Oliver's BlogWednesday 21st October 2020
What Causes Allergies? And How Can You Heal Them?
Allergies are troubling a lot of people and in the last forty years they seem to have increased exponentially. When I started my career in the 1980’s they were relatively uncommon, but now the figures are quite startling. So what’s really going on?
- 13 million people in the UK alone have hayfever
- Allergy is the most common chronic illness in Europe
- 20% of people with allergies struggle with fears of serious implications
- Approximately 8.5 million people in the UK have gone gluten-free
- Between 1992 and 2012 there was a 615% increase in hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK.
What Do I Mean By An Allergy?
An allergic response in the body is the immune system reacting to a normally non-harmful substance. For example with hayfever the body responds as if a bacteria or virus is attacking the body, producing histamine which makes the blood capillaries swell and sends white blood cells to the affected areas in an attempt to fight the ‘infection’. This results in inflammation with swelling, redness and mucus production. With other allergens the pattern is very similar - for example with nut or dairy allergies the throat can become inflamed and swell. This can even lead to anaphylactic shock.
There are three main kinds of allergies:
- Airborne allergies such as pollen or dust
- Foods allergies such as gluten, nuts, dairy or soya
- Skin allergies - for example from jewelry
Western And Holistic Approaches To Allergies
The Western medical approach is mainly twofold. Firstly, if the allergen can be avoided, then avoid it. Although this can be relatively easy with many allergens, with airborne allergies it’s problematic and with some food allergies it’s also very tricky - especially when the allergy can trigger an anaphylactic reaction. Secondly, the use of medication such as an antihistamine may treat the symptoms and reduce the body's immune response. These treatments may treat the symptoms quite well but they don’t treat the underlying causes which are likely to remain for the duration of a person's life.
The holistic approach (which I prefer and practice) is to see the issue of allergies as one connected to the principal boundaries of the body such as the skin, lungs or gut. Generally speaking the skin is highly effective as a boundary to keep out unwanted pathogens, but with the mucous membrane on the surface of the lungs, sinuses and intestines, this layer is so thin and can be weakened by our diet and lifestyle. For example in the depth of the lungs, the membrane between the air we breathe and the capillaries is only around one thousandth of a millimeter thick. This boundary can become weak - so keeping the proteins in pollen or cat hair out can become difficult. The lining of the gut is similar, it’s only one cell in depth, so keeping out unwanted bacteria or food particles is not easy when our system is compromised in some way.
It’s easy to see how delicate this balance is within our own bodies. And this is affected by our diet and what’s happening with us emotionally. There’s often a connection between the two things - for example too much ‘comfort food’ eating can seriously impact our overall health and mask an emotional response that is not being dealt with.
Why Does This Boundary Become Weak?
Understanding why this boundary becomes weak means we can take steps to restore it. The Western approach, although it can help with the symptoms, means we have to take medication indefinitely, and this may well get worse over time.
The principle reason our immune system becomes compromised is eating foods that weaken this boundary. In macrobiotics these are the more ‘yin’ foods and have an expansive affect, causing swelling in the mucous membrane, so allergens like pollen and food proteins slip into the body. Number one is refined sugar, and all the foods high in sucrose, glucose, fructose etc. Eating tropical fruits in a temperate climate has a similar effect, and also eating an excessive amount of spices, and processed foods like white flour lacking fibre.
Our Body’s Capacity to Heal
In my four decades of working with people with allergies I’ve seen many people heal themselves, with simple changes to their diet and lifestyle. Cutting out refined sugar and processed foods, and going onto eating whole grains, beans, vegetables, seeds, temperate climate fruits etc. can strengthen the mucous membranes. Then they can return to being the strong barrier they are designed to be, and keep the pollen, cat hairs, food allergies etc. out of the body. Then there is no need for the body to set off an immune response, and the inflammation etc
I have seen many people greatly reduce or eventually eliminate their hayfever. People may notice improvements in a few months, but often it takes going through the four seasons to substantially heal this condition.
Many people these days suffer if they eat gluten. However the main problem is not the gluten in food, but the weakened intestinal condition. Again i have seen many people make positive changes to their diet, and greatly reduce or heal their gluten allergy, and once again be able to eat moderate quantities of wheat, barley, rye etc. and not get symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain.
It may seem that the problem with allergies comes from the outside, but the reality is that it mainly comes from within us, and our over-sensitive response to airborne pollens or foods that we have been exposed to for thousands of years. The macrobiotic approach to healing allergies is basically to return to eating primarily local plant based whole foods, as most of our ancestors have done for millenia, to once again live in harmony with our environment, rather than having to fear it or fight it.
Watch The Video - What Causes Allergies? And How Can You Heal Them?