Nature's answer to summer allergies: the holistic approach
According to a report recently aired on CBC, “More than one in six Canadians suffer from hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Depending on what a person is allergic to, allergy season can start in the early spring and last right through to the first killing frost of the autumn. In some parts of the country, you could suffer from March to November.”
One study found that Ontario has the highest rates of seasonal allergies in Canada.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, literally means an inflammation of the nose caused by an over-reaction to certain triggers. With this condition, a person’s immune system tends to over-react to normally benign airborne substances like flower pollen by producing antibodies that signal the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals cause the symptoms of allergic rhinitis including sneezing, runny nose, and even coughing.
In most people, an allergy trigger sets their symptoms off at about the same time each year. Spring attacks are usually due to tree pollen, while grass pollens dominate in the summer and weed pollens in the autumn. Most people with allergic rhinitis are sensitive to more than one allergen. As a kid, my own hayfever would start up in the spring and continue right through the fall. My whole face would swell up as I sneezed and coughed and begged my mother for drugs to give me some relief. At the same time, I had severe eczema on my arms and legs which was treated with cortisone; this ultimately made my allergies worse.
Not surprisingly, my own son suffered from the same allergic tendencies; that is, until I got wise to the best ways to prevent allergies before they start, and cure them after they’ve taken hold. Namely, detoxify the intestines, flush out the liver, and then strengthen the immune system. I’m now convinced that with these three steps, even the most powerful seasonal allergies can be vanquished once and for all.
DETOXIFY THE INTESTINES
If the large and small intestines are clogged up with old waste, and your toxic load is high, an inflammatory process is set in motion which puts the immune system on alert. Once the immune system becomes hyper vigilant in fighting inflammation, it will start over-reacting to all sorts of perceived threats including airborne allergens.
So the first job is to cleanse the stomach and bowels and clear inflammation. If we look for the primary cause of bowel inflammation, we find one dominant theme – diet.
The culprits most likely to cause bowel inflammation are foods that trigger an allergic response. Since everybody is different, these foods will vary from one person to another, but certain ones have a solid track record of provoking allergic reactions in a broad spectrum of susceptible people. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, “There are eight foods which account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.” In addition, sugar is a strong precursor to allergic reactions. According to Dr. Marcelle Pick, co-founder of the Women to Women Clinic in Yarmouth, Maine, “Although sugar may not register on a standard allergy test, too much sugar (or carbohydrates with a high glycemic value) does invoke an inflammatory response similar to what the immune system mounts to an allergen.”
So the cure for seasonal allergies must begin with eliminating dietary allergens. To give you an idea of how effective this is, here’s a story. One summer I decided to take my son to a music festival at a large conservation area near Guelph. On the way there, we stopped at a roadside cafe for submarine sandwiches containing wheat and cheese, along with soda pop. Afterward, as we drove into the countryside my son started to sneeze, his eyes watered, and his face swelled up. Not surprisingly, he begged me to hurry to the nearest pharmacy for allergy medicine to alleviate his extreme distress. Since I didn’t want him to take drugs, I made a deal instead – I would take him to get drugs the next day on one condition. If he agreed to eat nothing but raw vegetables all day, and he still got the same allergy symptoms, we would leave immediately and go to the nearest pharmacy and buy all the drugs he wanted. If, on the other hand, he had no allergy symptoms then we would stay and enjoy the music festival drug-free.
So that night we stayed at a hotel away from the country pollens, and I prepared raw vegetables for the next day’s diet. In the morning he had nothing but water for breakfast, and we went to the music festival with our bags of vegetables and fruit. As the day wore on he munched on carrots, celery sticks, and apples in between visits to various bandstands. By the end of the day, it turned out that all of his allergy symptoms had disappeared.
In other words, by simply eliminating three items that he was allergic to (wheat, dairy, sugar) we were able to enjoy our visit to the countryside with no further upsets, in spite of the usual pollens flying around in the air. To this day, if he eats wheat and dairy during allergy season, vigorous sneezing and facial swelling inevitably follows.
This fits with the research of allergy specialist, Dr. van Hoogenhuize, who maintains that allergic reactions to airborne substances will only erupt if dietary triggers are also present. It seems that a combination of the two is what overwhelms the immune system.
In addition to eliminating allergenic foods from the diet, there are numerous supplements which work to clear bowel inflammation and tonify the immune system.
• Colonic hydrotherapy involves a complete flushing of the bowel with purified water, and is recommended for those seeking relief from allergies. This therapy can remove old impacted fecal matter, which serves to reduce the inflammatory process and tonify the tissues. It is helpful to follow colonic hydrotherapy with the introduction of probiotics (acidophilus, bifidus) into the diet, to replenish friendly bacteria in the intestine.
• American scientist Dr Linus Pauling recommended a vitamin C colon detox flush as being useful for the treatment of influenza, bacterial infections, cancer, AIDS, and chemical allergies. Find more details and instructions at: www.thedetoxspecialist.com
• Prolax by New Roots Herbal is an herbal formulation which aids in the relief of simple constipation. This is a blend of mild cathartics, namely: Cascara Sagrada, known worldwide as a natural mild laxative that works; Turkish Rhubarb has purgative action useful in constipation, and an astringent effect following this; and Licorice – a mild laxative that helps to counterbalance the discomforting effects that may result from laxative use. It provides a mild boost to the adrenal system that may be stressed in certain debilitating conditions for which laxatives are often suggested. Most importantly, Licorice root protects and heals distressed mucous membranes of the intestinal tract.
· There is some evidence that Vitamin D plays a role in both allergies and asthma. According to Dr. Zoltan Rona’s new book, Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin: “A recent study involving six hundred children with asthma showed that the severity of the disease was inversely correlated with the blood levels of vitamin D. In other words, the lower the vitamin D blood level, the worse the asthma. In addition, the lower the vitamin D, the worse the allergies, the higher the levels of immunoglobulin (IgE) and eosoniphils (two markers for allergy severity), and the higher the likelihood of hospitalization for asthma.
FLUSH OUT AND STRENGTHEN THE LIVER
After allergenic foods have been removed from the diet, and the intestines have been cleared, it’s time to focus on improving liver function. Not only do allergenic foods congest the bowels, they also put tremendous stress on the liver – especially high fat foods such as butter, ice cream, margarine, and rancid oils. (The best oils are cold pressed flax, hemp, olive, and coconut oil.) Since the liver also has to deal with incoming toxins from air pollution, drugs, and virtually all of the contaminants we are exposed to on a daily basis, cleansing and tonifying the liver has a positive influence on the whole body. This is especially helpful in reducing allergy attacks.
Numerous herbs can be used to clear and strengthen the liver. Bitter herbs such as dandelion can be eaten raw in salads or steamed and added to any dish. Burdock root and turmeric can be cooked in stews (or take AOR’s CureCumin in capsule form), and green superfood powders (such as greens+ by Genuine Health) can be taken with juice in the morning on an empty stomach. And a glass of water with fresh lemon squeezed in is a great liver cleanser.
One of the most powerful liver protecting herbs is milk thistle, which can reduce liver congestion and prevent toxins from penetrating deep into liver cells. It also promotes bile flow and bowel movement. Naka Herbs offers an excellent Milk Thistle Liquid that pairs milk thistle seed extract with sea buckthorn berry, a synergistic combination which works to stimulate the production of new liver cells and reduce liver inflammation, thus supporting long term liver health.
Acupuncture, bodywork, and foot reflexology are also effective strategies for cleansing and tonifying the liver. In addition to the bowels and liver, another major organ of detoxification is the skin. By inducing sweating, many toxins can be eliminated through the skin, which in turn lightens the load on the other organs of elimination. Two good ways to induce a healthy sweat are the infrared sauna and vigorous exercise. Doing an hour in an infrared sauna at least once a week will help to remove a wide range of heavy metals and chemical pollutants from the tissues. Alternatively, a vigorous 45 minute exercise session, three times a week, will also flush out toxins from the lymphatics, blood, and skin.
Since the gallbladder is attached to the liver, no discussion of liver cleansing is complete without a look at this little organ. See page 32 for an in depth look at gallbladder cleansing.
MORE ALLIES FOR ELIMINATING SUMMER ALLERGIES
If the immune system is on high alert due to incoming assaults from food, air, and water, then it is more likely to over-react to benign things like flower pollen. By flushing toxic residues from the body and clearing out inflammation, you are already on your way to reducing or eliminating allergic symptoms. To take it a step further, there are strategies and supplements which augment this process.
– Get more sleep. Exhausted adrenals can aggravate allergy symptoms. Develop a set of strategies that help you fall asleep easily and get at least seven hours worth. Taking a walk or doing yoga before bed, along with deep breathing, can calm the mind and allow the nervous system to downshift into a relaxed state. St. Johnswort and Skullcap are both nervous system relaxants that can aid this process.
– Drink more water. This will help to hydrate and cleanse the tissues, which reduces the “toxic heat” that brings on allergy symptoms.
– Eat allergy-fighting foods. According to Linda Woolven, CH: “In clinical studies, onions and garlic have demonstrated an ability to reduce inflammatory reactions; they both contain quercetin (a powerful anti-inflammatory). You can also obtain quercetin in supplement form (AOR makes an excellent quercetin supplement). It works by inhibiting the release of histamine and other inflammatory agents within the body and, unlike conventional chemical antihistamines, quercetin will not cause unpleasant side effects. Take 400 mg, 20 minutes before each meal, combined with digestive enzymes to increase absorption.” (Quote from an article in an earlier issue of Vitality)
– Pollinosan Liquid is a homeopathic medicine made by A. Vogel which is used for the treatment of sneezing, itchy nose, scratchy throat, and watery eyes. Take 20 drops, 3X per day, throughout allergy season.
– Aller-G Liquid Extract by New Roots Herbal is an alcohol-based tincture of medicinal plants including Yerba Santa leaf, Nettles herb, Eyebright herb, and Mormon Tea herb. It is designed to help control hay fever symptoms such as runny nose and watery eyes due to pollen and animal allergens.
Editor’s note: All of the aforementioned herbs, vitamins, and homeopathics are available at health food stores across Ontario. These stores also carry alternatives to the most common allergenic foods.
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin, Zoltan Rona, MD, MSc, Books Alive; 2010 www.bookpubco.com
Julia Woodford is the Editor-in-Chief of Vitality Magazine.
Vitality Magazine is The Trusted Source for Natural Health Solutions, one of Canada's largest publications on natural health, alternative medicine and green living.