Allergy Sufferers Find Relief with Homeopathy and Wholistic NutritionKashka Kril-Atkins, HBSc, DHMHS April 1, 2012
Canadians love the diversity our four-season climate offers. Secretly, many of us could do without winter but a true Canadian never complains about that! Actually, this year’s winter gave us very little to complain about: across Ontario we enjoyed above normal temperatures.
Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to this unseasonably warm winter. Warmer temperatures trigger an earlier, more intense pollen season, which translates into more severe allergy symptoms. Some individuals, who have been symptom-free in prior years, may experience a return of their symptoms due to the “intensified” airborne allergens. Tree pollen is particularly irritating. However, the lighter snow accumulation could provide a welcome advantage for those allergic to moulds – snow mould, which forms during the spring thaw, will be less of a concern in those areas that experienced low snowfall.
Fortunately, homeopathy and holistic nutrition offer a winning therapeutic combination for allergy sufferers this spring.
The conventional medical approach to treating allergies seeks primarily to manage symptoms by offering temporary relief using antihistamines and corticosteroids. Allergy testing seeks to identify the offending allergen, and once identified the advice offered is to avoid or limit exposure. Since many of us are literally itching to get outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather, keeping windows closed and staying indoors definitely limits life’s pleasures. An avoidance ap-proach may lessen suffering temporarily but does not address the fundamental imbalance at the root of the allergy.
In contrast, from the homeopathic perspective, identifying the allergen is secondary to understanding each individual’s specific pattern of allergic response. Since emotional stress often triggers allergic and inflammatory states, the homeopathic approach considers not only physical, but also mental and emotional symptoms in selecting a homeopathic medicine and treatment plan. Since a strong digestive system is essential to good health, combining holistic nutritional therapy with homeopathic treatment will often optimize the curative action of the homeopathic remedy.
Genetic Basis of Allergy Disorders
In addition to seasonal environmental triggers, there are many other potential causes of allergies, including food and food additives, animal dander and saliva, feathers, drugs, chemicals and metals, insect bites and stings, etc. The list is extensive and, very often, it is difficult to determine the exact cause of the reaction. Symptoms can range from mildly annoying to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Allergies can develop seemingly randomly at any stage of life.
In 2009, researchers from the University of Edinburgh conducted a Meta analysis of 24 studies and concluded that a genetic mutation could be linked to allergies. They found that mutations in the filaggrin gene significantly increase the risk of developing allergic sensitization and ‘allergic disorders’. The filaggrin gene was identified as significantly influencing the skin’s barrier action. The researchers found the mutation in the filaggrin gene was twice as common among people with both asthma and atopic eczema, but not among asthmatics without the skin condition. This finding is important for understanding the genetic basis of allergy disorders.
As reported in 2011 by the University of Dundee, UK, filaggrin mutations, carried by up to 10% of the population, are the major genetic predisposing factor for atopic eczema and the various allergies associated with atopic eczema. Filaggrin is a highly abundant protein expressed in the uppermost part of the epidermis that is critical to the formation and hydration of the outermost dead cell layers responsible for the barrier function of the skin. Filaggrin deficiency leads to a “leaky” skin barrier that allows higher than normal water loss (explaining the dry, scaly skin), as well as allowing allergens entry through the epidermis where they trigger inflammatory and allergic immune responses.
This research has placed the skin barrier at the forefront of eczema and allergy research. Now medical scientists are focused on repairing/enhancing skin-barrier function as a means of treating or preventing these common diseases.
Some experts believe that exposure to potential allergens early in life can prevent allergies from developing later in life. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that people who own cats during childhood are less likely to develop a cat allergy as adults. There is also mounting concern that our environments are too sterile. While proper hygiene (i.e. hand washing) has been established as an effective means of reducing the spread of infection, our 21st-century obsession with hand sanitizers and surface cleansers is in effect hindering our infants and children from developing healthy and natural immunity.
Reducing Histamine to Minimize Allergy Symptoms
Allergies, both in children and adults, occur when the immune system overreacts to an otherwise benign substance – such as pollen, dust, mould, food or animal saliva or dander. Sensing an invasion, the immune system kicks into high-defence mode, releasing histamine. Histamine increases blood vessel permeability causing the classic allergic symptoms of local swelling, warmth and redness. It also irritates nerve endings, which explains the pain and itching often associated with allergies. Although histamine is most commonly known for its role in allergic reactions, it has other important functions in the body. Histamine is also involved in neurotransmission and can affect emotions and behaviour. Histamine helps control the sleep-wake cycle and promotes the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine. High histamine levels have been linked to obsessive-compulsive tendencies, depression, and headaches. Low histamine levels can contribute to paranoia, low libido, fatigue, and medication sensitivities. Histamine also plays an important role in digestion, regulating stomach acid production.
Certain foods also contain histamine and eliminating these foods from the diet can minimize symptoms associated with allergic response, such as hives and itchy skin. Mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna are identified as high in histamine. Fermented and aged cheeses are very high in histamine, as are processed meats, pizza, sauerkraut, pickles and olives, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin and spinach. Alcoholic beverages, including wine and beer, are also rich in histamine. Other foods that should be restricted to avoid histamine overload include foods with artificial colourings and preservatives such as sodium benzoate, margarine, certain spices, chocolate, commercial candies, fermented soy products, flavoured milk, and carbonated beverages. Dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, apricots, figs and dates are noted to be high in histamine. In addition to aggravating allergic symptoms, overindulging in histamine-rich foods can cause digestive distress that mimics the discomfort commonly associated with immune-based food allergies or food intolerances caused by “leaky gut” syndrome.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that affects the lining of the gut and results in increased intestinal permeability. As a result, undigested proteins, fats, toxins and wastes leak out of the intestines into the bloodstream. This triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to allergies and sensitivities. Live Blood Cell Microscopy is an excellent tool used to determine if undigested food is present in the blood stream. Holistic nutrition strategies go beyond elimination diets and temporary avoidance of certain foods, aiming to heal the gut. If dietary measures are used, they should go beyond avoidance of specific foods, aiming to heal the gut and address the excessive intestinal permeability that frequently underlies allergies and oversensitivity.
The Role of Homeopathy
Many of us have suffered or will suffer from allergies at some point in our lives. Conventional medical strategy proposes symptomatic relief through avoidance of the allergen or through medication, or simply a “wait it out” approach. Constitutional homeopathy, on the other hand, addresses the cause of the sensitivity to allergens and aims to eliminate it. The unique benefit of homeopathic treatment is that it increases the resilience of the individual, allowing that individual to withstand environmental stressors without succumbing to ill health. The ultimate reward in eradicating allergies goes beyond eliminating hyper immune reactions and actually restores freedom of choice and a rewarding lifestyle to the individual.
Combining homeopathy and holistic nutrition is a highly effective, integrative approach in the treatment of allergies and sensitivities. This safe and natural approach works with the body’s innate healing ability and also allows the individual freedom to safely manage symptoms in the short term and enjoy complete relief from allergy symptoms over time.
Kashka Kril-Atkins is a homeopath and the owner of BLUEPRINT Wholistic Health Clinic, an integrative Medicine Clinic and Shop located in midtown Toronto. For more information, please visit her website at http://www.blueprintwellness.ca or call (416) 932-3433.