Allergies: fighting back without drugs

Each spring and fall, my office is beset by people suffering with allergies. Their symptoms vary from what we think of as the usually-associated symptoms: headache; sinus problems; itchy red eyes; sneezing; blotchy red skin lesions that itch; to the more unusual problems such as migraine headache, fatigue, depression, joint pain, bowel problems and more.Yet what are we allergic to? Is it really an allergy? And how do I get rid of these uncomfortable symptoms?

Most individuals run to the drugstore for their favorite antihistamine/decongestant and although these drugs do help relieve the symptoms, they do little or nothing to get at the cause. When symptoms get worse, we call the doctor for an even more powerful drug. They too will work with the symptoms but can sometimes have very unpleasant side effects just as the over-the-counter aids can.

Want to throw away all those patent medicines and once and for all get rid of your allergies and get rid of all the horrible side effects caused by the medications? Of course! Now, granted, we cannot live in a bubble nor can we turn the clock back to a time when the earth wasn't so polluted. But as an allergy sufferer myself, I live quite nicely everyday without the use of drugs, even during ragweed season. I did have to change my diet and clean up some things.

Given that each of us is genetically similar, yet different, what bothers one person may not bother another. Therefore, it is important to capitalize on each of these facts when dealing with allergy. But first, let's look at what happens in the body. When a foreign protein, be it cat hair or ragweed, enters the body, usually through the nose, our defense systems will work to isolate and destroy the invader and, in the process, set off a series of reactions resulting in the release of histamine. When histamine is released in larger than normal amounts in response to a foreign protein, it causes all the symptoms we relate to allergy: swelling of mucous membranes; watery eyes; sneezing etc. This is called an adapted response. It's what is supposed to happen. When we literally wear that response out, the body begins to respond in what's called maladapted responses. The dysfunction in the body we first recognized as allergy symptoms now becomes an internal set of symptoms ranging from bowel dysfunction, joint pain, fatigue and depression-- to name a few.

If you want to get over your allergy symptoms first change your diet. Clean it up! Most allergists and holistic practitioners agree that milk and dairy is one of the worst culprits. Diets high in processed foods, sugars, pop and grains are highly suspect as well. Watch out for chemicals in the diet, MSG, Nutrasweet®, caffeine and alcohol. Although most individuals are not allergic to caffeine or alcohol, they can add to the chemical load your body is trying to cope with. You probably won't have to give up everything but if you are suffering an acute phase it might be good to eliminate all of the above, adding them back gradually until you have identified which ones set your symptoms off.

Also, get rid of the household chemicals such as room deodorizers, harsh cleansers, bleach, ammonia, move the lawn chemicals and paint to some place where you won't be constantly exposed to the fumes. Most individuals who have a particular allergy such as ragweed find their allergies dramatically improve when diet therapy is used.

If symptoms become severe, try sipping herbal teas made from fenugreek, ginger, ginseng and red clover. Use eucalyptus, camphor or tea tree oil in you bath or rubbed into the sinus areas. Try zinc lozenges if you think your allergy symptoms are turning into the cold or flu.

When we chronically ignore symptoms in our body and only give it medications that hide and mask them, we force our body into a more serious kind of allergic response-- the maladapted response. Yes, diet changes can be difficult but when done gradually they don't have to be painful. Besides, what's more painful, a diet change or the symptoms you're suffering from your allergies and all the side effects from the medications you're taking?

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online August 24, 1999

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