How can you find out what it is that you are reacting to? Are there ways of managing your reactions? Did you know that your hydration levels and stress can influence allergic reactions?
Allergies and various sensitivities are common, and numbers continue to rise every year by 5% according to Allergy UK. Why are we becoming more and more sensitive to the environment we live in and the things we choose to surround ourselves with? It is fair to say that the definitions of the terms allergy, tolerance and sensitivity sometimes aren’t very clear and can differ slightly depending on the group you belong to and your beliefs.
An allergy response could take up to 72 hours to appear. Symptoms might include, but are not limited to: skin conditions, bloating, mood swings, headaches, sneezing and lethargy. There are always various degrees of being uncomfortable and that limits us in our daily life.
WHAT IS ALLERGY?
Allergy, very simply put, is an altered response to something in your environment. The immune system reacts to a substance that is seen as harmful. Part of this reaction is due to histamine, which plays an important role in the immune response, as well as regulating the physiological function in the gut and is involved in the inflammatory responses in the body. Heightened levels of histamine are part of the body’s response to allergens: it lowers blood pressure, causes itching, increases production of stomach acid, narrows the bronchi in the lungs and increases permeability of the blood vessels. By classic definition, intolerance creates a reaction in the system to a substance but no immune response is present. In both cases, you are talking about reactions to substances that normally don’t cause a problem for people.
The more holistic approach looks at the disturbance of the body’s natural energy flow and balance. Kinesiology talks about substance reaction and tolerance with two different reasons for the reactions. Substance reaction is defined as an altered energy response where the body simply does not recognise the substance and reacts on that basis. Tolerance is seen as a metabolic issue where there is a limit, even if very low, to the amount of a certain substance the body is able to deal with at a certain point in time. These levels can vary depending on other factors. Kinesiology considers everything in your environment as possibility for reactions.
ALLERGY – HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT WHAT ARE YOU REACTING TO?
The most common ways of testing for allergy is a skin (prick or scratch) test. With a skin test, you prick or scratch the skin then observe any reactions to the substances that are being tested. It’s a fairly invasive process, and in some way limiting in results where the reaction is triggered by inhaling or digesting the substance. As the test shows results in 15-20 minutes, you are not able to accurately test for allergic reactions that would have occurred in the 72 hour window. A blood test can be done when a skin test isn’t an option and the result is ready in 7-14 days.
In a patch test the substance is left on the skin for 48 hours. This kind of test is often used for eczema, dermatitis and other skin reactions. All patients are tested for common chemicals that are known to likely cause reactions.
Vega testing reads the body’s electromagnetic field response to substances. There are other tests too like hair analysis and cytotoxic testing.
Kinesiology uses a non-invasive method where a muscle is used to check for difference in resistance when in contact with a substance. Substances vary from food, additives, chemicals, fragrances, common metals, dust, pollens and industrial chemicals, inhalants and others. An avoidance period is usually advised for substances that test up as an issue. The idea is to help clarify the link between the reaction and the substance.
VARIANCES IN REACTIONS – SOME OF THE FACTORS
Our response to a substance or food could be different depending on the situation where it is encountered. When moving or changing your environment in any way, you are often faced with a new set of possibilities for allergic reactions. This includes even substances or foods that have never previously caused an issue for you. So how is that possible?
Think of the possibilities of the variations in an apple. Where it was grown, what it absorbed while growing in terms of chemicals and pesticides that could have been used, how it was stored and for how long. There are about 7,500 different varieties of apples in the world with unique growing conditions. It is likely that you could have a reaction to some, or one of those, but not to the rest. Strains of wheat used commercially differ from country to country and so will, for example, conditions in dairy farming.
Stress and negative emotions can have a profound effect on how your body reacts. For example, asthma, hay fever and eczema are partly regulated by hormones and brain chemicals released into the bloodstream in response to stress. In the case of chronic stress, when stress is ongoing for longer periods, the hormone balance can be affected. Long term stress can also increase the risk of inflammation in the body, for example in the airways.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
So what can you do to influence and support your body in the face of allergy and tolerance? Maintain a strong immune function. Good nutrition, appropriate water in.take and other factors play a part in this body function. Staying away from processed food, toxins and encouraging habits that help sup.port your body’s detoxification process are useful tools (please see Migrant Woman November issue – ‘How do we make our lives less toxic?’)
Pay attention to your body and mind – this can give you a clue as to where the problem lies.
- Do you react more at certain times of the year?
- Are the reactions always there when you are at home but never when you go on holiday?
- Is there a difference when you spend the day at work?
- Do you notice a difference from spending time in air-conditioned environments?
- Do you react more in damp or moldy conditions?
- How do you feel after ingesting certain foods or being in contact with certain chemicals?
- Do you find that certain foods in.crease the amount of mucus you produce?
- Are you sensitive to dust?
Include more foods that are low in histamines and cut out the ones that have high content. Alcohol, sugar, most wheat, processed foods are examples of high levels. Fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables (except tomatoes), green leafy herbs and most fresh fruit (with some exceptions such as strawberries) are examples of low histamine levels.
Antihistamines or steroids are often used to manage allergies. They are chemicals that work to block the immune response in the body. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the body isn’t reacting but rather the reaction is masked by the medication. They can come with side effects like drowsiness, nausea, headaches, insomnia and others.
Non-conventional support in this area generally looks to raise your body’s tolerance. Homeopathy, Herbal medicine, and Acupuncture offer various ways of working to help support your body. Bowen Technique, a soft tissue manipulation therapy, has recorded good results in people with asthma and hay fever. Kinesiology uses its approach to work on emotional and stress triggers, looking at diet and the idea of energetic recognition to substances that are an issue.
Allergies and sensitivities are on the rise. Are we creating an environment for ourselves, which with external added pres.sure from pollution, electromagnetism and increased use of chemicals and additives, is detrimental? A research from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) suggests that increase is a result of our immune system changing, a genetic disposition, alongside inactivity, stress, pollution and diet. Antibiotics are also mentioned in the same research due to their reducing effect on gut bacteria and therefore their impact on the immune system.
How we live our lives and the environment in which we choose to live change all the time, sometimes rapidly. Any changes made in any part of our lives whether internal, external, environmental or cultural, will have a ripple effect through all of those parts.
PLEASE NOTE: that this article contains some personal views and should be considered as a topic for discussion, along with referenced facts, for different ways of relating to a widely used term. It is always advised that you discuss your individual health concerns with your General Practitioner before seeking other advice. I intend only to introduce this topic here and could go to much greater depth in each area. Any request for further information, support or questions with regard to the above, can be sent to: