Allergies from the Naturopathic Angle.
by Eugene Bubis, ND

In simple terms, an allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system to certain substances that are 'foreign' to our bodies. These substances are called allergens, and they can range from food and pollen to drugs and dust. Allergies are something we acquire throughout life, and some people are more susceptible than the others. One must have at least one contact with a substance to become sensitive, or allergic to it.

Conventional treatment of allergies is most commonly directed to block the immune response, or in more severe cases, to suppress the entire immune function with steroids, both topical and systemic. While this approach can provide symptomatic relief, it does nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem. Patients often become dependant on their medication, they suffer from numerous side effects, and most importantly, they worsen their overall health by constantly suppressing the immune system.

Naturopathic therapeutic approach is based on identifying and eliminating the underlying cause of the disease, rather than masking its symptoms. How does this apply to allergies? As we already know, in order to develop, an allergy requires a prior contact with the 'offending substance', where the immune system becomes 'sensitive' and reacts hyperactively to it in the future. The immune system must literally 'touch' the foreign substance (allergen), and for that to happen the allergen has to penetrate the body's protective barriers, such as skin, intestinal and respiratory mucous membranes, etc. Why do they become permeable and allow the foreign substances to enter our system? There are many components to that, and we will not be considering such occurrences as bee stings with consequent allergy to bee venom. These can be rather classified as 'accidents' and in fact, do not represent the majority of allergic cases.

Most of the allergies come as a result of the decreased integrity of the mucous membranes that become 'leaky' to the numerous foreign substances, along with the repeated exposure to these substances. For instance, weak digestion and poor diet lead to the increased volume of the undigested food particles in the gut. At the same time, it causes local damage to the intestinal lining making it more permeable to the above mentioned undigested particles. As a result, we end up with a situation where we have the 'overload' of the foreign substances (undigested food that is a potential allergen) along with the damaged intestinal mucous membrane, which is more likely to allow these substances to enter the blood stream. Once a foreign substance enters the bloodstream, and especially if it does that on numerous occasions, the allergic response can be triggered. By the same logic, poor integrity of the respiratory mucous membrane leads to the increased load of the airborne foreign particles on our immune system. Pollen, dust, perfume, cats make just the partial list in this category.

It is important to remember that the overload of the foreign substances 'attacking' our body and the increased permeability of the mucous membranes create the vicious cycle where they both feed each other. If this situation continues for a long period of time, the person is very likely to become allergic to almost everything, as he/she is no longer capable to prevent foreign substances from entering his/her system.

It has been mentioned that allergies can be acquired and we all have different susceptibility to them, but we can also get rid of allergies without having to 'manage' living with them for the rest of the life. While treatment of allergies has to be supervised by a qualified health care practitioner, here are few general recommendations:

  1. Eat healthy - it minimizes the damage to the intestinal lining and provides all the required nutrients for the intestinal regeneration. Therefore, the intestinal as well as the respiratory mucous membrane will maintain its integrity and won't be too permeable.
  2. Do NOT eat the same thing all the time, practice variety and rotation - it will make the repeated contact with the same foreign substance less likely decreasing the chances of allergies.
  3. Supplement your diet with good quality antioxidants - they maintain mucous membranes' integrity and prevent damage.
  4. Minimize exposure to the environmental chemicals and toxins, including a variety of food additives, cleaning materials, detergents, paints, etc. - they add up to the overall load on the immune system.
  5. Consider a cleansing/detox program.

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