It can drive you crazy trying to figure out why you are sick (again). It’s hard to consider allergies or hypersensitivity when we’re programmed since very young that every sniffle is explained by “caught a cold” or “picked up a bug” or “it’s going around”. Unless it’s seasonal “hay fever”, immediately we think we have a cold or a flu—and of course we look for how we “got it” within the last 24 hours.
First off, is it allergies or a cold?
We’ve been trained to think that every “coming down with something” is a bacteria or virus, is this true? Should we run to “cold medicine” or antibiotics at the drop of a hat? No. Medical consensus truly agrees that antibiotics are being over-prescribed which creates the problem of new, resistant, bacterial strains (the strong survive) and imbalances to your own natural probiotic bacteria. Your internal ecosystem that performs vital functions; everything from helping digest your foods, to making B vitamins, to detecting and destroying foreign intruders.
In fact, medical consensus (finally) agrees that environmental triggers (mold, pollen, food…) that cause an allergic reaction can irritate the body and stress your immune system enough it can’t defend itself from opportunistic bacteria, yeast, or virus. What once started as an allergy can run the body down and become a bona-fide cold. Sensitivity to what we ate, chemicals or metals, mold or even our favorite pet can lead to bacteria or others moving in if our body can’t heal through its allergic reaction because it lacks immune-boosting nutrients or the exposure continues.
Yet it is very complicated to tell one from the other.
Perhaps your “flu” isn’t a bug at all, but something you ate last Tuesday? Well hopefully the following information will bring some “relief” to understanding why.
The ever-complicated food allergy / food hypersensitivity
For a minute, let’s look at food: According to Dr. Ronald Grisanti DC, DABCO, DACBN, MS of Functional Medicine University, the food-hypersensitivity reaction—the medical term for “food allergy”—is estimated to affect up to 20% of us but only 4% of Americans have allergies that involved making antibodies against the food item. Why?
Consider this: Modern foods are full of preservatives, stabilizers, colorings, literally thousands of chemicals. Your immune system is particularly concentrated along the entire length of your digestive tract. Special cells in your small intestine “sample” the material you’ve chewed, swallowed, and has been delivered to this amazing organ via the acid environment of your stomach (by the way, that acidic stomach normally kills most pathogens). What happens when the sampled food includes a foreign chemical? Or food preservatives? Or… ? Does your body now consider this nutritious and desirable? Or foreign, keep away, attack?
Chemical ingredients added to food work just like the adjuvants added to vaccines (and other medications) that enhance the immune response. Food colorants and anti-caking agents stimulate gut immune response and can lead to autoimmune situations like Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Could your hives or asthma be something you ate?
Adverse reactions to just one type of food additive, sulfites, include: tightness in the chest, breathing difficulty, hives, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes, anaphylactic shock.
Monosodium glutamate, MSG, reactions are usually mild, maybe a “skin-crawling sensation” or heightened anxiety. But there can be severe reactions, including hives; swelling deep in the skin, especially lips, known as angioedema; worsening asthma, and even anaphylaxis.
Once your immune system begins to associate an otherwise nutritious food with a toxic substance, at some point it may just decide the food itself is also the problem. Buying clean food is key, but if your body has developed hypersensitivity to a particular food (or, usually, many foods) you’ll have to take a break from eating them until we can fix the problem.
The best allergy solution is to understand what your body is doing
The term “allergy” was originally coined by Dr. Von Pirquet to include both facets of the immune response: both beneficial immunity (the goal of vaccines or exposure when young) and the harmful hypersensitivity (the other effects of vaccines as well constant exposure to pathogens, anti-foods, toxic chemicals and metals/minerals. Today, we usually use allergy to refer to the unwanted effects.
There are different classes of hypersensitivity reactions, immediate and delayed, further distinguished as Types I, II, III, and IV.
Typed I is immediate hypersensitivity and occurs in less than two hours. For this reason, it is easy to identify the cause like eating strawberries or MSG and getting hives within an hour; or breathing in pollen or mites and getting the sniffles and nasal congestion. Most people know they have a peanut allergy because the body response is fast, what you breathed in is not always as clear (nor avoidable—we’ll get to why that is important). Conventional allergy testing usually involves pricking the skin with suspected allergens to see if there is any reaction. Treatment includes avoidance, anti-histamines, and epinephrine-containing epi-pens.
Type II is a delayed hypersensitivity. The allergic reaction occurs from two hours to several days post exposure and usually tells the body to destroy whatever cells or foreign matter present the antigen. Most autoimmune situations are Type II allergies. Conventional testing involves detecting antibodies against one’s own body parts and then suppressing the immune system with anti-inflammatory or immune suppressing drugs.
Type III is also a delayed hypersensitivity occurring days to even weeks after exposure. This is the one that is most confusing and difficult. In a complicated sequence of events, you eat a food > antibodies you’ve made previously when eating that food bind to newly eaten, digested, and absorbed food particles > these nutrient/antibody complexes bind to your red blood cells or the lining of your blood vessels (commonly) signally an immune response. Your body’s immune response involves making certain inflammatory molecules that act both locally (damaged blood vessels and blood clots) as well as system wide (tired, feel like am “catching something”…). Often this is a result of “leaky gut” where incompletely digested food particles enter your blood-stream—these are seen as foreign and threatening.
Not only do you have to avoid all food triggers (assuming you can find out what they are), the only true answer to this situation is to heal your gut and other organs. And only someone trained specifically in elimination diets can help you maintain proper nutrition while you restrict “offending” foods.
Type IV is also delayed hypersensitivity by yet another mechanism: The bottom line with Type IV allergies is that the white blood cells which are supposed to engulf and eliminate foreign compounds can’t keep up. They engulf the foreigner as they are designed to do but can’t break it down. This keeps this white blood cells in constant stimulation, constantly making inflammatory hormones, constantly overworking your liver by asking it to remove a constant steady stream of immune complexes and inflammatory hormones—and also your spleen which is tasked with removing used white blood cells.
Are things making more sense now? Can you see how today’s sniffles or rash could be the corn you ate two weeks ago? Or all your life?
Read on for the best allergy medicine
Now knowing the variety of events that can happen as a result of foreign intrusion, can you see why the list of allergy symptoms and health reactions is very long and diverse and can even become a problem only after years of irritating anti-foods, chemicals, metals, etc?
Can you see why the average health care provider might miss that it’s even an allergy at all? Much less identify the cause?
You have choices, if you suspect allergies
Undergo a variety of expensive and often non-specific, allergy tests and/or adopt the pharmaceutical model of taking a drug to lessen the symptoms while avoiding a long list of “triggers.”
Retrain your body and get it to stop being so reactive.
At the Alaska Health Improvement Center, we use Accelerated Allergy Clearing Technique to quickly screen for unwanted reactions to common environmental triggers. Regardless of the hypersensitivity type, our exam can detect whether foods, chemicals, metals, mold, mites, and other common allergens are affecting your system, or not.
Once we determine if you are a true allergy case or just have a couple of “offending foods or substances” we can desensitize you (no more allergic response, or at least not as bad) while design a program with specific steps to heal all the body systems that have been affected by an immune system on hyperdrive. This is important.
We’re so successful because we find the exact cause and correct your health problem in a way that honors your body, naturally.
There is hope and we can help: Call 907-743-3040.
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Lomer, M., Thompson, R., & Powell, J. (2002). Fine and ultrafine particles of the diet: Influence on the mucosal immune response and association with Crohn’s disease. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 61(1), 123-130.
Powell, J. J., Thoree, V., & Pele, L. C. (2007). Dietary microparticles and their impact on tolerance and immune responsiveness of the gastrointestinal tract. The British Journal of Nutrition, 98(Suppl 1), S59–S63.