Natural therapies for dealing with allergies
by Dr. Kannamma Kannan —
Allergies are difficult to deal with. They can make it impossible for you to go outside, visit friends who have pets or eat your favorite foods. Allergies can manifest in the form of hay fever, allergic rhinitis, asthma or food sensitivites.
The greatest misunderstanding about allergies is the assumption that the allergens (cat dander, pollen, dust mites, etc.) are the problem. Actually, the allergen is simply the trigger, while the allergic person’s body is the culprit. The allergies themselves, such as food sensitivities, should be considered as a causal or contributing factor.
Rather than simply treating the symptoms or avoiding the allergen, the best course is to strengthen the body’s own immune and defense system. Natural therapies can help with this process.
If you suffer from various types of allergies, including food allergies, you have two choices. You can heal the problem naturally at its root cause (by correcting digestive and immune system malfunction) through diet, nutrition and constitutional homeopathy, or you can go the conventional treatment route.
Conventional medical treatment for allergies usually consists of antihistamines, steroids, decongestants, nasal corticosteroid sprays and immunotherapy (desensitization) shots. In difficult cases, laser surgery may be performed to vaporize mucus-forming nasal tissue. People who have tried these treatments know they provide temporary relief of symptoms but, at their worst, they can create side effects which are sometimes worse than the allergies themselves.
The natural choice
To avoid the downside posed by conventional medicine, choose the natural method. The first step is prevention. Once your allergy has been identified, it is important to avoid that allergen. For example, seasonal allergic rhinitis sufferers should be alert for the times different weeds, plants or trees are pollinating and when their pollens are especially high.
On dry, windy days, it is advisable to keep your windows closed and use an air conditioner. If you are hiking or working on your lawn or garden, use a face mask, wash your hair and change into clean clothes when you’ve finished. If you seem more prone to suffer from allergies during rainy/damp days, you might be allergic to mold spores.
Most people with allergies suffer year-round, which may be due to allergens found in the home, such as those caused by ventilation and filtration problems, dust and dust mites, mold, animal dander, gas and chemical fumes, etc. To treat these allergies, take the following measures:
- Use central air purification systems to enhance air quality. The best mechanical air purifiers are HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) filters, which can be attached to central heating and air conditioning systems.
- Install dehumidifiers to eliminate excessive humidity.
- Reduce the use of chemicals and utilize environmentally safe cleaning materials. Wet mop walls, floors and ceilings, and use a special high-quality vacuum like a high-efficiency HEPA maintenance vacuum cleaner. These machines can remove as much as 99.97 percent of all particles as small as 0.3 microns.
- Eliminate rugs, wall hangings, feather pillows and cats.
- Encase mattresses in allergy-proof plastic. Consider using bedding material made from Ventflex, a special hypoallergenic synthetic material.
- Replace the air filters in your heating and cooling systems regularly. Use electrostatic, HEPA or charcoal air filters.
Diet and nutrition
Eliminate foods that cause both immediate and delayed reactions. Eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts usually cause immediate sensitivity reactions. Delayed sensitivity reactions are caused by milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus and food colorings (tartrazine), but all foods can cause or add to the allergic burden.
Foods that increase or precipitate allergies include cows’ milk and other dairy products, white bread, refined and processed foods, sugar, sweets and catarrh-forming foods (oranges, tofu, tomatoes, meat, ice cream, shellfish, watermelon, cold foods, bananas, mung beans, rancid oils, fried foods, coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, alcohol, processed foods, MSG, saccharin, high levels of salt and spicy foods).
A seven-day multiple food-elimination diet or rotation diet can be helpful. Begin implementing it with these steps:
- Increase your intake of essential fatty acid sources (omega 3 and omega 6) such as flax seed oil, walnuts, cold-water fish, herring, sardines and salmon.
- Increase consumption of foods containing flavonoids and carotenes, such as yellow and other leafy vegetables.
- Increase your quercetin level, which has the effect of stabilizing mast cells. Mast cells, when sensitized with foods, pollens or chemicals, can release histamine. Quercetin is found in onions and grape skins.
- Avoid excessive calcium sources and bananas.
- Restrict or eliminate grains and potatoes.
- Eat fats and sugars in moderation.
- Take in lots of high-complex carbohydrates.
- Increase your protein intake to between 12 and 15 percent of your diet, while decreasing foods high in arachidonic acid (found in red meats and dairy products).
Homeopathy and allergies
Homeopaths prescribe constitutional remedies that are individually-selected based on the totality of symptoms, including the allergy symptoms the patient is experiencing, not based on the allergy symptoms alone. Determining a person’s constitutional medicine requires the care of a professional homeopath. These natural medicines often will provide effective relief and will do so without side effects.
Dr. Kannamma Kannan, B.H.M.S., N.M.D., C.C.H., is a licensed Arizona naturopathic physician and certified a classical homeopath. She also obtained her BHMS degree and homeopathy license (India) after undergoing five and a half years of rigorous training in classical homeopathy. 480-242-8718 orKannamma@cox.net.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 23, Number 1, February/March 2005.