Aging begins when our body starts to break down which can happen at any age. If you’ve been a junk-food junkie, you may have a deteriorating digestive system in your 20s or 30s. Or this may not occur until you’re over 50. In either case, you need a healthy diet, along with good digestion, to stay young and vital. But good digestion does much more. It can keep your allergies from getting worse. If you look and feel older than your years, it’s possible your allergies are to blame. And reducing your allergies will not only help you feel better, but it can also help you roll back the clock.
Every cell in your body depends on getting enough of certain nutrients. Your digestive system controls the health of your cells and how well your body functions. I’ve said it many times before: You are not what you eat. You are what you eat, digest, and absorb. You can’t digest and absorb nutrients with poor digestion.
If you have digestive problems, you may be constipated or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Or you could have allergies. That’s right. Allergies are often a sign of a compromised digestive system, which is why they often increase over time. But allergies don’t just make you feel miserable. They can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, depression, weight gain, and asthma … to name just a few.
A food allergy triggers an immune response every time you eat a particular food. Most of us only have food sensitivities. After you repair your digestive tract, you may be able to eat foods that caused your sensitivity — just not in huge quantities.
There’s a connection between food and airborne allergies. People with severe allergies to molds and pollens usually have food allergies as well — even when they’re not aware of them. When their food-allergy symptoms improve, their reactions to airborne substances do, also. So don’t dismiss your allergic reactions as being a minor discomfort. The key is to improve your digestion and make sure your allergies don’t progress to unnecessary or premature illnesses.
Three ways you weaken your digestion
(1) Eating a lot of sugar contributes to inflammation throughout your digestive tract. It also feeds bad bacteria, such as Candida albicans. The result is often a condition called intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut syndrome.” During the holiday season, we tend to eat more sugar. Time to stop now.
(2) Eating the same foods over and over can deplete your digestive enzymes. Then, the foods you eat don’t get broken down into small enough particles to get into your cells. These particles can irritate and damage your intestines. It’s easy to get into an eating rut, especially if you crave certain foods. Often, these are precisely the foods you need to avoid.
(3) As we age, our stomach produces less hydrochloric acid (HCl) to help digest proteins, calcium, magnesium, and iron. This can lead to allergies. Consider taking HCl as well as enzymes if you’re over 50 and have poor digestion. For more information on how to do this, read Dr Jonathan Wright’s book, Why Stomach Acid is Good for You (M. Evans & Company, 2001).
You may have taken one or all of the following steps in the past. But you’ll have a difficult time reducing your allergic symptoms unless you do all of them at once. So, read on and slowly begin a comprehensive anti-allergy program.
Take a closer look at your diet
How many times have you heard someone say, “I used to be able to eat that, but now it just doesn’t agree with me”? Chances are this is because their digestion isn’t as good as it used to be, either. To reduce allergic reactions, you first need to avoid eating foods that cause allergic symptoms.
The most common food allergies are to wheat, cow’s milk, sugar, corn, eggs, and peanuts. Of course, this includes all products made with these ingredients.It’s tricky. If you’re sensitive to corn, you need to avoid all foods with cornstarch or high fructose corn syrup. Time to read labels carefully! Completely avoid the food or foods you think may be causing some of your symptoms for four weeks.
You may be sensitive to several foods. Begin by choosing just one or two that you eat frequently. It doesn’t have to be one of the seven listed above. Citrus, NutraSweet, and nuts can also trigger allergic responses. I once saw a young boy who had a complete personality shift and became hyperactive whenever he ate a banana.
Need more help? The best book on the subject I’ve seen is Food Allergy Survival Guide (Melina, Stepaniak, and Aronson, Healthy Living Publications, 2004). It’s packed with all the needed information to understand both food allergies and sensitivities, and recipes to help you avoid these foods. If you have food sensitivities or allergies, you need this book.
Give yourself a gentle cleansing
Spring and summer are ideal times to cleanse and repair your digestive tract.
Begin by adding a mild detoxification program to your elimination diet. Spring is an excellent time to move from eating heavy winter foods to more greens and other vegetables filled with repairing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It’s time to get your body ready for the warmer months ahead by eating lighter, alkalinizing foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Chew your food well. Chewing breaks food down into tiny pieces that are easier to digest than larger particles. When food particles are large, your immune system attacks them as if they were deadly viruses, taxing your immune system. Save your immune system to fight bacteria and viruses.
- Help flush out toxins by drinking pure, filtered water throughout the day. Exercise daily, even if only for 15 minutes. A brisk walk helps increase your circulation, which increases your excretion of toxins.
- Give yourself a dry brush (or dry loofa sponge) massage before you shower. This also increases elimination and circulation. And it feels good.
- Drink a liver/gallbladder flush. Take an organic lemon. Remove seeds and chop it into pieces (including the rind) and blend it for one minute or more with one-and-a-half cups of water and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. The drink will be frothy and not too acidic. Drink this daily for up to two weeks.
- Eat a detox diet. Avoid foods that add to your toxic load, such as deep fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, luncheon meats, and chemicals found in prepared foods. Whenever possible, eat organic foods. Limit your fats to a little olive oil and raw nuts. Eat the best quality foods you can find.
Repair your intestines
Irritated intestines can lead to intestinal permeability (“leaky gut syndrome”), a condition where the openings in the intestinal lining get larger. This allows particles of food and bacteria to get into your body instead of being eliminated.
To stop this vicious cycle, you need to digest your foods better, add more friendly bacteria (probiotics), and soothe your intestinal linings.
There are three supplements vital in helping you repair your digestive tract: probiotics, enzymes, and glutamine.
Of all the probiotics on the market, my three favorites are Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics 12 Plus, Natren’s Healthy Trinity (both available in many health food stores), and Women’s Preferred Advanced Probiotic Formula (800-728-2288).
Digestive enzymes are helpful if your body is no longer making enough of them. It’s often helpful to take enzymes after meals for three or four months. Don’t become dependent on them. But if you’re not digesting your food well, they could help you over this bump in your road to fewer allergies and greater revitalization.
Glutamine is an amino acid that helps repair your intestinal lining. Take 250-500 mg three times a day for three months. Or eat foods that are high in glutamine, such as green vegetables and legumes.
Haas, Elson M., MD. The New Detox Diet, Celestial Arts, 2004.
Melina, Vesanto, MS, RD, Jo Sepaniak, MSEd, and Dina Aronson, MS, RD. Food Allergy Survival Guide, Healthy Living Publications, 2004.