The main focus of traditional allergy practice is the diseases involving the IgE-histamine response—hay fever, eczema, and asthma. These are termed "atopies" (hereditary allergies); sensitive individuals have a genetic or at least familial propensity for experiencing these diseases sometime in their lives. These problems are more common in children and tend to regress with age. When such problems start later in life, they may be less genetically dominated and more related to other factors. Each of these conditions involves increased sensitivity to certain allergens. For example, an asthmatic or eczema sufferer may be allergic to eggs, wheat, or milk; hay fever sufferers are usually sensitive to pollen and environmental agents. Isolating the specific reactions and avoiding the agents that cause them, and/or using injection desensitization, may relieve the symptomatology. However, in all these cases, even with an elimination of symptoms, there is still the potential for the problem because of genetic or familial predisposition. Schools of natural healing or Chinese medicine may view these allergy problems in terms of body biochemical or energy imbalances and attempt to offer relief by correcting these difficulties. Nutritional medicine may have a lot to offer the allergic person by providing the optimum tissue and cellular nutrient levels that allow improved function and reduced allergic symptoms.
A deeper realm of allergy and immunology has fascinated many physicians in the last two decades. This is now incorporated into the field of clinical ecology. It involves our interaction with the environment and its effect on human health and disease. Clinical ecologists are physicians who evaluate and treat chronic illness on the basis of allergy, immune response (and immune weakness), and nutrition. Therapy may involve isolation from allergens, dietary changes, and an "orthomolecular" approach to nutritional supplements—that is, using higher amounts of various nutrients to support the body’s functions and to alter abnormal physiology and correct functional or metabolic nutritional imbalances. Problems such as chronic fatigue, rapid aging, recurrent infections, arthritis, headaches, asthma, and mental illness have been treated successfully with this approach. The theories of "cerebral allergy" and "allergy-addiction" have been set forth by these pioneering physicians.
Herbert Rinkel, M.D., was probably the first to notice the problem of "cumulative allergic reactions," which led to his initial work on the "rotary-diversified" diet. This diet, and variations of it, have been used for over 50 years and each year more physicians employ the diet in their practices. The basic theory of many practicing physicians is that inappropriate immune responses produce antibodies to basically harmless and even usable macromolecules; these reactions may affect the normal body functions. Many of these reactions may be "hidden" or masked in the process of "allergy-addiction." In this case, foods may be acting on the body much like agents such as coffee, alcohol beverages, or tobacco—which are also common allergens. To avoid the withdrawal symptoms, we must regularly take in the specific substance. This type of reaction most commonly causes what are now called "cerebral allergies"—altered neurotransmitter reactions that affect the energy, emotions, and psyche. The theory is that certain allergenic antigens or antigen-antibody complexes cross the blood-brain barrier and cause these unusual reactions. Common cerebral symptoms include headache, dullness, lightheadedness, dizziness, anxiety, irritability, confusion, uncoordination, and depression. Lethargy, aggression, crying spells, insomnia, and even psychotic symptoms may also be experienced. Drs. Rinkel, William Philpott, and Marsha Mandell all have shown a fairly high percentage of food allergies in schizophrenic patients and those with other psychological disorders. Wheat, milk, and tobacco were most commonly found to be involved; "cerebral allergies" in particular can be most significant with the cereal grains. Food allergies may occur as a "fixed" reaction (stable over time), or "cumulative," increasing with repeated use and lessening with avoidance.
Foods Commonly Associated with Specific Allergies
The allergy-addiction syndrome related to foods is very common. These easily become "hidden" allergies, which may be involved in binge eating, overeating, weight gain, and general ups and downs that come from eating food. Cravings, even very subtle ones, often are part of this syndrome, but people who experience this might think that they just like a particular food and so eat it regularly. And when they eat it, they may feel a lift. This is thought to be a result of stimulation of beta-endorphins in the brain, which give us an "up" or euphoric feeling, as occurs with prolonged exercise.
Most addictions, especially to foods (and some street drugs), involve some allergy, but the allergic reactions may be masked, with repeated exposures producing no symptoms. A positive identification of the allergenic food cannot be made until it has been eliminated for four or more days; at times even avoidance for 24 hours might be enough to reveal the allergy. After a few days, trying the food by itself may produce a marked, abnormal response, and then we can see more clearly what has been happening. Much like an alcoholic with allergies to yeast and grains, people with such food addictions may tend to binge on the allergenic foods, especially when they are under psychological stress.
A wide variety of symptoms are possible with food allergy-addictions. Randolph and Moss’s An Alternative Approach to Allergies offers a very advanced and somewhat complex analysis of the many theories and symptoms of food allergies, noting that the addiction occurs in two phases, stimulatory and withdrawal. During the stimulatory cycle, when we eat the food, we experience a decrease in symptoms; when we avoid it, we experience a "hangover" and an increase in symptoms. In the withdrawal phase, we experience initially a worsening of symptoms and then improvement. When we re-expose ourselves to the food, we often get a marked increase in symptoms and a clearer picture of the problem.
Children experience food reactions quite commonly. Cerebral symptoms may occur, leading to hyperactivity, poor attention, and difficulty in learning, as well as many other physical symptoms. Often, isolating the allergens, which may be foods and/or chemicals in foods, and eliminating them from the diet can make a huge difference in the life of the affected child, and consequently, in the lives of his or her parents and siblings.
What foods are most commonly connected to these allergies? Dr. Rinkel’s research led him to conclude that "the constant, monotonous intake of any food promotes the development of a food allergy in a susceptible person." The foods he found most frequently to cause reactions were wheat, eggs, milk, coffee, corn, yeast, beef, and pork.
Although different practitioners report different lists of foods that they find to be commonly allergenic—for example, some include corn, soy products, cane sugar, or nuts, while others do not—all agree that wheat, milk, and eggs are the top three; yeast is another common allergen. All of these foods not only are consumed daily by most people but also are found as components of many other foods, giving us repeated exposures daily. In general, infrequently eaten foods less likely lead to allergies.
Causes of Allergies
The causes of allergies are, I believe, multiple. There is, of course, the genetic pre-disposition, which is clearly established in the atopic diseases of hay fever, asthma, and eczema but may also predispose us to many others. Eating habits during the first year of life may influence our potential for allergy more than anything else, even heredity. Feeding babies solid foods too early and not breastfeeding them is a primary way to cause allergies and, thus, produce many problems in infants. Cow’s milk and baby for-mulas provide large molecules that are difficult for the infant’s immature gastrointestinal tract and immune system to handle. Gluten allergy from early feeding of grains such as wheat, corn, and oats is also common. The best way to prevent allergies, particularly childhood ones, is to breastfeed a child exclusively for six months before introducing solid foods. (See Infancy program.) Even in adults, poor digestion, with low levels of hydrochloric acid or pancreatic enzymes, is an underlying cause of many food reactions.