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Good health - Allergies
Allergies - there is an epidemic of allergies at present and women's and health magazines frequently contain articles offering advice to sufferers. Our immune defences are generally able to trap unwanted particles such as dust, pollen grains and hairs and then expel them in mucus. Sensitive people may overreact, however, producing excess mucus or histamine along with inflammation, typical of hay fever or asthma. Increasing environmental pollutants and additives in foods are putting a heavy burden on our immune defences, constantly presenting them with foreign substances that they are unable to recognize. Many people involved in natural therapies believe that the strain of dealing with this assault increases the likelihood of mistakes in immunological function.
As regards food, a true allergy entails the formation of antibodies against a
protein or carbohydrate. Sometimes molecules enter the system imperfectly
digested, which trigger off this process. Normally we do not know this is
happening because the antigen/antibody complex thus formed is easily metabolized
by the liver. In some sensitized individuals, however, histamine is released
from the white cells known as mast cells located in the membranes open to the
environment, such as in the nose, and in the intestine, causing uncomfortable
To check for food sensitivities - surprisingly, the offending food is often one that the person craves and therefore eats regularly, commonly dairy products, wheat, citrus fruits and also artificial additives and colourings. The trouble may have started in early childhood during weaning, showing up as indigestion, runny nose or even earache, symptoms that do not necessarily suggest food sensitivity but -rather some sort of infection. The earlier the weaning, the greater the chance of allergic reaction. After a while the immune system adjusts to the culprit and symptoms subside. Later in life the problem recurs, set in motion perhaps by stress, and the food item is not suspected since it has been consumed in the diet all along.
Keep a food diary, noting down what you eat each day and your subsequent
reactions. In addition to the above items, other possible allergens may be eggs,
seafood, nuts, celery, soya products or even strawberries. Remove suspects one
at a time for at least five days each and see what happens. You may experience
withdrawal symptoms, so be patient and wait another week at least to see if the
problems clear. If they do, then double-check that this is the offender by
reintroducing the food on a particular day within the next few weeks in
substantial amounts. The test is positive if the symptoms reappear. You must
then eliminate the food altogether for many months or even years. It may be
possible to eat it again in the future in small amounts.
A gluten intolerance - Philippa was at her wit's end. Her baby son, almost one year old, had suffered
recurring colic followed by diarrhoea and sickness for nearly three months, was
seriously losing weight and failing to grow properly. Despite a stint in
hospital for observation and many visits to the doctor, no diagnosis was
In desperation she visited a nutrition consultant who,
after asking detailed questions about diet, suspected an intolerance to gluten,
a protein present in wheat, oats, barley and rye, and therefore recommended a
diet that excluded these foods. Indeed, simply by cutting out bread, cakes and
biscuits, improvement in the child's health was obvious within a week.
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