blood before it enters the rest of the body. A normally functioning liver produces bile salts which aid in digestion. The function of the liver is extremely important for people with chronic illness, especially allergies, asthma, heavy metal exposure, skin problems, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Since the liver is so important for cleaning and detoxifying it needs to working properly because people with allergies are usually extremely burdened with toxins. It is usually not possible to detoxify the body well if the liver is not working well. So detoxifying must also include support for the liver. If a person is attempting to detoxify heavy metals with a congested liver, metals may just circulate in the blood stream and never really leave the body, which does the person no good. It is like shaking out a carpet inside the house with the windows closed. This is extremely stressful for the body. So certain vitamins and minerals may be needed to support liver function and help the liver to do its job. The liver is a hard-working organ involved in digestion, detoxifying, cleansing the blood, and blood sugar balancing.
Poorly functioning adrenal glands are associated with low energy, poor resistance to stress, and allergies. The hormones that are manufactured in the adrenal glands help normalize blood sugar, combat inflammation, make sex hormones, DHEA which can be thought of as an anti-aging hormone, and provide a feeling of wellness and energy. Most people with chronic diseases and allergies have poorly functioning adrenal glands. These people may benefit from adrenal glandular nutrients or vitamins and minerals which directly support function or healing of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands respond well when a person identifies their foods which are causing allergies and they avoid them for several weeks. Many cases of chronic fatigue are corrected simply with adrenal support and avoiding specific foods.
Nutritional deficiencies in general may be behind certain health problems. Today, more than ever, people are mineral and vitamin deficient. We don't have to just eat junk food to be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Often "healthy" foods, vegetables, fruits, and meats from the grocery have less than half of the mineral content of foods 60 years ago. Shopping for foods that are grown organically helps with this. Sometimes multivitamins are recommended. A sign of a poor vitamin is one that has the toxin stearic acid or calcium stearate. Stearic acid is a saturated fat that makes absorption of the vitamin much more difficult. I suggest looking for vitamin manufacturers that encapsulate rather than make vitamins in tablet form. Also a sign of a poor vitamin is one that uses the poorly absorbed calcium carbonate. If your calcium is in the form of calcium carbonate, in my opinion, it is worthless. Discuss with your health care provider which nutrients will be helpful for health in general and also helpful for chronic fatigue specifically.
Heavy metals are involved in patients suffering with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, allergies, depression, headaches, etc. Our exposure to toxins such as mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, copper, cadmium, and others is increasing with time. After exposure to toxins our body often stores toxins in tissues that it is not able to detoxify. Toxins that are able to be processed out of the body often overload the liver. The liver has a strong relationship to food and airborne allergies so anything that burdens the liver tends to make allergies worse. As each person's body has higher levels of toxins problems with body function increase such as endocrine problems, hormonal imbalances, loss of menstruation in women, mental problems, autoimmune problems, headaches, joint pains, loss of flexibility, and obesity. Heavy metals need to be identified and a gentle detoxification protocol implemented. Ask your health care provider to screen for heavy metal toxins. It is worthwhile to note that one source of mercury poisoning may be from mercury amalgam (or "silver") fillings. I would encourage everyone to NOT use mercury amalgam fillings in their mouths. Rather, use ceramic or other non-toxic fillings.
When a patient comes to my clinic complaining of airborne allergies, reactions to certain foods, digestive problems, or other chronic problems I screen them for several basic problems. First I screen each patient for possible infections from yeasts, molds, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. If infections are indicated we treat with specific herbs and nutrients. Occasionally beneficial bacteria or "probiotics"are needed to re-innoculate the body with the correct microbes for the intestines. Second, we screen all patients for food sensitivities and recommend a trial three week period of food avoidance. Third, basic nutrient deficiencies are screened for and when indicated we supply the body with what it needs to function better. Fourth, we screen for heavy metal toxins that may be burdening the body. If indicated we may implement a slow-but-sure detox plan. We also screen for adrenal and liver dysfunction and treat as necessary. And last but not least, we screen each patient for digestive function. If necessary we may support the digestive tract with healing nutrients or enzymes to assist in digestion. This simple plan works well. Most patients report significant changes within the first 3 visits with the majority of patients feeling much better after only one visit. It is a shame, but I often see patients who have been to 10 different doctors searching for answers to chronic problems and they have not had a screening for a yeast infection or adequate (or any!) allergy testing done.
*Laura- a 38 year old woman came to my office complaining of asthma, sinus congestion and drainage down the throat especially after exercise, and an inability to lose weight despite exercising 2 hours per day on average and dieting. Allergy testing revealed a strong sensitivity to dairy and a yeast infection as her predominant health burdens. An anti-yeast diet, anti-yeast medication, and avoiding dairy has brought about 6 pounds of weight loss despite being at the same weight for years, a lessening of sinus congestion, and no more red flushes from exercising. Laura has suffered from asthma and sinus problems all her life. We continue to progress on her as she eliminates yeast and fungal infections from her body.
*Bill- a 45 year old man came to my office over many months for care for back pain, preventative care, allergy testing, and fatigue. Over the months that I have seen him for various things we have supported him with nutrition, liver support, adrenal support, and allergy testing for certain foods. He has commented many times that in the spring and fall of every year he has severe airborne allergies and usually gets sick and becomes bed-bound for at least a week. He has not only not been sick but he has not reported any airborne allergy symptoms for the first time in his life for both the spring and the fall seasons. Bill lives in an agricultural area with seasonal spraying of cotton in the spring and fall.
*Lila- a 1 and a half year old girl was brought in to my office by her mom. Her mom commented that Lila was basically healthy but that she was fussy at night and could not sleep. Testing in my office suggested Lila was burdened with a fungal infection and a milk allergy. I gave her mom some herbal drops to combat fungal infections, some dietary suggestions for 3 weeks to help eliminate fungi, and strict instructions to eliminate milk and cheese from her diet. Lila was brought back 3 weeks later with a report from her mom that she was a completely different sleeper. She had slept straight through every night of 3 weeks except for 3 nights which she was a little fussy. This was compared to before when she could not sleep through any night completely at all. Lila was recommended to avoid dairy, especially milk, for a while longer and to supplement her diet with some digestive enzymes to help maintain our progress.
*Toby- a nine year old boy was brought to my office by his mom with complaints of nasal congestion so severe that he could not go to sleep lying down. Instead he had to sleep propped on pillows so that his nose could drain down his throat and he didn't feel like he was drowning. Testing in my office suggested a dairy allergy and adrenal insufficiency. Toby went home with encouragement to strictly avoid milk in all forms and to take nutrition to support his adrenal glands. Toby and his mom returned 3 weeks later to report a 95% improvement in his symptoms and was now sleeping flat in his bed with no symptoms of sleep disturbance.
*Natasha- a 15 year old teenager, was complaining of constant headaches in her right temple and a sudden drop in energy. These headaches and low energy had been constant for about 3 months. She had been to numerous doctors and various blood tests, MRI's, and urinalysis testing with no real idea coming forth as to why she had these headaches. Upon screening for various problems yeast overgrowth was indicated, low adrenal function, as well as allergies to peanuts and milk. 3 weeks later with nutritional support for adrenal function, an avoidance of milk and peanuts, and an herbal formula for killing yeast she returned for a follow up visit with no headaches and high energy. Although Natasha had been to many doctors and approximately $5000 dollars had been spent on various tests including repeated blood tests and MRI's, no doctors had done any allergy testing or screened for yeast infections.
*Marie- a 51 year old teacher and mother of three came to see me complaining of migraine headaches and chronic tiredness. Her energy levels were half what she thought they should be. She had on average 3 migraine headaches a week and was taking the strongest prescription pain-killers available. These pain-killers were only able to numb the pain a little bit and Marie had been having headaches for most of her life. After my exam Marie seemed to be suffering mainly from a fungal or yeast infection which took some time to clear up. Complicating her digestive tract yeast infection were tired adrenal glands that needed some nutritional support, and a general low level of nutrition, and some food allergies. After supplementing with a yeast-killing agent and following the anti-yeast diet, a multi-vitamin, nutritional support for adrenal function, and chiropractic care- Marie was a new woman. Marie told me that her energy was 100% and her headaches were virtually gone. When she did have headaches they were very small, short-lived, and she had them only once in two weeks. Marie recently changed job locations and now works in an older building with no windows in her area, a leaky roof, and areas of dampness in the walls or carpet. Immediately after beginning work in her new office building she began to notice a decline in energy and increase in headaches again. Marie is now showing signs of yeast and fungal problems. Both Marie and I are suspicious of mold problems in her new work environment. Marie's fungal and yeast problems in the past seem to be coming back to her as she is exposed during her working hours to a building with a high probability of mold and mold spores which she can inhale. We are currently working with Marie to support her against mold stress. It may take a change of work environment for her to feel her best. It is difficult to feel your best when working in a building or living in a home with mold problems.
*Cathy- a 28 year old woman complained of frequent low-grade headaches. Upon screening for possible food sensitivities she showed a sensitivity to NutraSweet artificial sweetener. Upon questioning she told me that she drank a lot of diet Cokes. I suggested she switch to a non-diet drink and her headaches quickly resolved.
*Brian- a 16 year old boy came to my office complaining of a lifetime's experience of severe abdominal pain and cramping, frequent diarrhea, and/or vomiting since weaning from breast-feeding as an infant. Brian had been to see 4 different specialists ranging from pediatricians to gastroenterologists over his lifetime. Many standard GI tests including scoping of the GI tract revealed no obvious causes for his symptoms. He had suffered terribly with only moderate relief from muscle relaxers or pain-killers. Surprisingly he had never been allergy tested or screened for dysbiosis. Upon screening it appeared he was suffering from a yeast infection, a viral infection, a need for manganese and 8 different food allergies including corn, milk, broccoli, carrots, and others. By supplementing with the proper natural medicines for infections, an anti-yeast diet, manganese, and avoiding his food allergies he returned 3 weeks later 95% better. The follow up visit revealed no food sensitivities except for lemons. His mother confided that she was angry that this simple procedure had not been done much, much earlier.
Although this article was probably of interest to those with airborne allergies, stuffy noses, sneezing, etc. I hope you can see that food allergies can have far reaching affects. Many of the patients who walk through my doors are complaining of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, and other chronic conditions. 99% of these people have severe food reactions that they may not realize they have because they are delayed response. The response to food allergies is different for each person and sometimes different for each food. Symptoms (sneezing, low energy, hay fever, sinus drainage, etc.) can be resolved with the right care. Occasionally one food may have to be avoided in general or for a while longer than 3 weeks. If that is the case it seems to be milk that is the most common culprit.
If I can be of service to you as a doctor or to answer any questions, please do not hesitate to call or schedule an appointment.