Allergies come in many shapes and sizes. Some are inherited whereas others are acquired; some affect children in particular, others only start in adulthood; some are deadly whereas others are ‘just’ irritating. Most allergies, however, have one thing in common – a weak and over-stressed body and immune system. This is the single most important differentiating factor between a normal and an allergic reaction to otherwise normal substances. The exception here is inherited allergies, which can sometimes run in families for generations.
The incidence of food allergies in particular has increased massively in the last few decades, so much so that it is almost fashionable nowadays to ‘own’ one sort of allergy or another. Nut-free schools have become almost de rigeur in the UK and the US. What if we stop for a moment and consider why exactly such allergies have become so common. Is it perhaps less to do with the food itself and more with what we have done to ourselves? And where have we gone so wrong that people are allergic to essentially good foods, but no one has reported an allergy to crisps or Coke?!
What exactly is a food allergy? Every food has its own vibration; in other words, every food creates a small (or big) challenge to our digestive system. A normally functioning body can tolerate all foods within reason, because it is able to face up to that challenge. A weakened body (read a weakened digestive and immune system), however, may not be as capable when faced with a food it finds very stressful. That food can vary from nuts to seeds to fish to fruit; in fact, almost any food can bring about an allergy, which just goes to show what an individual thing nutrition is.
When this innocent piece of fish or handful of almonds hits the weakened, over-stretched body, the challenge becomes too much. The body is incapable of completing its digestive biochemical processes properly. Abnormally large molecules reach the blood and create havoc with the system. Bingo, an allergic reaction.
What is it that weakens the body and immune system? The answers to that are many, and for many people it will be more than just one factor. By far the most common causes include a poor diet, high in sugar and refined foods; extensive use of drugs and vaccinations; the phenomenal increase of chemicals in our food, cosmetics and environment; emotional stress; and, to my mind, an oft neglected cause – the overuse of certain foods. Each and all of these considerably weaken a body that may be struggling to cope anyway.
The typical Western diet with its high emphasis on sugar and all things refined is a huge contributor to the under-functioning of our body. Eating such a diet means you run a serious nutritional overdraft whilst expecting your body to function as if you were a millionaire. Sadly, childrens’ diets nowadays are often even poorer than their parents’, making them start life and reach adulthood with an even greater deficit.
In addition to poor diet, the last seven decades or so have seen an alarming increase in the reliance on a drug-for-every-bug and a vaccination-for-every-irritation type of attitude. Antibiotics, as an example, are dispensed without second thought, very often unnecessarily; and vaccinations are now given to harmless diseases that 20 years ago were considered completely normal. The result is a weakening of the immune system – it is never allowed to stretch its muscles and utilize its potential. Avoiding diseases may seem like a blessing; in actual fact, the opposite is true.
Furthermore, the chemicals in our diet, cosmetics and environment have become so widespread, it’s now impossible to avoid them. Colourings, flavourings, thickeners, stabilisers, preservatives, sweeteners, foaming agents, soaping agents, solvents, fragrances, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, – need I go on? What are all these non-natural, often toxic substances doing to our body?!
Emotions also play their part. Stress creates an extra burden on the adrenal glands, which already tend to be exhausted by the fast pace of our life and by high sugar, alcohol and coffee consumption. Stress at work, death of a loved one, marital or parental difficulties, move to another city or country can all cause or contribute to an allergic reaction.
Finally, it is my firm belief that the overuse of certain foods and their introduction from far too early an age is a major cause of the widespread wheat and dairy allergies. Wheat tends to be the only grain many Westerners eat, often three times a day, every day of their life (the breakfast cereal, sandwich, pasta cycle). Many people also indulge in dairy products on a daily basis (partly in the belief that it would prevent osteoporosis) to the exclusion of other foods that are healthier and easier to digest. Both wheat and dairy – heavy, concentrated foods – are given to babies far too early, when their immature digestive systems are unable to cope effectively with them. Sadly, both also often constitute the major part of an infant’s diet. This overdependence on just two basic foods – wheat and milk – can be a major cause of intolerance later on in life, particularly when coupled with the other causes mentioned above.
From a Natural Nutrition point of view, therefore, it is only a stressed, loaded and weakened body that would produce an allergy to a substance that is otherwise easily tolerated. In other words, blame not so much the food; it’s the extra stress or overload on your body that needs to be tackled and relieved, allowing the body to undertake its own healing and repair. This task may be more difficult when it comes to inherited or genetic allergies. Having such a deep-set allergy is comparable to being a handicapped racehorse, loaded with extra weight. You have to run twice as hard to even up the odds. It’s hard, but not impossible.
When coming to treat allergies nutritionally, it’s important to check first that you really do want to get rid of your allergy. Some people develop, generally subconsciously, a pet-like attitude towards their allergies (and diseases in general). They find it hard to believe that they can actually be allergy-free, and secretly they may also enjoy the benefits it allows them – more care and attention or the license to feel miserable, for instance. This is generally less true for very young children, but may well apply to older children and certainly to adults.
The good news is, if your allergy is food-related, non life threatening, you stand a good chance of reducing its effects substantially or even getting rid of it altogether. There’s little point in blaming food, because to most people that food is likely to be beneficial. There’s even less point in blaming your body for what it does, because your body never ever works against you. It just tries to do its best under the given circumstances. It’s far better to try and understand why your body reacts the way it does, and work with it rather than against it to sort things out. And this is precisely what Natural Nutrition aims to do.
© Vardit Kohn, May 2005. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without prior written consent.