Our body tries to protect us against environmental insult by means of a very well developed immune system. In some people, the response is over-active and harmful instead of accurate and helpful. What causes hyperactivity in the immune system? Is it physical? Energetic? Psychological? All of the above?
The body has an innate wisdom by which it distinguishes self from non-self. This is the fundamental dichotomy of our human existence – the Yin and the Yang of Chinese medicine, the one and the zero of the computer, the "yes" and the "no."
In the realm of ordinary human existence, the infant at first has no idea which body parts belong to itself, and which to "other," meaning its mother. How does the infant figure it out? It begins in the gut.
The infant’s intestinal tract must not only distinguish self from non-self, but also pathogens (infectious bacteria) from non-pathogens (food, helpful bacterial residents of the GI tract).1
Most of our immune system is initially contained within the gut, where it is called the GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. This GALT has no lymphatics coming into it from the rest of the body, so it receives its information solely from the contents of the intestines. This information comes in the form of food antigens and "normal" intestinal flora, the helpful bacteria which produce vitamins and serve as guards against organisms which could make us really ill. The infant’s GALT is poorly developed for up to several months after birth. B lymphocytes are produced in the GALT. These B lymphocytes then migrate throughout the body, eventually returning to the GI tract in the form of secretory IgA producing-cells which then serve as gatekeepers, telling the body which substances are healthy to absorb, and which need to be guarded against.
In the United States today, we do not see infants with the severe gastrointestinal infections which characteristically cause such high infant mortality in other parts of the world. Instead, we see different problems. We see an increase of food allergies in our population, to the point where entire websites and self-help groups are growing up to help people deal with allergic manifestations because conventional allopathic physicians seem either unresponsive, unknowledgeable or unbelieving.
The fact that the information-carrying B lymphocytes migrate throughout the body, before returning to the GI tract from whence they came, goes a long way toward explaining why food allergy or sensitivity can manifest in so many different ways in so many different organs of the body.
Allergies Are Not A Mystery
The period immediately after birth is critical to the development of both food tolerance and food allergy. Dietary antigens other than breast milk need to be introduced slowly and carefully, in order to avoid the development of severe food allergy. Genetics also play a part. People with specific genotypes have increased incidence of food allergy and inflammatory bowel disease.2
Normal intestinal flora are essential to prevent the development of food allergy.3 If the composition of the intestinal flora is altered, (for example, by antibiotics), then susceptibility to food allergy is markedly increased, as is susceptibility to disease.4
So which comes first? The food allergy? The antibiotics? The frequent infections? It’s a little like arguing whether the chicken came first or the egg. Genetic susceptibility, environmental exposure, destruction of the normal intestinal flora… these can all occur very early in life. The result is a child who is not only susceptible to food allergy – which they often appear to "grow out of" – but also to many other manifestations of both allergic and inflammatory disease in later life.
Infants can manifest eczema – severe dermatitis, skin rash – which is generally treated with inflammation-suppressing steroid creams. Infants may manifest colic – unconsolable crying, often in the evenings – with no discernible cause, sometimes with excessive intestinal gas, but not always. They often develop near constant ear infections and these are generally treated with antibiotics, thus destroying the few remaining beneficial bacteria. Then these children go on to acquire tubes in the ear drums at a very early age because of the chronic infections. By the time they reach the age of four or five, they are now old enough to manifest nasal allergy – often called "allergic rhinitis" and/or chronic tonsillitis and swelling of the adenoids, necessitating surgical removal of the tonsils.
At about this age, they start seeing the pediatric allergist, who diagnoses airborn allergy (grasses, pollens, dust, etc) and starts them on a long course of allergy shots and pharmaceutical medication to treat the stuffy nose, the plugged ears, the swollen glands and the chronic cough which generally accompany the allergy symptoms.
The child may be less fortunate and go on to develop reactive airway disease, or asthma, which is then further treated with steroid medication and antibiotics, as well as antihistamines, resulting in a further loss of function long term.
Children sometimes "outgrow" asthma, and have no further manifestations of disease until they reach their late 30s or early 40s. The allergies do not actually disappear. Instead, they continue to cause chronic inflammation and provoke the immune system to continued low level response. They may not manifest overtly because the child grows and weighs more, has taken lots of antibiotics and immune suppressant drugs (steroids), therefore it takes more allergen to provoke a visible response.
Allergy-Induced Inflammation Causes Disease
As middle age approaches, these folks may have a recurrence of their asthma, or they may be among those unfortunates who develop deeper manifestations of disease. They may develop arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, Crohn’s disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, or a whole host of other diseases which are based upon chronic inflammation. Even at this late date, if the food allergy is diagnosed and the offending food is removed, substantial recovery is possible.
In the end, the chronic inflammation can manifest as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.. The greater the progression of dysfunction, the less are the chances of complete recovery. Even still, symptoms may diminish markedly, if the offending allergens are removed.
It is clear that allergic reaction begets inflammation which begets yet more predisposition to allergic and inflammatory reaction. Some people develop progressively worsening food sensitivities, and even begin to notice they have trouble when they walk down the aisle in the grocery store that has detergent and soaps. They may start to cough or wheeze when they smell strong perfumes. In the end, some of these unfortunate people develop a syndrome known as "multiple chemical sensitivity" – loss of tolerance to multiple foods, and eventually to all kinds of chemicals as well,5 resulting pretty much in confinement to their own environmentally safe home.
In other parts of the world, severe gastrointestinal infections cause high infant mortality. But in America, we have children hospitalized with asthma, on chronic steroid medication, inhalers and antihistamines… children with dry skin, eczema, rashes… children with type II diabetes and weight gain… children with ADD, unable to sit still or focus.
A runny nose leads to sinusitis – inflammation of the sinuses. Many people get infections in the sinuses that are behind the cheekbones – the maxillary sinuses – because this area drains from the top, not the bottom. It is efficient in animals which walk on all fours with their heads down, but not as efficient for upright beings who walk on two feet.
Many people find their chronic sinus infections improve when they deal with their chronic constipation. It is a well known fact in Chinese medicine that the lungs, the respiratory system, and large intestine are on the same energetic meridian. If there is blockage in one area, there is blockage in the other. Relive the blockage in one, and you relieve the blockage in the other. The way to relieve the blockage in the colon is through improved nutrition, not eating the things you are allergic or sensitive to, increasing fiber in the diet (fruits and veggies), and cleaning out the colon with colonics.
A study published in 2010 compared the gut flora of Italian children with that of children from a village in western Africa. The African children ate a high-fiber, low-fat, vegetable-heavy diet that reflects what people ate at the dawn of agriculture, whereas the Italian kids had a typical Western diet, low in fiber but high in animal protein, sugar, starch, and fat. Researchers found that only the African children had bacterial strains of Prevotella, Xylanibacter, and Treponema which are excellent at breaking down fibrous foods and producing short-chain fatty acids that provide added energy. Studies have also shown that those same fatty acids help protect the intestines from inflammation, which could explain why inflammatory bowel disease is almost unheard of in African communities that eat high-fiber diets. The increased diversity of microbes in the gut also makes the body more resistant to intestinal pathogens while tempering the immune system's response to harmless molecules, leading to fewer allergies, the researchers concluded.7
28 year old man with annual severe allergies. At the first whiff of pollen, he would plug up and didn't breathe well again till the first frost. We tried allergy shots and food elimination. It gave some improvement, but nowhere near 100 percent improvement. One day he got to talking about when he first experienced his allergies. He remembered sitting on the cellar stairs when he was four years old, very worried about what was happening between his parents who were in the process of divorce. He remembered that he wanted very much to cry but he didn't. He plugged it up inside. It was springtime. Since that time, his nose would plug up at the first whiff of a flower. After he made that conscious connection to the four year old child, his allergy symptoms dissipated. He never had a problem with plugging up in the springtime again.
Identifying energetic blockages and bringing them to consciousness can release them. This can be done in many ways. Hypnosis can put you in touch with the time and place where you can contacted the emotion that manifested physically. Acupuncture can also trigger the release. Sometimes the body stashes a trauma because it was too hard to deal with at the time. Then later, we realize that the coping mechanism no longer serves us and it is time to be rid of it.
Treating for allergies
At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we make the diagnosis of allergies by using antigens – diluted substances with which we test for reactions. You can be tested for:
- Foods of all kinds
- Airborne allergies - pollens, mold, dust
- Yeast and skin fungus
- Animal allergies - cat, dog, horse, bird, etc.
- Chemical allergies - cologne, newsprint, car exhaust, building materials, cleaning products – you name it
- Hormones - some people react badly to their own hormones
- Special requests
For foods, eliminating the offending menu items for a period of time allows the gut to repair itself, and the B cells to diminish in number. This has proven to be a most effective treatment. Eventually the immune system settles down, and the food can often be tolerated in small doses periodically, although it may never be tolerated again in large amounts daily. Treatment can be given for accidental or unpreventable exposure.
It is impossible to avoid many other substances, so we desensitize you with antigens which are very diluted solutions of the substances to which you react. The idea is somewhat like the repatterning that takes place with muscles after an accident. In that case, a physical therapist works arms and legs to prompt the muscles to regain functionality. With antigens, we find the level just below that which causes a reaction, and give you regular low doses at that reduced level so your body can "learn" again how to tolerate the substance(s). This is the process of desensitization.
Most antigens are commercially prepared with glycerin or phenol is added as a preservative. However, both glycerin and phenol are quite capable of producing a significant allergic reaction in some people. Additionally, glycerin gives a burning sensation when given in shots. The Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine is one of the few medical offices in the United States that uses preservative free antigens. We can make a special-order antigen for just about anything to which you are allergic.
The process of making preservative free antigens is very precise and very sterile. Every substance is measured and placed in a special solution for five days to extract the allergenic material. For people who are allergic to newsprint, for example, we can grind newspaper in a blender with the special solution, and extract the printer's ink, bleaches, and other allergenic materials.
For many allergens (including pollens, and molds),standard treatment involves "allergy shots" once a week in the doctor's office. Our office provides not only treatment for chemicals and foods as well as pollens and molds, but also is able to provide treatment with oral drops. Allergy treatment which gradually increases the dose of allergen over a period of time and then maintains the maximally tolerated dose for a period of 18-24 months appears to be effective in most people. Treatment can be given as allergy shots or drops which are taken sublingually (under the tongue). The sublingual route is nearly as effective as shots, and less painful for many people, especially children. The drops can be given at home, and the treatment requires only periodic follow-up visits, not weekly injections.
For further information, please click on allergy testing or call us at 480-240-2600.