Allergies & Sensitivities

Self help   Symptoms   Honey   Low allergen diet   Related conditions   Testing methods

Allergies and sensitivities can bring seasonal or chronic discomfort. Although the symptoms of allergy sufferers are sometimes obvious: sinus reactions and sneezing -- other diseases and conditions that people suffer from can actually result from hidden allergies and sensitivities, including everything from rheumatoid arthritis to depression.

Self Help & Alternative Options

  • Local honey: Researchers at the University of Connecticut in 2002 probably found no evidence of honey's effectiveness because they did not use the proper protocol. They simply gave honey to subjects with allergy symptoms. Honey is not a "medicine" to be taken for relief of existing symptoms. See the correct protocol for honey treatment.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics may be important in the control of food allergies because they aid and improve digestion. They can help the intestinal tract control the absorption of food allergens and/or help to alter the immune system's responses to foods. Learn more
  • Thymus extracts: Thymomodulin is a special preparation of the thymus gland of calves. In a double-blind study of allergic children who had successfully completed an elimination diet, 120 mg per day of thymomodulin prevented allergic skin reactions to food and lowered blood levels of antibodies associated with those foods. These results confirmed similar findings in an earlier controlled trial.
  • A low-allergen diet, also known as an elimination diet or a hypoallergenic diet is often recommended to people with suspected food allergies to find out if avoiding foods that commonly trigger allergies will provide relief from symptoms.
  • Common household allergens. Reduce exposure to common household allergens like dust, mold, and animal dander in the hope that this will reduce symptoms even if other, non-household allergens cannot be avoided.

    Strategies include removing carpets, frequent cleaning and vacuuming, using special air filters in the home heating system, choosing allergen-reducing bed and pillow coverings, and limiting household pets' access to sleeping areas.

Allergies are responses mounted by the immune system to a particular food, inhalant, or chemical. The term "sensitivity" is general and may include true allergies as well as reactions for which the cause has yet to be determined - reactions that often do not affect the immune system and therefore are not technically allergies. In popular terminology, the terms "allergies" and "sensitivities" are often used to mean the same thing and will be used interchangeably in this article.

Symptoms

Symptoms include itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; headache; fatigue; postnasal drip; nasal congestion, runny, stuffy, or itchy nose; sore throat; and dark circles under the eyes. People with allergies may have an unpleasant reaction to something they ate or came in contact with, including an itchy feeling in the mouth or throat, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and the appearance of an itchy, red skin rash.

What tests can detect allergies?

Several allergies tests or procedures are used by physicians to detect allergies. Most of these tests remain controversial. Some clinicians, however, believe some of these tests can be effective.

These tests include, elimination and reintroduction, scratch testing, RAST/MAST/PRIST/ELISA, cytotoxic testing, clinical ecology and other tests.

Conventional Treatment

People with allergies and sensitivities are typically advised to avoid exposure to particular allergens, such as tree and grass pollens, dust mites, molds, specific foods such as nuts, shellfish, gluten, wheat, milk, eggs, soy products, latex, or environmental and household irritants, or dogs and cats. Conventional treatment also includes medications such as antihistamines and bronchodilators, in addition to weekly allergy shots (desensitization immunotherapy). Doctors may also recommend that people with severe allergies wear a medical alert tag and carry an auto-injector syringe of epinephrine for use during an attack.

Correct Protocol for Hay Fever - Honey Desensitization

  • Use local honey only - ie, from your own local community.
  • At the beginning of the season, ie, in the early spring, begin to take 1 teaspoon of local honey daily.
  • Continue until the end of your allergy season.
  • It will not work to start taking local honey when you begin to feel allergy symptoms.
  • How does it work? It is thought that the honey allows you to develop an immunity to local pollens since the honey is produced from flowers in your own area.
  • Note: if you are allergic to pollens from plants that are not visited by bees, this won't work. But bees love plants like goldenrod, a frequent hay fever culprit.

Low Allergen Diet

This diet eliminates foods and food additives considered to be common allergens, such as wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, citrus fruits, nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, food coloring and preservatives, coffee, and chocolate. Several popular books offer guidance to people who want to attempt this type of diet.

The low-allergen diet is not a treatment for people with food allergies, however. Rather, it is a diagnostic tool used to help discover to which foods a person has a sensitivity. The diet is contented only until a reaction to a food or foods has been diagnosed or ruled out. Once food reactions have been identified, only those foods that are causing a reaction are subsequently avoided; all other foods that had been water previously are once again added to the diet.

While various sources make different recommendations as to the ideal duration of a low-allergen diet (anywhere from five days to three weeks), many nutrition savvy doctors believe that a two-week trial is generally sufficient to diagnose food reactions.

Strict avoidance of allergenic foods for a period of time (usually months or years) can sometimes result in eventual freedom from the allergy. Restrictive elimination diets and food reintroduction should be supervised by a qualified healthcare professional.

Discussion: Nutritional Options

Probiotics, noted above, have been reported by one group of researchers to successfully treat infants with food allergies in two trials: a double-blind trial using lactobacillus GG bacteria in infant formula, and a preliminary trial giving the same bacteria to nursing mothers. Probiotics may also be important in instances of non-allergy food intolerance caused by imbalances in the normal intestinal flora.

Thymomodulin is a special preparation of the thymus gland of calves. In a double-blind study of allergic children who had successfully completed an elimination diet, 120 mg per day of thymomodulin prevented allergic skin reactions to food and lowered blood levels of antibodies associated with those foods. These results confirmed similar findings in an earlier, controlled trial.

According to one theory, allergies are triggered by partially undigested protein. Proteolytic enzymes may reduce allergy symptoms by further breaking down undigested protein to sizes that are too small to cause allergic reactions. Preliminary human evidence supports this theory. Hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach also aids the digestion of protein, and preliminary research suggests that some people with allergies may not produce adequate amounts of stomach acid. However, no controlled trials have investigated the use of enzyme supplements to improve digestion as a treatment for food allergies.

Many of the effects of allergic reactions are caused by the release of histamine, which is the reason antihistamine medication is often used by allergy sufferers. Some natural substances, such as vitamin C and flavonoids, including quercetin, have demonstrated antihistamine effects in in-vitro, animal, and other preliminary studies. However, to date there has been no formal investigation into whether these substances can specifically reduce allergic reactions in humans.

Discussion: Integrative Options

Acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of some types of allergies. Studies of mice treated with acupuncture provide evidence of an anti-allergic effect with results similar to treatment with corticosteroids (cortisone-like drugs). A preliminary trial found a significant decrease in allergy symptoms following acupuncture treatment. It was found that the decline in symptoms coincided with a decline in laboratory measures of allergy. Relief persisted for two months following the treatment. Other preliminary trials have also demonstrated positive results. One controlled trial reported a reduction in allergic complaints following acupuncture treatment, but the results were not statistically significant. In the future, controlled trials with larger numbers of subjects may help to determine conclusively whether allergies can be successfully treated with acupuncture therapy.

Provocation-neutralization is a controversial method of both allergy testing and treatment. Treatment consists of injecting minute dilutions of foods, inhalants, or (in some cases) chemicals into the lower layers of the skin. This approach is not the same as traditional desensitization injections given by medical allergy specialists. Preliminary and double-blind research suggests treatment of allergies by provocation-neutralization may be effective, though negative double-blind research has also been published.

Allergy treatment using extracts of allergens taken orally is another controversial method advocated by some alternative healthcare practitioners. Most, but not all, double-blind trials have found this approach effective for household dust allergies. Preliminary and double-blind trials have reported success using this method for other allergies as well.

Treatment of food allergies using very small but increasing daily doses of actual foods has been reported, and in one controlled trial 12 of 14 patients successfully completed the program and could tolerate previously allergenic foods.

All desensitization programs require the guidance of a healthcare professional. While none of these approaches has been unequivocally proven, several show promise that people with allergies may be treatable by means other than simple avoidance of the offending food or inhalant substance.

Related Conditions

According to J. C. Breneman, M.D., author of the book Basics of Food Allergy, many health conditions are related to allergies and have been the subject of independent studies(1). Even so, any relationship between the condition and the allergy needs to be considered in consultation with a doctor.

Studies & Research

See research on which this discussion is based.

Self help   Symptoms   Honey   Low allergen diet   Related conditions   Testing methods