The theories, problems, and treatments of allergies and hypersensitivities represent an enormous topic that could easily fill an entire book—in fact, many such books have been written by noted medical authors. This section discusses some of the basic concepts in the field of allergy, with an emphasis on new work related to this growing twentieth-century dilemma, particularly regarding the use of diet and supplements in treating both food and environmental allergies.
Allergies are a result of our physiological and biochemical interaction with the world around us and within us—with the foods, chemicals, and natural substances in our immediate environment that we ingest, inhale, or physically contact, and with various internal microbes and body tissues. Our body’s immune system is designed to correctly identify and differentiate between self and nonself—that is, between what our body needs and what is foreign to it—and when it encounters foreign substances, it reacts by making antibodies or releasing certain chemicals, such as histamines. Of course, it is appropriate for us to make protective antibodies against infectious organisms, chemicals, and other foreign substances; pollens, molds, animal hairs, dust, and foods all contain protein antigens that stimulate some antibody response. The problem arises when we have an inappropriate response, or “hyperresponse.” Then the antibodies attach to the antigens, causing a variety of internal reactions. Histamine and other chemicals are released into the system, causing an inflammatory reaction. These antigen-antibody (Ag-Ab) reactions affect the tissues and organs, mainly the skin, mucous membranes, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms commonly produced include itchy and watery eyes, runny and congested nose and sinuses, skin reactions, and rapid heart rate. Less obvious but still common allergic symptoms include fatigue, headache, intestinal gas or pain, abdominal bloating, and mood changes.
These allergic manifestations often are the result of multiple stressors and biochemical reactions. I often describe this to patients as the “cup runneth over” theory. Certain people may be reactive to specific environmental and food products, as I myself am. However, if our diet is relatively clean, our stress level is low, and our normal eliminative functions are working well, we will exhibit minimal, if any, symptoms. On the other hand, if we have too many stressors going into our cup—a high-demand schedule; a few dinners out with more bread, cheese and wine; a few extra worries; less exercise; and a little constipation—our cup may “runneth over” and we may experience sinus or upper respiratory symptoms, a skin rash, or other “allergic” problems. From a naturopathic viewpoint, allergic symptoms represent detoxification of any overly congested body; the traditional Chinese viewpoint suggests an imbalance of energies and organs. Western medicine has its own theories, which I also present.
Related to allergies are hypersensitivities, allergylike reactions that result from the repeated sensitizing of our body by certain substances, usually a protein antigen of foods or specific chemicals. Hypersensitivities are distinguished from immediate allergies by the fact that hypersensitivity reactions are usually delayed, with symptoms appearing several hours or longer after exposure, even up to one or two days later. They are mediated through T lymphocytes of the cellular immune system and delayed-type IgG antibodies rather than the IgE/mast cell/histamine system of rapid allergic responses. In regard to other allergic-type reactions, the term “hypersusceptibility” should be used to describe the rapid symptoms associated with environmental illness or exposure to environmental chemicals. This is likely a neuro-endocrine interaction rather than a true allergy.
*Depending on a variety of factors, some individuals are more sensitve to allergies that enter through a particular area.
We may also have internal “allergies,” where our immune system reacts to our body’s tissues as protein antigens, and actually forms specific antibodies to them. These antibodies then latch onto the antigen-coded organ tissues, where they may interfere with proper function and produce a wide variety of inflammatory symptoms and diseases. More common areas affected include the thyroid gland, blood vessels, and joints, causing problems such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, polyarteritis nodosa, and rheumatoid arthritis. These abnormal responses to normal tissues are termed autoimmune diseases. They are increasing in frequency and becoming one of the greater mysteries of modern medicine.
Common allergic problems include hay fever, eczema, contact dermatitis, and bronchial asthma. Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is characterized by sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and postnasal drip. It is caused by reactions to pollens such as ragweed, trees, dust, grasses, molds, animals, and foods. It can be diagnosed by skin testing or blood antibody levels. Treatment may include avoidance of, or desensitization to, the allergens, or drugs such as antihistamines, decongestants, cortisone sprays or tablets, and cromolyn sodium nasal spray. Hay fever tends to run in families and is usually seasonal.
Hives, or urticaria, is characterized by red, itchy, and possibly painful wheals (bumps) on the skin. This condition may be caused by reactions to insect bites, chemicals (such as sulfites or food colors), drugs (such as aspirin or penicillin), or foods. Common foods causing hives are shellfish, nuts, citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, chocolate, beef, pork, and mangoes. Avoidance is the key to treatment; antihistamines may relieve symptoms. When reactions are caused by drugs, more acute treatment may be needed. Genetics may play a role in this type of allergy, and prior sensitization to the specific agent is necessary for the reaction, as for most allergies.
Eczema (dermatitis) is characterized by dry, itchy skin, especially on the arms and legs. It is often hereditary, and it may be worsened by stress, sweating, or food allergies. Treatment involves lowering stress, avoiding soaps and detergents, use of cortisone creams and drugs, an elimination diet with avoidance of allergenic foods. Desensitization is usually not very helpful for this problem.
Contact dermatitis is characterized by an itchy, red, raised rash that may blister. It can occur anywhere on the body where contact to the allergen has been made. Common allergenic agents are poison oak or ivy, chemicals such as nail polish or soaps, plastics, metals, and fabrics. Medical treatment involves avoidance of known allergens and the use of antihistamine and cortisone drugs to reduce symptoms.
Asthma is characterized by difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, and production of bronchial mucus. It is caused by a combination of genetic, allergic, and stress factors. It is commonly treated with drugs, avoidance and desensitization, and stress management. (This complex illness will be discussed in my next book, Staying Healthy with Modern Medicine.)
Headaches, alcoholism, and cigarette smoking may also involve allergy factors. Pain in the head, neckaches, and painful sensitivity to light, while they may be a result of stress or muscle tension, may also be caused by reactions to chemicals and foods. In such cases, the treatment would include rest, relaxation, pain relievers, and clearing of allergenic agents. Alcoholism often involves an allergic component with an addiction to grains and/or yeast (intestinal or vaginal yeast, skin fungus, or internal parasites or worms may also act as allergens as well as tissue irritants); it may also be a psychological disease with possible genetic predisposition, and may be related to a deficiency of trace mineral chromium (see Chapter 6), which is a key component of glucose tolerance factor. Treatment involves avoidance and therapy, possibly with the use of drugs or counseling. Cigarette smoking often involves an allergic addiction to either tobacco or the chemicals added to cigarettes. Treatment of nicotine addiction incorporates the elimination of the addiction, which may require counseling, will power, detoxification, and a change of lifestyle.
While there are a great many types of allergic reactions, almost all result from elevated levels of two different antibodies—immunoglobulin E (IgE) and immunoglobulin G (IgG), which occurs more with foods. IgE stimulates the release of histamine, causing immediate physiological activities. The common histamine response includes swelling, redness, itching, and possibly pain. The IgG antibody causes more delayed and long-term reactions. Some of the problems caused by the IgE reaction are hay fever, or pollen reactions, insect sting reactions, urticaria (hives) from ingested substances, such as foods or drugs, and atopic (hereditary allergy-mediated IgE) dermatitis or eczema. Many of these are fairly easy to observe and diagnose; however, reactions such as a change in energy level, decreased mental clarity, or digestive symptoms may be more difficult to acknowledge and to understand as allergic responses. IgG-mediated delayed types of reactions include many drug side effects; problems from exposure to chemicals, including tobacco; and most food allergies (that is why skin testing is not very useful for such allergies—it measures only IgE responses). Most allergy problems are a mixture of these different immunoglobulin-medicated reactions.
The main focus of traditional allergy practice is the diseases involving the IgE-histamine response—hay fever, eczema, and asthma. These are termed “atopies” (hereditary allergies); sensitive individuals have a genetic or at least familial propensity for experiencing these diseases sometime in their lives. These problems are more common in children and tend to regress with age. When such problems start later in life, they may be less genetically dominated and more related to other factors. Each of these conditions involves increased sensitivity to certain allergens. For example, an asthmatic or eczema sufferer may be allergic to eggs, wheat, or milk; hay fever sufferers are usually sensitive to pollen and environmental agents. Isolating the specific reactions and avoiding the agents that cause them, and/or using injection desensitization, may relieve the symptomatology. However, in all these cases, even with an elimination of symptoms, there is still the potential for the problem because of genetic or familial predisposition. Schools of natural healing or Chinese medicine may view these allergy problems in terms of body biochemical or energy imbalances and attempt to offer relief by correcting these difficulties. Nutritional medicine may have a lot to offer the allergic person by providing the optimum tissue and cellular nutrient levels that allow improved function and reduced allergic symptoms.
A deeper realm of allergy and immunology has fascinated many physicians in the last two decades. This is now incorporated into the field of clinical ecology. It involves our interaction with the environment and its effect on human health and disease. Clinical ecologists are physicians who evaluate and treat chronic illness on the basis of allergy, immune response (and immune weakness), and nutrition. Therapy may involve isolation from allergens, dietary changes, and an “orthomolecular” approach to nutritional supplements—that is, using higher amounts of various nutrients to support the body’s functions and to alter abnormal physiology and correct functional or metabolic nutritional imbalances. Problems such as chronic fatigue, rapid aging, recurrent infections, arthritis, headaches, asthma, and mental illness have been treated successfully with this approach. The theories of “cerebral allergy” and “allergy-addiction” have been set forth by these pioneering physicians.
Herbert Rinkel, M.D., was probably the first to notice the problem of “cumulative allergic reactions,” which led to his initial work on the “rotary-diversified” diet. This diet, and variations of it, have been used for over 50 years and each year more physicians employ the diet in their practices. The basic theory of many practicing physicians is that inappropriate immune responses produce antibodies to basically harmless and even usable macromolecules; these reactions may affect the normal body functions. Many of these reactions may be “hidden” or masked in the process of “allergy-addiction.” In this case, foods may be acting on the body much like agents such as coffee, alcohol beverages, or tobacco—which are also common allergens. To avoid the withdrawal symptoms, we must regularly take in the specific substance. This type of reaction most commonly causes what are now called “cerebral allergies”—altered neurotransmitter reactions that affect the energy, emotions, and psyche. The theory is that certain allergenic antigens or antigen-antibody complexes cross the blood-brain barrier and cause these unusual reactions. Common cerebral symptoms include headache, dullness, lightheadedness, dizziness, anxiety, irritability, confusion, uncoordination, and depression. Lethargy, aggression, crying spells, insomnia, and even psychotic symptoms may also be experienced. Drs. Rinkel, William Philpott, and Marsha Mandell all have shown a fairly high percentage of food allergies in schizophrenic patients and those with other psychological disorders. Wheat, milk, and tobacco were most commonly found to be involved; “cerebral allergies” in particular can be most significant with the cereal grains. Food allergies may occur as a “fixed” reaction (stable over time), or “cumulative,” increasing with repeated use and lessening with avoidance.
|Headaches||Hay Fever||Childhood Allergies|
The allergy-addiction syndrome related to foods is very common. These easily become “hidden” allergies, which may be involved in binge eating, overeating, weight gain, and general ups and downs that come from eating food. Cravings, even very subtle ones, often are part of this syndrome, but people who experience this might think that they just like a particular food and so eat it regularly. And when they eat it, they may feel a lift. This is thought to be a result of stimulation of beta-endorphins in the brain, which give us an “up” or euphoric feeling, as occurs with prolonged exercise.
Most addictions, especially to foods (and some street drugs), involve some allergy, but the allergic reactions may be masked, with repeated exposures producing no symptoms. A positive identification of the allergenic food cannot be made until it has been eliminated for four or more days; at times even avoidance for 24 hours might be enough to reveal the allergy. After a few days, trying the food by itself may produce a marked, abnormal response, and then we can see more clearly what has been happening. Much like an alcoholic with allergies to yeast and grains, people with such food addictions may tend to binge on the allergenic foods, especially when they are under psychological stress.
A wide variety of symptoms are possible with food allergy-addictions. Randolph and Moss’s An Alternative Approach to Allergies offers a very advanced and somewhat complex analysis of the many theories and symptoms of food allergies, noting that the addiction occurs in two phases, stimulatory and withdrawal. During the stimulatory cycle, when we eat the food, we experience a decrease in symptoms; when we avoid it, we experience a “hangover” and an increase in symptoms. In the withdrawal phase, we experience initially a worsening of symptoms and then improvement. When we re-expose ourselves to the food, we often get a marked increase in symptoms and a clearer picture of the problem.
Children experience food reactions quite commonly. Cerebral symptoms may occur, leading to hyperactivity, poor attention, and difficulty in learning, as well as many other physical symptoms. Often, isolating the allergens, which may be foods and/or chemicals in foods, and eliminating them from the diet can make a huge difference in the life of the affected child, and consequently, in the lives of his or her parents and siblings.
What foods are most commonly connected to these allergies? Dr. Rinkel’s research led him to conclude that “the constant, monotonous intake of any food promotes the development of a food allergy in a susceptible person.” The foods he found most frequently to cause reactions were wheat, eggs, milk, coffee, corn, yeast, beef, and pork.
Although different practitioners report different lists of foods that they find to be commonly allergenic—for example, some include corn, soy products, cane sugar, or nuts, while others do not—all agree that wheat, milk, and eggs are the top three; yeast is another common allergen. All of these foods not only are consumed daily by most people but also are found as components of many other foods, giving us repeated exposures daily. In general, infrequently eaten foods less likely lead to allergies.
Causes of Allergies
The causes of allergies are, I believe, multiple. There is, of course, the genetic pre-disposition, which is clearly established in the atopic diseases of hay fever, asthma, and eczema but may also predispose us to many others. Eating habits during the first year of life may influence our potential for allergy more than anything else, even heredity. Feeding babies solid foods too early and not breastfeeding them is a primary way to cause allergies and, thus, produce many problems in infants. Cow’s milk and baby for-mulas provide large molecules that are difficult for the infant’s immature gastrointestinal tract and immune system to handle. Gluten allergy from early feeding of grains such as wheat, corn, and oats is also common. The best way to prevent allergies, particularly childhood ones, is to breastfeed a child exclusively for six months before introducing solid foods. (See Infancy program.) Even in adults, poor digestion, with low levels of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, is an underlying cause of many food reactions.
The digestive process is tied to allergies, particularly to foods, as Dr. Michael Rosenbaum and Dominic Bosco clearly concur with in their book, Super Fitness Beyond Vitamins. The problem starts with incomplete digestion that results from improper chewing of food and poor action of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and bile. These are influenced by stress and by excessive fluid intake around meals. The incomplete digestion along with the “leaky gut” that comes from inflammation in the gastrointestinal mucosa—resulting from stress, the intake of fried and fatty foods, as well as chemicals, and the presence of parasites or Candida albicans—allow absorption of larger molecules that then generate an immune reaction. (Also, please note: Low-level infectious microorganisms may also create allergic propensity; I believe this is common with worms, other parasites, yeasts, and certain bacteria.) Chronic stress affects pancreatic and adrenal function which are tied to digestion, energy level, and food cravings.
The key here is to minimize food allergies by enhancing digestion—chewing well, eating good foods, lowering stress, and supporting digestive juices. Decreasing inflammation and healing the gut, treating any abnormally present microorganisms, supporting immune and glandular functions, and stimulating proper detoxification will all help minimize food reactions, and allergies in general. Many nutrients, which will be discussed shortly, can support all of these functions as well.
Toxicity in the environment is another probable cause for the increasing numbers of allergic people. Exposure to many more irritating and allergenic substances also may adversely affect our immune function. Today, many people are reacting to new synthetic products and pollutants in the air. Formaldehyde, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide in the air as well as many industrial or food chemicals found in food, such as the antibiotics, certain food colors, sulfites, MSG, and sodium benzoate, may all stimulate allergic responses as well as lower our immunity. There are many other chemicals that are not easy to diagnose or avoid. Living as natural a life as possible, avoiding polluted areas and chemicals, is the best we can do.
Stress also plays a major role in allergies by dysregulating immune functions and by weakening adrenal response. Stress can also directly influence our digestive function, which I believe can be a core factor in allergies. Chronic stress may lead to a reduction of hydrochloric acid output (initially it may raise HCl secretions) and digestive enzyme function, so that we do not break down our food properly. Absorption of larger food molecules into the blood may lead to increased antibody responses and subsequent allergies. Furthermore, the effects of stress on our immune system can lead to an increase in infections, which contribute to both environmental and food allergies. For example, parasitic intestinal infections may act as direct allergens and also increase other allergic responses. In addition, other aspects of stress, including emotional and mental stress, anxiety, and fatigue, all increase susceptibility to allergies. Menstrual stress (hormonal changes) also seems to increase allergic reactions.
Abuse of chemicals and refined foods is another factor that can cause or exacerbate allergies. This can also enhance stress levels and weaken immunity, and may lead to nutritional deficiencies—another problem that increases allergic sensitivity. Low nutrient levels of vitamin C, most B vitamins, vitamin A, and many minerals influence body function sufficiently to weaken allergic resistance.
Excess or repeated contact with particular foods and substances in the environment causes allergies. It usually takes a few days for our immune system, mainly our T lymphocytes, to be sensitized to an antigen and guide the formation of antibodies by B lymphocytes. After that, reactions to exposures are immediate and usually produce mild immune-inflammatory responses. Initially, histamine released by other cells causes some redness, swelling, and fluid release and also stimulates the T cell antibody activity. Later exposures create repeated antigen-antibody responses, which can have a variety of effects on the tissues and bodily functions.
Temperature extremes also influence many people’s allergic problems and generally increase susceptibility to allergies. Quick changes of temperature, particularly going from heat to air conditioning, may themselves produce symptoms such as sinus congestion, skin rash, hives, or even asthmatic attacks.
The causes of allergies are indeed a complex issue. Everything from our genes to our spiritual awareness is a factor, with diet and stress levels being especially important. The traditional Chinese medical viewpoint suggests that allergies reflect internal balance or imbalance, mainly of the wood (liver) and metal (lungs and colon) elements, as well as being a result of general energy congestion. If that is the case, then rebalancing these organs within the entire energy system will help improve allergic symptoms. I have seen improvement with acupuncture treatments along with some liver and colon detoxification through diet and herbs.
Just as there are many causes, there are also many symptoms related to allergies, both gross and subtle, visible and invisible. Often acute symptoms such as fatigue, itching, or a runny nose can progress to a chronic problem with repeated exposure, especially to food allergens; such difficulties as headache, depression, or arthritis may follow. Really, any of the inflammatory “itis” diseases, such as colitis, arthritis, dermatitis, and bronchitis, can come from allergies.
Evaluating allergies is another complex and controversial issue. There are a number of tests available to evaluate environmental and food allergies. Skin testing is probably the best way to isolate specific environmental allergens, because these are harder to detect ourselves, especially for substances such as pollens. Molds may be a bit easier to isolate, as by noticing our reactions upon going into a damp house. Allergies to animals are often fairly simple to identify, though many of us deny our chronic reaction to our beloved cat or dog. There are many techniques for skin testing. I prefer the Rinkel method because it individualizes the analysis and treatment plan. Some doctors use group antigen testing, mixing a variety of pollens or animal danders together. This is simpler and usually less costly and time consuming, though not always as effective, especially in patients with more complex problems.
When it comes to foods, the source of most allergies, skin testing is not as useful. Only a small percentage of reactions may be found through this method. That is why traditional allergists believe that all the brouhaha over food allergies is unwarranted. But many allergy-oriented family doctors know that food allergies are indeed important, and the basis of many problems. (One of these is Dr. Theron Randolph, who set up an inpatient clinical ecology unit at a Chicago hospital, where he isolates people from most allergens and then tests them with one allergen at a time.)
|Fatigue||Runny nose||Weight gain|
|Learning disabilities||Sinus congestion||Weight swings|
|Hyperactivity||Canker sores||Binge eating|
|Mood swings||Tinnitis||Frequent hunger|
|Irritability||Ear congestion||Joint pain|
|Depression||Recurrent ear infections||Swelling of hands or feet|
|Muscle aches||Cough||Arthritis, juvenile|
|Muscle weakness||Sore throat||Arthritis, rheumatoid|
|Disorientation||Chest congestion||Drug addiction|
|Poor thinking||Itching||Cigarette smoking|
|Diarrhea||Nonspecific rash||Regional ileitis|
|Dark circles under eyes||Heartburn||Vaginal itching|
|Recurrent vaginitis||Loss of sex drive|
Some tests are fairly good for measuring food allergies; techniques have improved in recent years. The RAST (Radio Allergo Sorbent Test), which measures IgG or IgE antibodies to specific food antigens, is probably the best. It is costly, but it can give us the most accurate results for a large number of foods all at once. Cytotoxic testing, which measures the cellular response (mainly of white blood cells) to food antigens, has fallen into disuse because of lack of accuracy of many labs due to the subjective nature of the test. A newer, computerized technique, ALCAT, which measures white blood cell reactions to food antigens, may be a more useful test.
There are tests that completely evaluate and correlate allergic reactions to food with actual patient experiences. Self-testing or a clinical form of self-testing is really the best. These include a variety of techniques using a general method called provocative testing, where the patient receives sublingual drops of foods, ingests capsules containing powdered foods, or eats whole foods. Ideally, the patient does not know what food is being tested and has not eaten it for several days, for then reactions will be most clear. However, in a clinical setting, a patient may know what food is being tested, may have eaten it within the last 12–24 hours, and may have only 30 minutes to observe a reaction. All these factors make this type of test less accurate. It may take longer than the time allotted to react to a food, and our psyche often influences our reactions when we know what food is being tested. In addition, when several foods are tested on the same day, overlapping reactions may occur.
The best practical testing involves following an elimination diet and then consuming various suspect foods and watching for reactions over 24 hours. This means that only one food a day can be tested if the results are to be accurate. The absolute best test, of course, is a double-blind test, where neither the patient nor the clinician knows what food extract is in those funny little capsules and the specific reactions are quantified over a period of at least three or four hours, and even up to one or two days. This, however, is not very practical.
Food elimination testing is not really easy, because it requires self-discipline, but it is fairly simple in technique. It can be helpful for isolating not only what foods are involved but also what kinds of reactions occur from each food. As mentioned earlier, many food allergies (as well as “intolerances” and “sensitivities”) and symptoms are masked by addictive behavior, so a food elimination plan is needed to uncover them.
The advantage of food elimination or avoidance and retesting is that it helps the body release these addictions, so that retesting the food will reveal the actual allergy. It is also inexpensive and offers us a valuable direct experience of our food reactions. Its disadvantages are that it is time consuming and sometimes difficult to fit into our everyday life and that the results are based on our subjective experience, so that accuracy is dependent on a significant short-term reaction (many food reactions are not immediate) and high awareness of our body’s functioning. Yet, overall, food elimination testing can be very valuable. And if it does not reveal clear findings and we still suspect food allergies, then a blood antibody (RAST) test can be done.
The elimination diet involves avoiding any foods that are commonly reactive, that we suspect are causing reactions, or that we eat regularly. This is best done for from four to seven days before testing is begun. If symptoms persist, the avoidance period may need to be several weeks long. If after this time there is no improvement, either allergenic foods are still being eaten or, more likely, food allergy is not the problem.
Another testing method involves doing a short fast on water or juices, which will clear addictive foods and resensitize the body. In my first book, I describe a lengthy food elimination program whereby individual food groups are eliminated one by one until we get down to a few days of only juice and water before individual foods are tested. A simpler technique would be to eat a diet that contains only foods that are unlikely to be allergenic. These include all fruits except citrus; all vegetables except corn; white or brown rice (but no other grains; other starches could include hard squashes and sweet potatoes); turkey (and chicken if it is not regularly consumed); deep-sea whitefish—halibut, swordfish, sole (no shellfish or salmon); walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds (in moderation). However, if any of these foods have been eaten regularly or craved, they should be avoided. If symptoms develop during the avoidance (or testing) period, 1–2 grams of vitamin C should be taken every couple of hours. The buffered ascorbates with minerals or bicarbonate are usually helpful. Withdrawal symptoms are not at all common during the avoidance phase, but they may occur.
- All fruits, except citrus
- All vegetables, except corn, tomatoes
- Brown or white rice
- White fish—halibut, sole, or swordfish
- Almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds
The best thing about food elimination is that it is usually an important part of the treatment as well as of the evaluation. After testing, the new diet becomes our individualized therapeutic diet. To test foods, though, only one food should be consumed at a time. This is termed a “challenge.” Testing foods singly is the only way to really follow what our reaction, if any, will be. Since it is possible to react to chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides on foods, it is wise to use whole organic foods whenever possible.
There are two approaches to this testing method. The first is to eat “mono meals,” consisting of a moderate to large portion of an individual food, and then to monitor any reactions to that food over the next three or four hours. In this way, several foods can be tested in a day. I generally suggest this method following a short fast because the body is in a cleaner state and able to respond more clearly to food challenges. For basic food testing, it may be more appropriate and simpler just to create a diet of foods found to be safe through the elimination phase and then build on that, trying new ones. Again, only one new food should be added at a time; adding only one per day is ideal rather than three of four, which could confuse our responses. Use the less potentially allergenic foods first, before attempting a wheat, egg, or milk challenge. Some people will want to try their most suspected foods first, and this can be all right, though it may interfere with further testing if there is a positive reaction.
If we do react positively to a food, then we eliminate it again for three to six weeks before retesting. This will help to reduce the allergy and reduce antibody levels, so that we may not react as much or even at all. Certain food reactions are fairly fixed, and we may need to completely avoid the foods that cause them. However, we will be able to tolerate most foods if we eat them infrequently or work them into a new “rotary-diversified” diet, where most foods are rotated on a four-day basis—part of our food allergy diet therapy.
It is important to keep a journal during food testing and record any reactions—how we feel before, immediately after, and in the several hours (even up to 12–24) after consuming a food. If we leave it all to memory, we may miss subtle reactions or forget what happened. This also increases our food awareness. Most of us have not been trained to observe how we feel after we eat a meal.
Monitoring our pulse rate is another aid to evaluating food reactions. If we take our pulse often enough to know our basic resting pulse and become efficient in the technique, we can record our pulse before and after consuming a food or meal. If it increases by more than 12–14 beats per minute after eating, one of the foods may be an allergen. We should check our pulse about five minutes after eating and at fifteen-minute intervals for the next hour. The “pulse test” devised by Arthur Coca, M.D., can be used as a more subtle physiological evaluation as well as to monitor alongside actual symptoms.
Treatment of allergies is also rather diversified and somewhat complex. The standard medical approach is to use antihistamine or immunosuppressive steroid drugs to reduce symptoms; a more corrective approach involves the isolation of specific allergens through skin testing and then to do desensitization through shots, as well as avoid allergen exposure where possible. This is the usual procedure for environmental allergies and common problems such as hay fever and asthma; however as previously mentioned, this process is not very useful for discovering or treating most food reactions. For hay fever or asthma, cromolyn sodium works well but must be taken regularly for several weeks to be effective. There are obviously hundreds of drugs available for allergic conditions, but our focus here is to try to be drug-free. With drug or food reactions, the approach is usually avoidance of the allergenic agents, if they can be determined.
Most medical treatment for allergies is not curative but is aimed at reducing symptoms. Ideally, we want to correct and heal the body so that we become less congested and less allergic. Before even thinking about medical investigation and treatment, it is wise to do what we can ourselves first. Reducing stress, eating a good diet, and taking nutritional supplements will often work very rapidly to reduce allergic symptoms. The elimination diet or even a short fast can help us identify and handle food allergies. I personally would begin a detoxification program, use herbs and supplements, and probably have acupuncture treatments; I believe that this would give me the best chance for rapid recovery. If necessary, I will offer skin testing and desensitization to my patients, and this is also helpful; it is just more time-consuming and expensive. To help in allergy treatment, it is also important to pay attention to our gastrointestinal tract. If yeast infections or parasites are present, treating for these problems is often helpful. Many allergic people have weak digestion and are low in hydrochloric acid and digestive enzyme production, and supplementing these is often beneficial.
I believe that changing our diet itself can aid in preventing and treating all kinds of allergies, especially those to foods, which are very common. Often, just eliminating “reactive” foods from our diet can reduce symptoms of other allergies.
The most common diet for allergies is the standard four-day rotation plan (one of the basics of the Ideal Diet discussed in Part Three), emphasizing fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods. For the very sensitive person, or for those with difficult digestion, prepare foods in easily digestible forms, such as soups or fresh juices. It takes four days for our body to clear the food we have eaten. By rotating this way, we prevent the chronic buildup of antibodies and reduce possible allergic reactions. After antibody levels decrease and these “reactive” foods again become tolerated, they should not be consumed regularly since they may generate reactions as before. Other foods should also be rotated to prevent becoming “sensitive” to them as well.
Eat whole, unadulterated foods
Diversify the diet
Rotate food families
Eat only nonallergenic foods at first
The high-water-content nutritious foods in the Ideal Diet will support the body’s detoxification and healing processes. Eliminating reactive foods reduces cravings and allows satiety to be reached sooner; smaller amounts of better-quality foods are usually easier to digest. This diet usually produces steady weight loss in people who are overweight; normal-weight or underweight people will usually have less or no weight loss on the Ideal Diet, but may need to increase food intake for maintenance.
Fasting and detoxification programs are often very beneficial for allergic conditions. A body that is less “congested” is less allergic. In working with hundreds of allergic patients through the years, I have found short fasts to be helpful for a vast majority of people. With allergies, the focus of the “cleansing” fast is the liver and colon. Lemon water or the “lemonade fast” (see the Fasting program in Chapter 18) helps the liver, while general juice fasting with a cleansing of the colon through enemas or colonic irrigations can make an incredible difference.
For seasonal allergies that are fairly predictable, it is often helpful to do a fast a week or two before the usual onset of symptoms. This is most commonly in the spring, which is naturally the season for cleansing. The beginning of the spring is the best time to clear out bad habits and past addictions, and to create our new diet and lifestyle plan. Of course, after the fast, it is important to introduce foods slowly and to be aware of any reactions.
There are many nutrients and supplements that may be helpful in reducing allergic symptoms. I have often seen improvement with a simple program of a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement with an extra 2–3 grams of vitamin C and 500 mg. of pantothenic acid (B5). The vitamins C and B5 help to ameliorate the impacts of stress by supporting the weakened adrenals; the adrenal corticosteroids released can then minimize the allergic-inflammatory response. Vitamin C can also be used for any withdrawal symptoms or for reactions secondary to food intake, and higher levels have an antihistaminic effect.
Along with Vitamin C, its supportive bioflavonoids could be added. Many have anti-inflammatory and antiallergy affects. Quercetin is a particular one that has been shown in research to reduce histamine levels and allergy symptoms. My experience with myself and many patients is very favorable. An amount of 250–600 mg. daily in several doses is needed for the effect. Quercezyme Plus, a product by Enzymatic Therapy, is one I particularly like.
In addition to these above mentioned nutrients, other B vitamins are also helpful. Folic acid, B6, and B12 all support antibody formation. The pyridoxal-5-phosphate form of vitamin B6 may be particularly helpful in the allergic patient. It has an apparent anti-inflammatory effect, and as the active metabolite of pyridoxine, it works more directly. It is possible that allergy patients do not phosphorylate pyridoxine very easily. Repeated, small doses of niacin (10–50 mg.) will cause release of histamine and may contribute to increased allergy symptoms initially. Regular niacin flushes, though, will within days reduce stores of histamine, which may then help lessen allergic symptoms; then, continued niacin use will maintain those lower levels of histamine and allergy symptoms.
Vitamin A, about 20,000 IUs per day, and zinc, 50–100 mg., are both helpful in alleviating allergy symptoms and in preventing infections. They also help to heal the gastrointestinal mucosa, along with vitamin C, and they improve or normalize the antibody response to antigens, which is often “out of whack” in people with allergies. Other minerals besides zinc, particularly manganese, may also be useful. Magnesium, selenium and chromium are also frequently beneficial.
The fat-soluble nutrients are also needed. Vitamin E, about 800 IUs per day, is a helpful protectant of membranes. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from evening primrose oil, borage, or black currant seeds, is being found to be an effective nutrient in the reduction of allergic symptoms. This is probably due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins that are formed from GLA. Six to eight capsules daily (200–400 mg. total GLA), divided into several portions, are usually effective. Other anti-inflammatory nutrients include EPA, vitamins A, B5, B6, and C, bioflavonoids, zinc, and the enzyme bromelain. The antioxidants, including beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and dimethylglycine, may also help with inflammation and immune support.
L-amino acids can also be helpful by stabilizing energy levels and supporting immune components and functions. As mentioned earlier, people with allergies often have poor digestion, particularly for proteins; L-amino acids are a simple, quick way to obtain these building blocks. Digestive support is also very useful in allergic patients. Better breakdown, assimilation, and metabolism of foods reduces allergic components and irritations in the gastrointestinal tract and has often been seen to reduce symptoms as well. Taking hydrochloric acid tablets with meals, followed by digestive enzymes after eating, is a good beginning plan; of course, for anyone with hyperacidity, ulcer symptoms or other abdominal pains, this is not recommended. Many formulas, such as Zypan, made by Standard Process Labs, combine both digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid in one tablet. When such formulas are used, usually two or three tablets (depending on meal size) can be taken just after meals (especially after meals that contain high amounts of proteins and fats).
Additional fiber can provide mild colon detoxification. Supplemental psyllium and bran can be added to a good high-fiber diet. Garlic in the diet can also help with detoxification, as can the supplement sodium alginate, which lessens possible heavy metal toxicity. Betonite clay (montmorillonite) is a strong absorbent that binds chemicals, metals and other impurities in the gut. It also, as do most of the fiber molecules, has the potential to bind minerals such as calcium and zinc.
A recently formulated physiological sulfur, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the mucous membranes. Thus, it may be helpful for both food allergies (by helping to heal the gut) and for inhalant allergies. It also may be a useful nutrient for those with arthritis. MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur metabolite in human tissues and is present in high amounts in breast milk. A beginning amount is one 500 mg. capsule daily, going up to three or four capsules daily.
Other possibly helpful supplements, especially in the acutely allergic patient, include organic germanium (Ge-132) and possibly Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), as per the experience of many practitioners, including Lester Rose, M.D., of San Jose, California. Dr. Rose has recommended for allergies, as well as for chronic candidiasis and chronic Epstein-Barr syndrome, a combination of Ge-132 (600 mg. daily tapering to 150 mg. over three weeks), CoQ10 (60 mg. twice daily), SOD (3 tablets upon arising), and a multiple without iron.
Many people also try a glandular supplement approach in treating allergies. Adrenal is often the first choice to support the body’s ability to handle stress and allergies. Thymus gland tablets may help strengthen cell-mediated immunity, though this is not well proven. Liver extracts are also used sometimes. Another approach is to conduct a general evaluation of organ strengths and weaknesses and then to use particular glandulars to create the proper balance. If glands or extracts of glands are chosen, they should be free of pesticides, herbicides, and other agricultural chemicals as well as free of viruses.
Many herbs are commonly used in the treatment of allergies, to strengthen the immune system and lungs, to promote detoxification, and to reduce inflammation and histamine-mediated allergy symptoms. A good herbal allergy formula consists of ephedra, echinacea, wild cherry bark, white willow bark, mullein leaves, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Ephedra (ma huang) and echinacea are often used together. Ephedra causes vasoconstriction, echinacea improves the white blood cell response, and both have been shown to lower IgE levels. Wild cherry bark, coltsfoot leaf, and mullein leaves are lung-strengthening herbs; white willow bark is an anti-inflammatory; cayenne supports circulation; and garlic assists in detoxification.
Some other lung-strengthening herbs include pleurisy root, horehound, and licorice root. Licorice also supports the adrenals and soothes the digestive tract. Other soothing herbs include slippery elm bark and marshmallow root. Comfrey root, which contains the tissue-supporting nutrient allantoin, is useful for helping to heal the intestinal lining.
Some people have reported experiencing a reduction of local hay fever and pollen-allergy symptoms by the use of small amounts of bee pollen. Eating one to three grains at first and increasing the number of grains slowly over a period of a few weeks seems to have benefited some pollen allergy sufferers. I do not recommend this, however, because the types of pollens present may vary, and some may cause a temporary worsening of symptoms.
|Wild cherry bark||White willow bark|
|Mullein leaves||Cayenne pepper|
Mix equal amounts into “00” capsules or a tea.
Take two capsules three times daily.
The following table presents suggested daily amounts, taken in several portions, of the essential nutrients and other supplements for reducing allergic potential and minimizing allergy symptoms.
|Vitamin A||20,000 IUs*||Magnesium||300–600 mg.|
|Beta-carotene||20,000 IUs||Manganese||10 mg.|
|Vitamin D||400 IUs||Molybdenum||500 mcg.|
|Vitamin E||800 IUs||Selenium||200 mcg.|
|Vitamin K||300 mcg.||Sulfur(as methyl-|
|Thiamine (B1)||50 mg.||sulfonylmethane)||500–1,500 mg.|
|Riboflavin (B2)||50 mg.||Silicon||100 mg.|
|Niacin (B3)||100 mg.||Zinc||60 mg.|
|Niacinamide (B3)||50–100 mg.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||1,500 mg.||Others:|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||50–100 mg.||L-amino acids||1,500 mg.|