Allergies is a word we hear a lot these days; everybody seems to have them, especially kids. Atopic children -- those prone to allergies -- have chronic runny noses, red itchy eyes and a little crease just above the tips of their noses from constantly swiping off a drip. This gesture is ruefully called the "allergic salute" in naturopathic pediatrics. Often when people say they have
"allergies" they actually mean they have "sensitivities"
certain foods. An allergic reaction has many different
manifestations, most of them quite profound. These reactions
range from anaphylactic shock and death (for example an extreme
reaction to a bee sting where the bronchial airways swell shut) to
chronic fatigue, malaise and foggy thinking from constant exposure
to the allergen. Besides foods, people can be both allergic to, or
have sensitivities to, pollens, danders, molds, preservatives,
pesticides, various building materials, and even to their own
hormones and tissues (as in auto-immune diseases).
It is important to recognize that a "reaction" to something
body doesn't like indicates a healthy, active immune system. We
are designed so that our secretions (stool, urine, tears, sweat,
mucus) increase in the valiant attempt to expel foreign
particles. Fever, for example, is the body's natural mechanism
to kill bacteria and viruses, most of which cannot tolerate above
103 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when a mere bite of cheese or
sniff of a lush Spring breeze sets us off into a choking fit,
that's clearly an overreaction which needs to be remedied.
A food allergy can be defined as a chronic or immediate
inappropriate reaction to ingestion of a food. Broadly speaking,
if the immune system is involved in the reaction, it is called an
allergenic response. If the immune system is not involved, such
as in upset stomach, nausea, cramping, or headache, it is called
food "sensitivity" response. This distinction may seem
but it is important to distinguish to provide proper treatment.
With a bona fide food allergy, whose classic symptoms will be
discussed below, the best approach is to "decrease the burden,"
other words avoid the allergen whenever possible. After a period
of clearing the offending food from the bloodstream (which may
take 7 days to 7 months to forever) some people may be able to
take the food in frequently (no more than every 4 days) without
ill result. The very best way to determine food allergenicity is
the "elimination and challenge" diet discussed in Dr. Ronzio's
article. Food sensitivities may be healed by heeding Hippocrates'
maxim, written many hundreds of years ago, "to many this has
the commencement of a serious disease when they have merely taken
twice in a day the same food which they have been in the custom of
Some foods contain histamine, the biological chemical responsible
for itchiness, red skin rashes and increased mucous production.
This is why you can buy synthetic "antihistamines" in
store to temporarily quell symptoms of allergy. Much better to
avoid the foods: sausage, sauerkraut, tuna, wine, preserves,
spinach, tomato. Other foods cause excessive release of histamine
from the white blood cells ("mast" cells) that store it:
milk, shellfish, strawberries, tomatoes, chocolate, bananas,
papayas, pineapples, certain nuts, alcohol. How about supporting
our natural antihistamine, cortisol, which is secreted from the
adrenal gland cortex? Licorice root is excellent for adrenal
support. Check it out. Each and every person in a unique
individual, and treatment must reflect this principle.
Ironically, the most common food allergens are ones that are
ubiquitous in the American diet: wheat, corn, milk, sugar, soy.
It is almost impossible to find canned, boxed or prepared foods
without most of these ingredients lurking silently within.
"Amaranth" and most all other cookies have wheat as the
ingredient; sparkling "natural" sodas contain corn syrup;
Campbell's soups may contain lactose, dextrose, corn starch, soy
oil. Why are so many people suffering from food allergies today?
Hearken back to the quote from Hippocrates. Because we eat wheat,
milk, orange juice, sugar, corn and soy constantly, daily, without
Some of the most common warning signs of food allergy are:
- Dark circles under the eyes (allergic "shiners")
- Puffiness under the eyes
- Horizontal creases in the lower eyelids
- Fluid retention and bloating (not the premenstrual kind)
- Chronic swollen glands (under the jaw, armpits, groin)
Symptoms and diseases associated with food allergy are:
- Gastrointestinal: Canker sores, celiac disease (an extreme
intolerance to a fraction of wheat called gliadin, which produces
crippling diarrhea and weight loss), stomach ulcer, gas, irritable
colon, malabsoprtion, ulcerative colitis (may often produces blood
in the stool and a constant hungry feeling).
- Genitourinary: Bed-wetting (eneuresis), chronic bladder
infections (cystitis), kidney disease
- Immune: Chronic infections including ear infections
- Mental/Emotional: Anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inability
to concentrate, insomnia, irritability, mental confusion,
personality change, seizures.
- Musculoskeletal: Bursitis, joint pain, low back pain.
- Respiratory: Asthma, chronic bronchitis, wheezing.
- Skin: Acne, eczema (dry or weeping, itchy, thickened, reddened
patches of skin usually on the face, wrists and inside elbows and
knees), hives, itching, skin rash.
- Other: Irregular heart rate, edema (fluid swelling), fainting
spells, fatigue, headache, hyperlglycemia, itchy nose or throat,
In general, besides avoiding allergenic foods, here are a few
general principles for minimizing adverse reactions to common
foods. First, get plenty of foods containing Vitamin C, or take
dialy supplement. Vitamin C strengthens cell membranes, including
the cell membrane of the histamine-containing mast cell.
Digestive enzymes, particularly when eating a high-protein meal,
may be in order. Many of us suffer from inflammatory responses to
undigested protein fragments in the blood stream, that seeped in
through our intestines before sufficient digestion into simple
amino acids. Essential fatty acids, at least 1 tablespoon daily
of raw, cold vegetable, fish or evening primrose oils, help
decrease the inflammatory reactions (caused by the 1 and 3 series
prostaglandins) and maintain T-cell function.
How does all this relate to juicing? Suffice it to say that
vegetables are BY FAR the least allergenic foods, and high in the
vital nutrients that preserve the integrity of our tissues. Some
people may need to avoid the nightshade family of vegetables
because of reaction to the oxylates they contain. These foods are
tomato (primary offender), eggplant, potato, red & green peppers
and tobacco. Go easy on the fruit -- which is high in the
monosaccharides (simple sugars) fructose and glucose. One fruit
drink a day is plenty. Go whole hog on vegetables, though, and
don't forget you can JUICE your dark leafy greens. And garlic.
About The Author
A graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China, with emphasis on gynecology, counseling, herbal medicine and naturopathic manipulation...more