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Clearing the Way to HEALTH and WELLNESS
Reversing Chronic Conditions by Freeing the Body of Food, Environmental, and Other Sensitivities
By Ellen Cutler, Richard Tunkel
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Ellen Cutler, DC
All rights reserved.
Understanding Allergy and Sensitivity
"What is food to one man is bitter poison to others," declared the Roman philosopher Lucretius more than two millennia ago. While many describe allergies as a modern malady, they have clearly been around for a long time. References to allergic reactions can be found dating back into antiquity. However, the term allergy, and with it a broader understanding of the nature of these mysterious ailments, only entered our field of medical knowledge in the past century, accompanied by a steady increase in sufferers. If you are one of the millions who suffer from allergies today, you have the opportunity to understand the mechanisms that are at work in your body when you have an allergic reaction. In the pages that follow, I will endeavor to help you grasp the basic principles of how allergies and sensitivities work, how they can be tested for and cleared, and how they affect your immune system, contributing to or even causing chronic disease. I believe one of the keys to creating health is to educate ourselves so that we can, in turn, educate our bodies.
When science first began to probe the causes of common allergic symptoms, it was found that when exposed to specific substances, called allergens or antigens, allergic individuals developed an excess of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The IgE antibodies react with allergens to release histamines and other chemicals from cell tissues, producing various sensitivity symptoms. In other words, the immune system mistakenly identifies harmless substances as dangerous invaders and activates an antibody attack to defend the body.
It was discovered that quite a number of symptoms could arise from allergic reactions, including many affecting the skin, the pulmonary system, and the digestive system. Many different types of allergens were discovered, each able to create abnormal, adverse physical reactions in the body. While these substances can be either toxic (such as exhaust fumes or other petrochemicals) or nontoxic (such as pollens or foods), those who suffer from allergies will react to them in quantities that are harmless to others.
Although a person can develop allergies to practically any substance, the most common allergens include pollen, dust and dust mites, animal dander (including dried skin, hair, or fur), feathers, cosmetics, mold, insect venom, certain chemicals, drugs, and foods. The most troublesome foods are usually peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, milk and dairy products, eggs, wheat, and soy. Allergens may cause a reaction following inhalation, injection, ingestion, or contact with the skin. While allergic reactions can involve any part of the body, they most frequently affect the nose, chest, skin, and eyes. The rarest and most dangerous type of allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock, can affect many organs at once, causing a rapid decrease in blood pressure, a rash or hives, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, a swollen tongue or throat, diarrhea, fainting, asphyxiation, and even death.
There are between thirty-five and fifty million people in the United States alone who suffer from some type of significant allergy. These types of reactions can emerge suddenly at any age without prior warning. Many studies have shown conclusively that parents with allergies will tend to have children with allergies. However, research suggests that what is inherited is simply the tendency to develop an allergy of some kind, not any particular type.
Part of the difficulty in determining the exact number of allergy sufferers lies in how broadly or narrowly one defines the term. Medical doctors and scientists often maintain a narrow definition, asserting that the only true allergies are those that result from the activation of IgE antibodies (known as type I hypersensitivity reactions). However, millions of people experience symptoms of sensitivity to a food or other substance without the IgE antibody reaction and often without any increase of antibodies of any type being detected. These people can be said to have a reactivity, sensitivity, or intolerance to particular substances. Although the causes may differ, the diagnosis and treatment of such reactivities, sensitivities, and intolerances often overlap. As a result, allergy research and information benefits many more people than those who can be said to suffer from allergies according to the limited traditional definition. Clinically, I have found that the measurements and interventions for many allergies, sensitivities, reactivities, and intolerances are exactly the same. Therefore, I use the terms interchangeably. For this book, I will generally be using the term sensitivity instead of allergy, although the terms reactivity and intolerance are used as well.
TYPES OF SENSITIVITIES
Sensitivities can be classified according to the causative substance or the resulting symptoms. There are also active (acute) sensitivities and hidden (delayed) sensitivities.
The first classification of sensitivities includes all causative substances and is divided into the following subtypes:
Ingestants, also referred to as food sensitivities
Inhalants, such as dust and pollens
Contactants, such as latex, chemicals, or animal dander
Injectants, such as recreational or prescription drugs
Infectants, such as viruses, fungi, or bacteria
Atmospheric sensitivities, such as cold, heat, or humidity
Organs, such as liver, stomach, and heart
Autoimmune sensitivities, such as being sensitive to one's own hormones, including thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, cholesterol, and adrenalin
The second classification of sensitivities lists those that can be defined by their constellation of symptoms. These include:
Skin conditions (including eczema, hives, and rashes)
Headaches and migraines
Active or acute sensitivities can be of the immediate type, in which symptoms appear within seconds of contact after every exposure (for example, hives, itching, vomiting, coughing, and wheezing) and usually subside within an hour. Active sensitivities may also be of the delayed type, in which the reaction occurs hours or days after contact. For example, some food sensitivities are not to the food itself but to a chemical byproduct of digestion or metabolism and may occur hours or days later.
Hidden or chronic sensitivities may cause serious developmental and functional problems or deficiencies and chemical imbalances. For example, a sensitivity to B vitamins may cause B vitamin deficiencies and result in or contribute to chronic health problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, digestive problems, asthma, and headaches.
CAUSES AND ORIGINS OF SENSITIVITIES
A sensitivity reaction can be IgE mediated or non-IgE mediated. An IgE-mediated sensitivity is the traditional type recognized by conventional medicine, in which immunoglobulin E antibodies are produced in response to environmental allergens and foods. Typical symptoms are hay fever and some forms of eczema. A non-IgE-mediated allergy, which is not always recognized as an allergy or even as a sensitivity by conventional physicians, can also cause a variety of symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, or irritability. Sensitivities that are non-IgE mediated may also affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. For example, in the case of asthma, the irritation of the lungs from sensitivities to dust, smoke, perfume, or bacteria may stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to secrete acetylcholine, which constricts bronchial muscles and increases mucus production, thereby triggering an asthmatic attack.
Sensitivities to such things as bacteria, viruses, or certain foods may create antigen-antibody complexes by combining with T and B cells, the adaptive defense system of the body produced in the bone marrow. These antigen-antibody complexes can lodge themselves in certain tissues of the body—for example, in the lungs or bronchioles of asthmatics. In an attempt to destroy these complexes, the immune system produces an auto-aggressive reaction that may inflame and possibly destroy healthy tissue. This inflammation may trigger asthma and create a chronic condition that may resolve when the sensitivities and the complexes are removed.
GENETIC OR INHERITED ALLERGIES
The most common cause of allergies appears to be genetic. The probability of developing a sensitivity is increased if one or both parents suffer from any type of allergic condition. In fact, this factor is the strongest when predicting allergies in offspring. In addition, when an expectant mother is exposed to various toxicities, such as chemicals or radiation, or if she even suffers an illness, such as the flu or an infection, allergies and/or sensitivities may often develop in her unborn child.
SENSITIVITIES CAUSED BY POOR DIGESTION
The second-most-common cause of the development of sensitivities is poor digestion. If a food is not being properly digested, it may eventually begin to trigger a sensitivity reaction in the body. One common contributor to leaky gut syndrome is poor digestion. Leaky gut is a condition in which the intestinal lining is more porous than usual. The abnormally large openings that develop between the cells lining the intestinal wall allow toxic materials that would normally be eliminated from the body to pass into the bloodstream. The primary cause of leaky gut syndrome is inflammation of the intestinal lining, usually brought on by one or more of the following factors:
Antibiotics, which allow the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract
Foods and beverages contaminated by parasites
Deficiencies of enzymes such as lactase, which breaks down lactose (milk sugar)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
Prescription corticosteroids, such as prednisone
Prescription hormones, such as oral contraceptives
Highly refined carbohydrates, such as candy bars, cookies, cakes, and soft drinks
Mold and fungi found in grains, fruits, and refined carbohydrates.
Currently, the best way to identify leaky gut syndrome is to monitor symptoms. People who have the condition can help themselves by taking digestive enzymes with every meal, taking probiotic supplements daily to correct any imbalance among beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut, avoiding the foods to which they are sensitive, and limiting the consumption of fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
Chronic severe malnutrition can also cause sensitivities. If people are deficient in protein, vitamins, and minerals, the enzymatic and metabolic processes the body requires for efficient functioning cannot occur. This can result in undigested food and an increase in toxic metabolites, which can eventually lead to sensitivities. These vitamins and minerals are also needed for effective immune function, which protects the body by fighting off infections.
Chemotherapeutic drugs, excessive use of antibiotics, steroids, or exposure to toxic chemicals (or radiation) are important factors in the development of sensitivities or depressed immune reaction. For example, when antibiotics and steroids are used concurrently over a long period of time, as is often the case with asthmatics, the antibiotics destroy the friendly microflora of the intestines, thereby strengthening and increasing the longevity of injurious (pathogenic) microflora, such as yeast. A suppressed immune system is unable to destroy these yeast cells, which can eventually scar the intestinal villi and their lining cells, causing a leaky gut. This allows toxins, undigested food, and yeast to enter the bloodstream through the intestine, perhaps leading to a systemic overgrowth of yeast (candidiasis).
SENSITIVITY LOAD PHENOMENON
In my estimation, over 90 percent of the population has sensitivities or intolerances. In the majority of people, these sensitivities are hidden or inactive. However, if, over a period of time, one sensitivity overlaps another that is more active or acute—especially while the individual in question is physically, mentally, or emotionally stressed, lacks sufficient sleep, or is eating poorly—these chronic hidden sensitivities emerge and become pronounced, causing the body to fall prey to other problems. This is known as the sensitivity load phenomenon. Resistance breaks down, the immune system cannot keep these sensitivities in check, and chronic health problems may arise. These can include asthma, arthritis, swelling, chronic pain, headaches, or chronic fatigue.
"It seemed to just appear overnight ..."
Angela came to see me complaining of asthma and chronic sinusitis. She had previously experienced a stuffy nose from time to time, but she had never been asthmatic. "It seemed to just appear overnight," she told me, obviously confused and frustrated by her condition. When I took her case history, however, I discovered that two years earlier when her asthma began, she had had a severe flu that had put her out of work for a month. Around the same time, some significant stressors came into her life. Her mother died of cancer, and Angela began to develop premenopausal symptoms.
After a complete examination, testing found that she was highly sensitive to her own hormones, certain flu viruses, multiple environmental and chemical substances, sugar, dairy products, and grains. It soon became apparent to me that Angela was experiencing the sensitivity load phenomenon. Since her daily exhaustion made her crave carbohydrates, she had been living on a diet high in pasta and breads. Furthermore, she had never fully recovered from the flu virus, which is common when a person has developed a sensitivity to a particular pathogen. The death of her mother had added to her stress, and her premenopausal state had caused hormonal fluctuations. Since Angela's immune system had been significantly challenged, certain hidden sensitivities began to manifest themselves. Her body became overly sensitive, and she developed symptoms of asthma. In other words, this condition did not happen overnight. In fact, most of Angela's sensitivities had been there for many years. They just required the right set of circumstances to create a tipping point and move from hidden to visible.
SENSITIVITIES, CHRONIC ILLNESSES, AND IMMUNE DISORDERS
We usually do not imagine that sensitivity reactions play a role in seemingly unrelated medical conditions. However, many experts are drawing connections between a history of sensitivities and numerous chronic conditions and immune disorders, from chronic fatigue syndrome to fibromyalgia to alcoholism to obesity. In my decades of working with patients who suffer from these conditions, I've come to the conclusion that people develop immune disorders in response to poor food digestion, inadequate absorption of nutrients, and the development of sensitivities/ allergies.
The growing incidence of these disorders reflects an increase of chemical pollutants in our environment and our foods; a decline in adequate nutrition caused in large measure by poor digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients; and an exponential rise in the use of pharmaceutical agents that can weaken and suppress the immune system and toxify the body. These reactions accumulate over time and create a heavy burden on the body, which can overload the immune system and cause an eventual collapse.
Most immune disorders have some roots in allergies and/or sensitivities. Sensitivities are even considered partially responsible for some types of behavioral or emotional problems. Problems such as ADHD, mild and moderate depression, and exhaustion are quite often rooted in sensitivities, digestive stress, and toxicity. In this book, I will be devoting chapters to the relationship between sensitivities and some of the most common immune disorders, including rhinitis, sinusitis, hay fever, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, candidiasis, inflammatory bowel disease, hypothyroid, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Below are a few other common conditions that are often related to sensitivities.
Excerpted from Clearing the Way to HEALTH and WELLNESS by Ellen Cutler, Richard Tunkel. Copyright © 2013 Ellen Cutler, DC. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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