Allergies include a variety of bodily reactions to our external and internal environments. There are cellular, biochemical, and tissue reactions with histamine, lymphocytes,
antibodies, and more. These often include reactions to agents such as:
- Pollens, weeds, dust, molds and animal hair (dander).
- A multitude of foods, most commonly cow’s milk, wheat (gluten), eggs, yeasts, and a variety of sometimes others like peanuts and almonds, corn, soy, tomatoes, and what might bother you. There are several types of food reactions, and only one or two may be actual allergy.
- Chemical agents lead to inflammation and immune reactions.
- Invasive microbes, such as yeasts, parasites, viruses, and bacteria and the reactions they cause, also setting off the immune system to fight them.
Allergies trigger specific chemical responses in the body such
as the release of histamine from our cells, causing the familiar
allergic reactions–redness, swelling or discharge, itching, and
sometimes pain. Hay fever, asthma, and eczema are classic allergic
disorders. Other manifestations of allergies involve the
skin (urticarial or “hives”), the nose and sinuses (allergic rhinitis
or “hay fever”), the digestive tract, as well as most other
systems of the body.
Another process triggered by allergic reactions in our body
causes autoimmune diseases, which involve the immune cells
and the production of tissue-specific antibodies. As examples,
these inflammatory reactions can affect the joints (rheumatoid
arthritis) or the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). Allergies
can also affect our mental and emotional states, affecting
brain chemicals and causing anxiety or depression. Also, the
presence of infection or inflammation may trigger the immune
system with allergy-like reactions.
In mainstream medical treatment, allergies are diagnosed
from skin prick testing and then treated with desensitization
injections and avoidance of the reactive agents. Blood tests can also show increased antibodies to specific agents. Often,
this treatment is used along with drug therapy to control the
immediate symptoms. The drugs have been primarily antihistamines
that block the histamine effect, like Benadryl (sedating),
Claritin and Zyrtec (these two less sedating); but nowadays
the stronger corticosteroid drugs are employed earlier to
suppress the immune/allergic responses in the body. Decongestant
drugs may also be used.
In my experience, this type of approach may be needed
for long term or extreme cases. However, in many situations,
being allergic is a state of reactivity that is also the body’s response
to its constant high level of congestion or imbalance.
From a natural medicine point of view, most allergic symptoms
are seen as the body’s attempt to cleanse itself and detoxify.
In Chinese medicine, it is an imbalance of the elements that
most commonly comes from Liver energy stagnation (congestion
and stress on the liver), frustration and suppressed anger,
and resistance to change.
I take an integrated approach to allergies (as I do to most
illnesses). Clearly, allergies can result from a number of causes.
Many people develop allergic reactions in response to stressful
times in their life–as they age, when they move to a new area,
after experiencing certain illnesses, or following exposure to
certain chemicals. In terms of the health of our digestion, there
are many factors that may contribute to our allergic state: our
overall diet; the overuse of certain foods; the general health of
the intestinal tract, or the presence of parasites or the overgrowth
of yeast, specifically Candida albicans. The health as
microbial balance in the gut, the biome or “microbiome” is
a powerful collection of mostly bacteria contributing to over
health. (Review The Detox Diet or other books on these topics
to understand the gastrointestinal effect on overall health.)
For example, I have had an allergic potential for most of
my life. I say “potential” because I could be very allergic but I
am not. While growing up in Michigan, I had hay fever every
year and a variety of skin rashes. Here in California, at times I
have been allergic to weeds, dried grasses, pollens, and dust
in the spring and summer. However, I have also noticed for the
past 30 years that when I really pay attention to my lifestyle, I
can be pretty much allergy-free. That means eating a clean diet
high in fruits and vegetables, doing cleansing fasts, exercising
regularly, and keeping my stress low.
In fact, when I did my first 10-day Master Cleanser/lemonade
fast in 1975 and then changed my diet, I was clear of
allergies for many years. You can get further information on
this cleansing/healing process in my books, Staying Healthy
with the Seasons and Staying Healthy with Nutrition. I have also
overseen many thousands of people on cleansing fasts and
ear “infections,” I guide them and their parents in a nutritional
approach. Getting those kids off cow’s milk products is often
the first step in reducing allergies and congestion, particularly
in the nose, sinuses, and ears. Avoiding refined foods, sugars,
and chemical additives, particularly food colorings, may also
help. Adding a children’s multivitamin/mineral and extra vitamin
C, about 250–500 mg 3–4 times daily may also reduce
For adults, I suggest higher amounts of vitamin C (1000–
1500 mg 3–4 times daily) during an infection or hay fever season
along with about 250–300 mg of Quercitin 2–3 times a
day as a special bioflavonoid shown to have an antihistamine
effect in the body. Another option is to use a vitamin C supplement
that contains a mixed bioflavonoid along with a separate
quercitin (150 to 250 mg), both taken several times daily. I have
often seen this program improve allergic symptoms and reduce
the need for medications.
For people who are concerned about food reactions, some
helpful eating guidelines are the following:
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods
- Diversify your diet
- Rotate foods and don’t eat any one food every day
- Eat only non-allergenic foods at first
A non-allergenic, or allergy elimination diet could include the
- All fruits, except citrus
- All vegetables, except corn and tomatoes
- Brown or white rice
- Turkey (ideally organic, free-range)
- White fish—e.g. halibut, sole, swordfish (mercury concern)
- Almonds or walnuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Other natural therapies are also helpful. The use of acupuncture
and herbs can be effective; homeopathic remedies can
also help minimize or clear allergies. I cannot suggest specific
remedies, however, because the remedies are based on the
specific symptoms of an individual at a given moment in time.
My book, The False Fat Diet, looks at food reactions and
provides you with a simple method for reducing all allergic
type reactions. Also, I usually do a guided 10-day juice cleanse
group at my office each spring. It’s a very uplifting, rejuvenating,
and healing process. It’s a good and worthy experience
to initiate, especially if you could get a few friends or family
members to do it along with you. Be Well.