Environmental Allergies and Food Sensitivities
If you have a family history of allergies, you are likely familiar with the three main areas these allergies affect:
1. Asthma (wheezing)
2. Allergic Rhinitis (runny nose) & Allergic Conjunctivitis (itchy eyes)
3. Eczema (dry skin)
A person can have one, two, or all three types of symptoms. The key in my mind is prevention and identifying what you are allergic to so you can avoid those exposures and thus reduce or completely eliminate your symptoms.
Treating your symptoms is always getting the most focus. This is because your symptoms can be dangerous, in the case of severe asthma – Lord knows we all like to breathe, and extremely annoying, in the case of itchy eyes, runny nose, and dry itchy skin that then can get infected.
These three classic allergy symptoms (triad) pertain primarily to the classic IGE mediated allergies. We are increasingly aware that sensitivities to foods or chemicals can induce a host of other symptoms from brain fog, anxiety, headaches, to GI distress and perhaps play a big role for some in the severity of symptoms that get diagnosed as autism or ADHD, fatigue, etc.
PREVENTION: Taking HMF – natogen (other good probiotics likely will give the same or similar benefit) during the last trimester of your pregnancy and for the first 6 months of life, reduces allergies and eczema by over 50%. Studies are coming in showing that infants with earlier exposure to pets, dust, grasses, etc. results in less allergies. Have you seen the movie “Babies”? You see the baby in Africa and Mongolia sitting in the dirt, surrounded by what in the west would be considered unsanitary conditions (dirt, animals, and flies). These babies will have a much reduced chance of developing allergies. The hygiene hypothesis has been proven and has shown that those who are exposed early in infancy to these allergens develop a tolerance and have fewer allergies. Perhaps our immune system learns to accept these exposures as normal and part of the world we must live in. It is for this reason we are now recommending solid foods be introduced at 4 months age. Start with organic vegetables then fruits, holding off on highly refined grains and gluten, which seems to be a problem for so many.
IDENTIFICATION: There are four main ways to determine what you are allergic or sensitive to:
1. Skin prick testing (considered the gold standard by allergists)
2. IGE immunocap blood tests (these measure the actual level of IGE against the most common allergens)
3. IGG food sensitivity testing (some companies are now also adding IGA tests) – this is most helpful for eczema and those with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.
4. Elimination trials (avoid potential offenders – foods like dairy or gluten, exposure to a pet, a local grass, tree pollen, or dust) and see if your symptoms go away.
My Naturopath colleagues and those with different training from mine will undoubtedly correct me here in saying that there are other ways to identify allergies. I have had patients with great results from methods that are not as easily explained scientifically. My MD colleagues will challenge the validity of the IGG food sensitivity testing. All I can say to them is not to judge this until they have experience using this extremely valuable tool. I have hundreds, perhaps over 1000 patients who the allergists and specialists could not help, but are now well because we identified the foods to which they were having a large IGG reaction to and eliminated those foods.
As a board certified Integrative and Holistic Medicine physician, I can assure you the IGG food sensitivity test is a vital tool when it comes to helping those with chronic illness. If your doctor or physician is not familiar with this tool, then I suggest you find one who is.
TREATMENT: If you have Asthma and are in an acute wheezing episode, try to remove yourself from the trigger, and please do get medical attention. Albuterol (inhaler or nebulizer) is a bronchodilator and will immediately provide relief. This can typically be taken every 4 hours as needed. If you are literally struggling to breathe, this is an emergency and you should get to the nearest hospital or your doctors office if they are equipped to deal with such emergencies. If you have been coughing or wheezing for a day or longer, you should add an inhaled steroid (inhaler or nebulizer) twice a day for most, as this will help reduce the inflammation that goes along with asthma or reactive airways. For allergy symptoms of the nose and eyes and skin, there are numerous over the counter treatments that can provide some relief. In the end, identifying why you are suffering is the key.