New Light on Allergies

Whilst putting together a newsletter for the cat charity I run, I came across the following article which got me thinking.

“PETS: GOOD OR BAD FOR ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA?

Much to the surprise of doctors running a study following hundreds of children from birth to age seven, their findings revealed that children who grow up with dogs and cats in their homes have a 50% reduced risk of developing common allergies.

“For generations, allergists have been trained to believe that dogs and cats in the house were bad because they increased the risk of people becoming allergic to them,” said lead investigator, Dr. Dennis Ownby of the Medical College of Georgia in the U.S. Not so, according to the study. Doctors followed a group of 474 healthy babies in Detroit from birth to age seven, comparing the children exposed to two or more indoor dogs and cats during infancy with those who were not exposed to pets.

They found that the children exposed to pets were half as likely to develop common allergies. “This is exactly the opposite of what we would have predicted,” admitted Dr. Ownby.

Cats or dogs provided benefit even for outdoor allergens. “They were protective against allergies to things such as ragweed, timothy grass, and Alternaria, as well as to pets,” noted Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, senior research epidemiologist with Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and one of the study’s coauthors. And the more pets, the better: “It really took two to make the drop in allergy and atopy [rates],” she added.”

This study is significant because everywhere you turn these days, somebody is allergic to something. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies in one form or another.

So what are allergies?

An allergy is an overaggressive immune response triggered by ingesting certain foods, touching certain substances, or inhaling an irritant such as pollen or animal dander. These triggers are called allergens. The symptoms of allergies vary according to your body’s sensitivity and can range from runny nose, sneezing, itching and redness of the eyes, asthma or skin rash to anaphylaxis and even death in extreme cases.

Diagnosis of allergies is usually made by skin testing – where certain allergens are applied to the skin and you are monitored for a reaction – or by blood tests. Skin testing is favoured because it is easier, cheaper, and in most cases, more sensitive. Traditionally, management of allergies involved simply avoiding the allergen in question or otherwise reducing exposure. For instance, people with cat allergies were encouraged to avoid them. While avoidance may help to reduce symptoms and avoid life-threatening anaphylaxis, it is difficult to achieve for those with pollen or similar air-borne allergies. This new study, however, throws this traditional approach out the window!

Conventional allopathic medicine will tell you that there is no cure for allergies. The allergic reaction is managed with antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, topical creams and antibiotics to treat complications – in other words, medicines that switch off the body’s response. People with allergies know that these treatments don’t work; at best, they provide temporary relief of symptoms, and at worst, they create side effects which can be worse than the allergies themselves. This reductionist approach works well with machines, but is clearly inadequate for addressing living organisms like ourselves.

A different approach

According to renowned homoeopath Dana Ullman, the greatest misunderstanding about allergies is the assumption that the allergen (the cat dander, the pollen, the house dust mite, or whatever) is the problem. Actually, the allergen is simply the trigger, while the allergic person’s body is the loaded gun. Rather than just treating symptoms or avoiding the allergen, the best course is to take action to strengthen the body’s own immune and defense system. Natural therapies which do this help empty the loaded gun or simply make it shoot blanks.

Solid research has proven the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines in hayfever. Dr. David Taylor-Reilly, a professor and homeopath at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, published an important study in the Lancet (October 18, 1986) which showed that homeopathically prepared doses of 12 common flowers were very effective in reducing hayfever symptoms when compared with patients given a placebo.

This same researcher published in the Lancet (October 12, 1994) another high caliber study on the homeopathic treatment of asthma. This double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial performed conventional allergy testing to determine what substance asthma sufferers were most allergic. Then, half of the subjects were given a homeopathic preparation of this substance, while the other half were given a placebo. Those people given the homeopathic medicine experienced a very significant improvement in their symptoms of asthma.

The natural way

From a naturopathic viewpoint, allergies are often associated with weak adrenal, immune, and digestive functions. Natural treatments are used to support and improve those functions and to alleviate symptoms of allergies.

Eat a moderately low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet. Drink one glass of water for every 10kg body weight daily (e.g., a 60kg person would drink 6 glasses of water).

Include a lot of the following foods in the diet:

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Deep yellow and orange vegetables
  • Nettles, bamboo shoots, cabbage, beetroot tops, beetroots, carrots, yams
  • Onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, horseradish

Eliminate the following from the diet:

  • Alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products
  • Bananas and citrus fruit
  • Chocolate
  • Food colorings (tartrazine)
  • Peanuts
  • Red meat
  • Sugar
  • Wheat

Supplements

Bioflavonoids (e.g., quercetin, catechin, and hesperidin) – Take 2-3 grams daily. When symptoms are severe, take up to 6 grams. Bioflavonoids are natural antihistamines and strongly anti-allergenic. Bromelain and vitamin C can enhance the action of bioflavonoids.

Flaxseed oil – Take 1 tbsp daily.

Probiotics (e.g., lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus) – Take one in the morning and one in the evening. Probiotics are bowel microflora – the bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines. Buy a quality product that has 3 million organisms per capsule.

Vitamin A – Take 25,000 IUs daily.

Vitamin C – Take 1-3 grams daily or to bowel tolerance. (Bowel tolerance is the amount of vitamin C that can be taken without causing diarrhea. This amount is different for each person and can change if the need increases because the body is stressed, injured, or ill.).

Vitamin E – Take 400 IUs daily.

Zinc – Take 30 mg daily.

Herbs

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) – Used as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) – Reduces congestion and secretions. It is good for itchy eyes, sneezing, and excess mucus.

Gingko (Gingko biloba) – Contains bioflavonoids and is used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) – Helps reduce allergic, inflammatory, and histaminic reactions and supports liver function.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) – Helps build the body’s resistance to allergies.Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)—Used as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Reduces congestion and secretions

Homoeopathic Remedies

Allium cepa – Indicated for bland, nonirritating discharge from eyes; copious, watery, acrid discharge from nose; hoarseness; and feeling better in cool air and open room.

Euphrasia – Indicated for symptoms such as copious, watery, acrid discharge from eyes; nonirritating discharge from nose; dry, hard cough; much sneezing; diarrhea; and feeling worse in open air.

Natrum muriaticum – Indicated for watery or egg white-like discharges; cold sores; no sense of taste or smell; headaches; and feeling better outside.

Nux vomica – Indicated for runny nose in daytime, then dry nose at night; violent sneezing; nose feels blocked but there is watery nasal discharge through one nostril; and feeling worse outside.

Wyethia – Indicated for extreme itching in the nose and throat; throat feels swollen; back of throat is dry and burning; and sensation as if something were in nasal passages.

Stay well this winter

Well here we are, once again, with winter looming and the threat of flu in the air. It seems that everyone is coming down with it, so it’s time to start looking at your health and taking precautions to boost your immune system.

First take care of the basics

Even though schools, daycare centers, and business offices can be less than ideal environments for maintaining upper respiratory health, the following suggestions help you stay proactive:

  • Exercise boosts the immune system. Moderation is key, however, as overly strenuous activity like running a marathon can actually compromise immunity.
  • Sleep – Aim for a full eight hours each and every night.The body uses this critical downtime to make all kinds of immune system chemicals.
  • Cleanliness – Wash your hands often. Carry a mini travel-size hand sanitizer with you in your car or bag
  • Hydration – Water keeps your mucous membranes moist and healthy. Drink plenty of bottled water and use a vaporizer in your bedroom if the air is dry.
  • Stress – Quickly depresses the immune system. Learn to manage stress in personally effective ways. Some people meditate, others take long walks, while still others soak in a hot tub sprinkled with essential oil of lavender. Find the activity that helps you cope with the ups and downs of daily living.
  • Fresh Air – Try to get some fresh air and sunshine each day far from any pollution like car exhaust. It goes without saying to avoid tobacco and second hand smoke as much as humanly possible.
  • Diet – Simply stated, stay away from sugar! A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but you might not even need it if you refrain from sugar, a sure immunity buster. Instead load up on lots of fresh, juicy fruits and vegetables.

 Immune Boosters

With the basics out of the way, we can focus on the immune system. My all-time favourites for increasing immune activity are Echinacea and Vitamin C. Get yourself a really good quality Echinacea tincture or tablets. If you’re taking the tincture, take 30 drops twice times a day to prevent flu and increase this dose to up to 50 drops 4 times a day if you start showing signs of flu. After you have taken the tincture, the back of your tongue should feel numb or tingly. This feeling will soon pass, but you know you are using a good quality product. If taking the tablets, follow the directions on the bottle. Good quality Vitamin C supplements are excellent antioxidants and fight viruses directly so daily intake of 1000mg will ward off the flu. If you get diarrhoea, change to a different brand or decrease the dose. I will often increase the dose to 1000mg several times a day at the start of flu.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Homoeopaths can give you remedies to prevent flu. Most of these contain Influenzinum, the homoeopathically potentised form of the current flu vaccine (remember these change every year with the different strains, so last year’s remedy won’t work as well as the current one). The theory here is that the very diluted vaccine will stimulate the vital force, or immune system, to recognize and react swiftly to one of these viruses entering the body, thus conferring specific immunity. Influenzinum may be given on its own or combined with immune strengthening remedies. One of the most common is Anas Barbarie or Oscillococcinum. This remedy confers general immunity to flu-like illnesses and can also be given at the onset of flu symptoms in order to help avert a full-blown illness. Unless otherwise directed, take the prevention remedies once or twice a week. As with all homeopathic remedies, take 15 minutes before or after food, and away from strong tastes such as toothpaste.

Treatment

If you do get the flu, try to select the homoeopathic remedy that most closely resembles your symptoms. Remember that homoeopathy is specific to your symptoms, so different people need different remedies. Here is a list of the most common flu remedies:

· Aconite (monkshood): This remedy is primarily useful during the first 24 hours of flu. It is helpful when a fever begins after exposure to cold or cold, dry winds. Chilliness and a cold sweat may also be experienced. A barking cough develops, with a burning sore throat, and a bitter taste that lingers in the mouth

· Gelsemium (yellow jasmine): When fatigue and a generalized heavy, weak feeling pervades the person, even leading to trembling of individual parts and to having heavy, half-open eyelids, this remedy should be considered. These people tend to have little or no thirst, can experience chills up and down their spine, and have a headache in the back part of their head.

· Bryonia (white bryony): People who have marked body aches during the flu that are aggravated by anyGenerally, these people also have a headache in the front part of their head which is also aggravated by motion. They have dry, even chapped lips, a dry cough, and a great thirst for cold water. They are warm, and are averse to warm rooms. People with the flu who are very irritable and insist upon being left alone tend to benefit from this remedy. type of motion suggest the need for this remedy.

· Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset): People with the flu who experience aches in the muscles and pains in the bones and/or in their eyes often benefit from this remedy. Another characteristic symptom of people who need this remedy is chills that occur in the morning, especially 7-9am. These people desire cold drinks, even during a chill and even though it may elicit a chill response. They feel better lying on whatever part of their body is aching.

· Arsenicum album (arsenic): This is an important medicine for people with the stomach flu who experience nausea and vomiting along with a fever. These people are sensitive to and worse for exposure to cold. They experience a great thirst, but only for sips of water at a time. They feel restless and anxious, usually worrying if they might actually be sicker than they are, and they may seek several professionals’ opinion on their condition. They feel better with company around, and they feel the worse at or near midnight.

I suggest taking the indicated remedy every two hours whilst symptoms are acute and decrease the frequency as you get better. Generally, if you are buying remedies over the counter, buy them in the 30CH potency, as these are appropriate for most conditions.

Meet Dr Mom

imag0029I have always had an interest in natural medicine, and after seeing wonderful results that family members were getting from a homoeopath, I decided that this was what I wanted to study. I had already studied aromatherapy and reflexology but when I started studying homoeopathy, it was a truly enlightening experience. I began to understand and respect the innate wisdom of the body and our own inborn healing capacity. I graduated from the Durban University of Technology with a masters degree in Homoeopathy. In my practice, I have always had a natural affinity for my women and children patients (not that I don’t treat men!). I love treating children because they are so responsive to the medicine and often  results can be seen in a matter of hours. Parents always comment that it is so easy for them to administer the medicines because most of them taste like sugar.

In 2007, a friend of mine had a very traumatic birth experience at a government hospital, and I was there to support her through it. I was appalled by her experience – I have had 3 home births, and each birth was beautiful and empowering. At each birth, I had the assistance of a doula, and after each birth I felt such gratitude for her support that I wanted to do the doula training myself; but starting a course when you have a newborn baby is just not the right time, so I had put it off. My friend’s experience was the push I needed to get going and finally do the course. I completed ten training births before I began practicing on my own and have now attended many, many births. Each one, however, is a unique and beautiful experience. I feel greatly honoured to witness the miracle of birth and to support this process on such a regular basis.

I am very passionate about my work and attend regular workshops and conferences to improve my knowledge and learn new tricks to help my patients. I am blessed to do something that I truly love, and to make a difference in peoples’ lives.