Allergies Definition and Overview An allergy is an adverse immune system reaction to a substance that would normally be considered harmless. Allergic reactions are caused by exposure to allergens. An allergen is a protein that the body judges to be foreign and dangerous. Possible allergens include specific foods, environmental toxins, pollens, molds, mites, animal dander and a host of other irritants. Once exposed to an allergen, the immune system releases specific antibodies to destroy the enemy allergen, setting in motion a complex series of events involving many biochemicals. These chemicals then produce inflammation or other symptoms of an allergy response. Allergic responses can range from mild to severe, where prompt professional medical advice may be required. Symptoms Common symptoms of a typical allergic reaction include breathing congestion, inflamed, bloodshot, or scratchy eyes, watery eye, tears, sneezing, coughing, itching, nosebleeds, puffy face, flushing of the cheeks, dark circles under the eyes, runny nose, swelling, hives, vomiting, stomachache, and intestinal irritation or swelling. More severe reactions include constriction of the bronchial tubes (asthma) and difficulty breathing or even anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if not treated in time. Allergies can also result in digestive stress, gas, and indigestion. Sensitive people may feel irritation on their tongue or mouth. Types of Allergens that trigger an Allergic Response Environmental Allergens: include chemicals, toxins, molds, dusts and other irritants in our environment, which make their way into our air, our homes, water and foods. Food Allergens: are normally harmless foods, those that do not bother most people. Common `Triggers` of Allergies The most common allergens or triggers occur in four primary categories: Contactants, Ingestants, Inhalants, and Injectants. If allergic, you are often sensitive to more than one substance. Contactant Allergens include plants such as poison ivy/oak and sumac, jewelry, latex products such as gloves, household cleaning products, including soaps and detergents, and beauty products such as cosmetics and hair dyes. Inhalants Allergens include airborne chemical products and fumes, tobacco smoke, animal dander, cockroaches and cockroach shells, dust mites, mold spores, car and truck exhaust, and plant pollens such as grass, trees, and weeds. Ingestant Allergens include foods, medications, and heavy metals in water. The foods most commonly found to cause allergic reactions include: wheat, corn, milk and dairy products, egg whites, tomatoes, soy, shellfish, peanuts, chocolate, as well as food dyes, additives and pesticides. Medications that cause allergic reactions include aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antibiotics such as amoxicillin and penicillin. Injectant Allergens include insect bites and stings and, in some cases, injectable medications (including synthetic vitamins). The Link Between Food Allergies and Food Addiction The link between food addiction and food allergies was first reported in the early 1940s by Theron Randolph, MD, the modern-day founder of environmental medicine. His research showed that people with food allergies are often addicted to the very foods they are allergic to. Allergy to addictive foods develops as any other food allergy does - with a leaky gut or improper digestion. An allergic reaction to food can last up to three or more days, making the addiction to the food difficult to discover. The symptoms of withdrawal from an addictive substance can lessen or be suppressed if the person eats more of the addictive food. This suppression of addictive/allergenic symptoms is termed masking. Food Allergy Reaction Times Symptoms of food allergies can take up to 96 hours before they manifest, making it difficult to determine which foods a patient might be allergic to. In most cases, the regular consumption of allergy causing foods to which a person is allergic prevents these symptoms from occurring in a noticeable way (masking), in much the same way that withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drug addiction are held at bay so long as alcohol or the addictive drug is used on a daily basis Cause of Allergies Overall, the underlying causes of allergy and sensitivity are dietary and lifestyle factors specifically titled as imbalanced immune function, barrier function default (such as "leaky gut" syndrome), and toxic overload. Each of these are, in varying degrees, responsible for the development and continuation of allergy and sensitivity. Imbalanced Immune Function: An imbalanced immune system substantially increases the risk of allergic reactions. Disturbance and imbalance of one`s immune system is caused by repeated childhood and adult vaccinations and immunizations, and damage to healthy intestinal flora from over-reliance upon antibiotics and steroids (especially birth control pills). Such medicines confuse the body and the immune system has problems distinguishing friend from foe. Toxic Overload: Toxic pollutants play a role in the creation of all allergies, as well as contributing to arthritis and autoimmune illnesses. As our food and environment become increasingly saturated with pollutants and chemicals, the body`s mechanisms for elimination of toxins cannot keep up with the chemical deluge. When key detoxification organs become unable to fully detoxify, a pattern of chronic allergies may develop. The constant circulation of toxins in the body taxes the immune system, which continually strives to destroy them. An overburdened immune system ultimately becomes hypersensitive and allergies— to food, airborne agents, and chemicals—develop. Mercury amalgam fillings in the teeth can also cause allergies because of how mercury, which is released into the body as vapors and then stored in organs and tissues, severely depresses immune function, as well as potentially causing a host of other serious health problems. If you have mercury fillings, consider having them removed and replaced by a holistic, biologically oriented dentist. Testing for Allergies Since allergies and their symptoms are hard to pinpoint, testing for allergies is recommended if you suspect you may be suffering from them. The most common types of allergy tests include: Applied Kinesiology, NAET, Electro dermal Screening (EDS), Prick or Scratch Skin Test. Natural Cures Aromatherapy: Useful essential oils to help relieve allergic reactions and the stress they can cause include chamomile, lavender, and Melissa. Acupuncture: In acupuncture theory, allergies are considered a symptom of immune dysfunction and treatment aims to restore the body`s immune system performance. Acupuncture has also been effective in desensitizing patients to allergen exposure and in reducing rhinitis symptoms (nasal irritation or inflammation). In a study performed in 1998 to test the effectiveness of rhinitisspecific acupoints, patients receiving the real treatment, as opposed to the placebo group, experienced a greater reduction in allergy symptoms. Desensitization Techniques: Many with allergies and sensitivities will find that they require desensitization treatments to experience complete and possibly permanent remission of their symptoms. These include Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD) and NAET. Diet: The problem with food allergies and sensitivities is that 85% of them involve delayed reactions, manifesting up to 72 hours after consumption of the offending food. The symptoms may shape-shift over time; that is, change over time with repeated exposure. Adopting a diet that includes a wide variety of non-allergenic fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and low-fat, nondairy animal protein, is an excellent way to counteract the symptoms of a prolonged food allergy. Other effective dietary approaches for dealing with allergies include: The Elimination Diet: Once the allergen has been identified, the next step is to eliminate it from your diet. Initially, you should completely refrain from eating all allergenic foods for 60-90 days. After this period, you can begin to slowly reintroduce them into your diet. You should also vary the foods you eat on a daily basis to avoid developing new allergies. In most cases, this diet allows the body to repair intestinal barrier function, enabling patients to reintroduce the reactive foods into their diets. Eliminating an allergenic food can cause withdrawal reactions, so be prepared and know that it is normal. The Rotation Diet: One way to ensure that the body is receiving a greater supply of nutrients from food, while at the same time minimizing the risk of exposure to allergenic foods, is to increase the variety and rotation of foods. A rotation diet is one of the simplest and most effective measures anyone can take to prevent and reduce the problems of food allergies. It is common to rotate food every four days in this diet. This means that the dieter is not eating one food any more often than every four days. However, it is possible to consume the same food multiple times in a given day. Proper Food Combining: If your food allergies/sensitivities are caused by poor digestion, which allows food molecules to escape the gut barrier, proper food combining may help restore healthy digestion. The general rule states that proteins and starchy carbohydrates are never to be eaten at the same time. Proteins may be eaten with non-starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates (grains, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables) may be eaten with all vegetables as well as legumes. Fruits must been eaten alone, usually as a snack; the same is true with dairy products. The rational for this diet stems from the variation in digestion times. Certain foods may not be properly absorbed if combined with others. Results from this diet will depend on an individual`s response. Enzyme-Potentiated Desensitization (EPD): is an applied immunotherapy technique that trains the immune system to be non-reactive to substances that usually provoke allergic symptoms. Physicians in at least 12 countries now use EPD. In EPD, an allergic patient is given a series of tiny standardized injections of a wide variety of allergens from a single category. EPD injections differ from conventional allergy shots in three important ways: first, EPD injections include multiple related allergens; second, EPD doses are much weaker; and third, EPD injections are given along with an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This last component is important because it acts as a catalyst to make the desensitization more potent. EPD has been used successfully to treat about 50 health conditions, mostly of an immune or autoimmune nature. (The latter is when the body attacks its own tissue as if it were an allergen, such as lupus or some forms of arthritis.) It has an overall success rate of 75% - 80%, with an average 50% decrease in medication use. EPD treatments are generally given once every 2-3 months, six to eight times. Patients take a prescribed list of nutritional supplements in the weeks between shots and follow a specific diet. While EPD significantly reduces one`s intolerance to allergenic foods, it does not necessarily eliminate all possibility of reacting to them. Herbal Medicine: There are a variety of herbs that offer relief from allergies, such as goldenseal, red sage, and goldenrod. To reduce mucus, try astringents such as yarrow and myrrh (Commiphora myrrha). These help to contract inflamed tissues and reduce secretions and discharges. To strengthen immune response use echinacea, astragalus root, goldenseal root, and Pfaffia paniculata (suma or Brazilian ginseng). These herbs can be effective and safe for treating weakened immune systems. Cayenne pepper is a favorite herb among those treating allergy patients. The active ingredient is a strong anti-inflammatory, and it is recommend to allergy suffers, including asthma patients, as a simple and effective treatment. Sprinkling liberal amounts of the pepper on meals for a few days can provide relief. Although herbal remedies have shown excellent results in reducing allergy/sensitivity symptoms, using herbs to treat allergies involves an individual approach. Some particularly effective anti-inflammatory herbs are stinging nettle, Ginkgo biloba, and licorice. Chinese skullcap, ephedra, and feverfew are others to consider for treating allergy symptoms. Patients whose conditions are severe should consult with a trained herbalist or naturopath. A major symptom of allergies is gastrointestinal upset, including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Demulcent herbs can alleviate these symptoms (demulcent is a term used by herbalists to describe an herb that has a protective effect on the mucous membranes by minimizing irritation). The most commonly used herbs are marshmallow, slippery elm bark, cabbage juice, okra, fenugreek, and aloe vera. Homeopathy: Homeopathy has widespread applications for the treatment of allergies. In many situations, minute diluted doses of the substance a person is allergic to can be prepared as a homeopathic solution that triggers the body`s natural ability to heal itself. Homeopathic remedies are best prescribed by a competent homeopath. Selfdiagnosis is discouraged due to the variety of factors that must be considered before the appropriate treatment is selected. However, the following remedies can be helpful: Ferrum phos, lycopodium, and silica. Juice Therapy: A juice fast of organic vegetable juices for 2-3 weeks can help detoxify the body, thus improving its ability to cope with allergies. Two useful juice combinations for this purpose are beet, carrot, and cucumber; and carrot and celery. For added benefit, add a small piece of ginger root to either juice combination. Lifestyle: As with any other health care condition, prevention is the best form of medicine. Here are some lifestyle guidelines that can protect you and your children from developing allergies: Newborn children should be breast-fed for at least six months after birth, and ideally for 12-18 months. Doing so has been shown to provide newborns with much healthier immune systems and allergy resistance compared to babies who aren`t breast-fed or only breast-fed for a few months. Delaying the introduction of solid foods after your baby is born can also be helpful. Most babies do better if they are not given solid foods until they are at least six months old. This helps their young, developing bodies to be better prepared to handle the foods once they are introduced, thereby reducing the risk of allergies. Delaying or avoiding immunization of your newborn babies is also recommended, since the newly formed immune system isn`t always capable of handling the many vaccinations currently administered to infants by the time they are two years old. In addition, many of the ingredients vaccines contain can be harmful to young babies, and have been linked to autism, developmental difficulties, and even death. Another lifestyle precaution you can take for yourself and your entire family is to allergy-proof your home, especially the bedrooms. In the bedroom, be sure to wash all of your pillows, blankets, and other bedding at least once a month, using hot water. Choose washable, organic pillows, pillowcases, and sheets, and don`t allow any pets you might have to enter, or at least sleep with you, in the room. Carpets, rugs, and commercial stuffed animals should also be taken out of the bedroom because of the chemicals they contain. In the rest of your house, keep all windows closed during peak allergy seasons if you suffer from allergies, and also ban all smoking inside the home. Ozone air purifiers can help minimize the spread of airborne allergens, while dehumidifiers can keep your house from becoming too damp, thus helping to prevent mold growth. On the other hand, if your home is too dry, consider the use of a humidifier. Nambudripad`s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET): According to this theory, allergic reactions are learned responses that can be changed. NAET, developed by Devi Nambudripad, DC, OMD, Ph.D., who used it to cure herself of severe, chronic, and extensive allergies, relies on altering energy flow through the body to treat symptoms of allergy and sensitivity. By examining the energy pathways, also called acupuncture meridians, practitioners are able to diagnose allergy/sensitivity triggers. Applied kinesiology, acupressure, acupuncture, and chiropractic are then used to alter the energy flow in an allergic body. The secret to its success lies in its ability to retrain or reprogram the brain and nervous system to no longer react to the allergy-causing foods and environmental substances that previously affected the patient. Overall, NAET practitioners have achieved satisfactory, permanent improvements in 80%-90% of their patients. Nutritional Supplementation: If digestive disorders are compounding allergies, which are usually the case, they will need to be corrected before any significant improvement can occur. Often people with such complaints suffer from deficiencies in vitamin A, certain B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and/or essential oils. Older or sever allergy suffers also require digestive assistance in the form of pancreatic enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid. Supplementing each meal with them can improve symptoms. Alternatively, plant-derived enzymes like bromelain (from pineapple) or papain (from papaya) may be helpful. Both zinc and vitamin A play an important role in the production of IgG, an antibody secreted from the salivary glands in the mouth and from cells that line the digestive tract. Zinc also plays a role in the production of hydrochloric acid (HCL), which the body needs for proper digestion to occur. Vitamin P or certain bioflavonoids can also treat allergies. Many allergy prone patients who take these supplements, over a period of time stop having allergic reactions once these bioflavonoids start taking effect. Quercetin taken orally along with bromelain, vitamin C, and glutamine, can work very well together. Vitamin C in high doses can have a dramatic effect in improving allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever and asthma, due to its ability to counteract the inflammation responses that are part of such conditions. Robert Cathcart III, M.D., who pioneered the technique of taking vitamin C to bowel tolerance, recommends its use for allergies. In cases of more severe exposure, he advises that the dose of vitamin C be increased as well. Dr. Cathcart bases his recommendations on clinical experience with over 1,000 patients with allergies, the vast majority of whom gained significant relief from this approach. Probiotics (acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and L-bulgaricus) can also be very helpful in minimizing allergic reactions because of their ability to restore healthy intestinal flora in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotic supplements should be taken twice a day, in the morning upon awakening, and just before bedtime. Water: For people with allergies and sensitivities, it is particularly important to keep well hydrated. Eight to twelve 8-oz glasses of water daily, with little or no fluid intake at meals, is recommended. Waiting thirty minutes before a meal, or prolonging water intake until two hours after meals is commonly advised. Additional water is needed if you consume coffee, alcohol, or caffeine products, or eat heavy meats. It`s advisable to drink only water that has been reliably purified through reverse osmosis, activated charcoal, de-ionization, or distillation; these filtration methods remove chlorine and fluoride from tap water. Water therapy: Another important dietary approach for dealing with allergies was discovered by the late Dr. Batmanghelidj, a leading expert in the relationship between water and health. According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, a person with allergies should drink half of his or her weight in ounces (for example, a 180 pound man would drink 90 ounces) of pure, filtered water each day, and include half a teaspoon of sea salt in one of the glasses. The sea salt adds vital trace minerals and other factors. Many people have been cured of their allergies simply using this approach. Dr. Batmanghelidj discovered water`s healing properties while he was a prisoner in Iran during the time of the US embassy hostage crisis. Water was all that he had available to him to minister to the needs of his fellow jailed inmates and, to his surprise, it cured them. Alternative Professional Care The following therapies are recommended for treating allergies and sensitizations: Acupuncture, Applied Kinesiology, Ayurvedic Medicine, Biofeedback, Biological Dentistry, Bodywork, Chelation Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Energy Medicine (Electrodermal Screening, Ondamed), Environmental Medicine, Hypnotherapy, Mind/Body Therapies, Magnetic Field Therapy, NAET, Orthomolecular Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Oxygen Therapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.