Allergies – An Alternative Approach

Allergies are a big and growing problem. If you want to understand them you have to understand something about how the immune system works. Our immune system protects us from foreign invaders such as dust, bacteria and viruses, cancer, cat dander, pollen.  When the immune system is strong, it has what it takes to protects us. But when the immune system is weakened, it can’t do its job properly, tries to overprotect us, but the result is often allergies.

Allergies affect many people including children. There are estimates that over 60 million in the US have allergic rhinitis and this number is increasing. (1)  Between 2000 and 2005 the amount spent for allergic rhinitis increased from $6.2 billion to $ 11.2 billion, with over 1.2 spent on prescriptions. Almost 17.9 million or 8% of adults in the US were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis in 2009. (2)  Approximately 9.5% of US children had respiratory allergies, 4.5% of US children, food allergies, and 12.6% have skin allergies in 2009.(2) The percentage of people hospitalized for asthma who are children is about 44%. (3)

Allergies can make us miserable, or can even be life threatening. You should consult your physician, and if you suffer life threatening allergies you need to have a plan in case of emergency. Check with your physician if you are taking other medications including over the counter ones, or if you are treating allergies in a child. There are potential side effects and drug interactions that could be serious.

Allergy shots and medication can effectively relieve our allergy symptoms or at least make them more tolerable.  We in the US use more drugs for allergies than any other developed country. We have come to rely on them to help us get better.

Dr Sang Lee, an allergist, friend and mentor, points out that “there is more to allergies than getting rid of stuffiness, wheezing and itching.” It is not what is coming from the environment that causes allergies but rather that the immune system is getting weak.  An allergic reaction is a warning signal your immune system is getting weak and something must be done to strengthen it.

Consider what can happen when you use allergy medicines. Dr Lee explained it like this: An allergic reaction is our immune system over-reacting because it is weakened. It is a message telling us we need to strengthen our T-cells of our immune system. T- cells can help protect us against things like cancer and viruses. Cortisone and allergy shots are often used for allergic reactions. Cortisone kills our T-cells. We keep making more, but the cortisone weakens our immune system. Other allergy treatments can weaken or paralyze our T-cells. The weakened T-cell sends a signal to the B-cells to make emergency antibodies, a pollen is invading. So the B-cells do it, in excess, as the message from the weak T-cell was wrong. This triggers mast cells under the lining of the bronchial tubes to release histamine, causing swelling of the lining of the tubes, wheezing and respiratory distress of asthma.

The best, most important solution of all is to support your immune system with a healthy lifestyle. While the drugs act right away, they control the symptoms. Lifestyle changes take longer but address the underlying problem, and help restore a healthy immune system. Otherwise chronically weakened T-cells may not protect us from things like viruses, cancer, drug resistant infections. There may be things we do not have control over, but our lifestyle is something we can change.

Next: Tips for strengthening your immune system.


Disclaimer: Information provided is general in nature and may be helpful to some people but not others, depending on their personal medical needs. It has not been evaluated by the FDA. Always consult with your personal physician before changing or undertaking a new exercise or weight loss program or following advice designed for general audiences only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay getting care because of something you have read here.

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