Allergies: what you need to know...
What are Allergies?
Allergies have a history that dates back to Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who in 400 BC noticed that people were coming down with hives from milk and other individuals were going into shock from shellfish.
Today, the conventional medical establishment defines allergies as an abnormal physical overreaction of the human body to normally harmless substances referred to as allergens. Simply stated, doctors would say that an overactive immune system is to blame. Parts of the body typically affected by allergens can include: the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and the mind (altered mood).
A sequential summary of how sensitivities develop can be described as follows:
• The body comes into contact with a food protein or pollen that it perceives as a foreign invader
• Blood plasma cells create immunoglobulin E, the antibody
• Immunoglobulin E antibodies become attached to mast cells, which are immune system cells
• The next time that same allergen enters the body, its proteins become attached to the IgE waiting at the mast cells
• The IgE causes the mast cells to release chemicals (histamine, leukotrienes) that cause reactions like sneezing, itchy eyes, and post nasal drip
Keep in mind that we present an alternative explanation of sensitivities, and we explain a natural treatment that is effective with about 80% of the patients who try it (see energy-based treatment below)!
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Types of Sensitivities
An allergic reaction can be initiated in several different ways. Substances are inhaled, such as with pollens; allergens can be injected, such as with medications and innoculations; they can be ingested, such as with foods and beverages, or they can enter the body through the skin, such as the case with latex gloves or chemicals. We will discuss the most common allergic conditions below.
Hay Fever - This is a seasonal type of condition most commonly caused by grass, trees, and weeds, although the same symptoms can be caused by dust mites and mold. Also called allergic rhinitis, this is characterized by nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, and inflammation of the mucous membranes. The nasal congestion can become so severe that it can affect one's speech. Inflammation can cause the sneezing, itching, and even loss of taste and smell.
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Eczema - This is a rash characterized by severe itching. Many times eczema begins on the face during the first years of life, though adults do develop this condition anywhere on the body. When this condition occurs after touching an allergen it is referred to as contact eczema.
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Food Allergy - This type of sensitivity can manifest as a mere annoyance, such as indigestion, or it can cause a life threatening condition know as anaphylaxis. The foods that usually cause reactions are: shellfish, wheat, nuts (peanuts and almonds), eggs, soy, peanuts, and milk.
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Most Common Sensitivities
About 1/3 of Americans suffer from allergy symptoms. These symptoms are characterized by runny nose, fatigue, headaches, postnasal drip, sneezing, watery eyes, and stuffy nose. They can occur during specific seasons, such as with pollen, or symptoms can occur throughout the entire year, as with dust mites and dust. The most common substances that cause allergic reaction in people include the following:
• Pollen (grass, weed, and tree
• Medication – aspirin and ibuprofen are the most common offenders
• Aerosol sprays – the propellant in sprays like deodorant and cleaners
• Dust and dust mites
• Mold – indoor and outdoor
• Chemical fumes
• Perfumes and chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetone
• Smoke – chemicals such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide
• Animal dander
Sometimes you know exactly what substance is causing your allergic reaction, such as when latex gloves are responsible for a skin reaction that occurs almost immediately. Other times your symptoms of allergic reaction do not lead to an easy diagnosis. when your signs of allergic reaction are unclear, such as a gastrointestinal reaction that occurs several hours after eating a meal, allergy testing is in order.
You can see why allergy testing is a very important first step to be taken in the elimination of your symptoms. You need to "know your enemy" before you can fight him!
The usual forms of allergy testing include: in vitro antibody testing, delayed hypersensitivity testing, percutaneous testing, and intradermal testing. We will discuss them below:
Percutaneous Testing - Otherwise know as the "skin prick" test, shallow injections of numerous allergens can be performed on the back or arm. If the allergen interacts with IgE antibodies and histamine is released, a swelling or "wheal" results. Although this is the most commonly performed allergy test currently used, it is sometimes criticized since it only measures IgE mediated reactions.
Intradermal Testing - This test is sometimes performed when the skin prick test failed to detect an allergy, yet an allergy is still suspected. A greatly diluted allergen extract is injected into the arm and if the subject is allergic, swelling occurs very quickly. This test has been viewed as limited since false positive reactions sometimes occur.
In Vitro Antibody Test - The RAST test (radioallergosorbent test) is an example of this method. This is a blood test that determines the amount of IgE that connects to an allergen. This test is a good alternative for people with whom the skin prick is contra-indicated; such as for
people who cannot stop taking their medication or those who experience anaphylactic reactions. Once again, this test is viewed as limited in that there is not a consistent, uniform method of reporting the results.
Delayed Hypersensitivity Test - This test measures type 4 delayed hypersensitivity through the use of patches placed on the back. Allergens are applied to an absorbent pad, placed on the back, and the skin beneath the patch is then checked at intervals such as 48 or 72 hours. If an allergy is present, redness or swelling will result.
Muscle Testing - Known as applied kinesiology, a practitioner measures the strength of a main muscle (usually in your shoulder) to identify substances the subject is allergic to. The theory is that muscles will become weak when an individual is exposed to a substance he is sensitive too. A subject usually holds a suspected substance in one hand while extending the other arm horizontally. The doctor then pushes down on the extended arm, usually around the wrist area, to see if the arm weakens or falls. Personally, I have been tested by some very talented practitioners using this method and I can vouge for the accuracy of this method.
Orthodox medical doctors rely on three primary methods of treating allergies: avoidance, medication, and immunotherapy (shots). Personally, we do not advocate these methods exclusively, since we have seen holistic treatments work very well for people; including nutritional supplements, dietary changes, and energy-based treatments, which we discuss below.
Avoidance - This strategy has patients reduce their exposure to allergens and minimize their symptoms by avoiding the substances entirely. We find this to be a limited approach at best for several reasons. First, it does nothing to eliminate the sensitivity and rather seems to avoid the problem. Second, while it is easy to avoid food substances by simply reading the ingredient labels of the foods you ingest, some environmental substances are much harder to avoid. Take dust for example. How can you avoid dust at the office, in all the rooms of your home, outdoors, and in your vehicle?
Medication - Anti-allergy drugs are considered to be some of the most common drugs that are prescribed. Just about every day you will see advertisements showing women and children romping through fields of daisies with big smiles and not a care in the world. There are, however, side-effects to be aware of and it is wise to question your doctor before you embark on this type of long term treatment. The primary allergy medications used today include: oral antihistamines, nasal antihistamines, oral and nasal decongestants, steroidal and nonsteroidal nasal sprays, anticholinergics, and leukotriene modifiers.
Immunotherapy - Commonly known as allergy shots, you are injected with weak versions of the substances that cause your symptoms. Over time, the concentration of your injections is increased in order to build up your tolerance to the offending allergen. The theory is that your body will create antibodies that block the allergic antibodies causing your symptoms. We should note that this method does have limitations. For example, it can take years of injections before you build your immunity to an effective level. Also, this method is not known to work effectively with food sensitivities.
Energy-Based Treatment - This fascinating natural treatment takes a dramatic turn from conventional western medicine. It is aligned with traditional Chinese medicine, which accepts the fact that there is an energy system in the body that is separate from the cardiovascular system and nervous system. This system, even though we can not see it, has everything to do with the way the body maintains its overall health.
Depending on the energy-based method your practitioner uses, he/she will probably first test you for sensitivity to a primary collection of substances using muscle testing. The substances in the primary collection will most likely represent important nutrients that the body needs to function properly, as well as toxins that can seriously harm the body. This collection can include a variety of: foods, minerals, vitamins, metals, chemicals, and even detergents.
Your practitioner begins the energy-based treatment by placing an allergen (energy frequency tube) in your energy field by asking you to hold a particular vial. If the muscle test shows you are weak in the presence of a substance, He/she will stimulate certain acupuncture points on your body, using either his hands, a device called an arthrostim, or even a cold laser, in order to release energy blockages that cause the sensitivity.
After treating your acupuncture points, the practitioner will muscle test you again to see if you are cleared of the sensitivity. If you are not clear (if your arm is weakened during muscle testing), your acupuncture points will be worked-on again. This method is successful for about 80% of the patients who try it.
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