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
A food intolerance does not involve the formation of antibodies and is probably due to a lack of appropriate enzymes for proper digestion. The effect can be a general malaise, bloating or intermittent pains and headaches.
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.
If you switch to the Healthy Diets detailed from one of the links below, then you may find that recurring ailments may disappear automatically, since it excludes additives and convenience foods and is low in sugar and fat. If not, then follow the process described above.
The antioxidant vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C and E plus selenium will help protect the body if air pollutants are thought to be causing problems, while bromelaine from pineapples should alleviate digestive troubles. At the same time, give your immune system a boost as described in the Healthy Diets (link below).
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
forthcoming. 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.
The nutritionist suggested that Philippa should ask her doctor to arrange for a proper biopsy to have the diagnosis of coeliac disease officially confirmed, since gluten intolerance can, but does not necessarily, indicate this disorder.
Does dog hair cause allergies ? Contrary to popular belief, it's not dog hair that causes allergies (sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose) it's dead skin flakes that does. The microscopic dead skin flakes float through the air and when inhaled or when the flakes lands in the eyes, it triggers the allergic-reaction.
All dogs produce dead skin flakes. So there's no such thing as dogs, big or small, that doesn't produce them and is therefore totally safe for allergy-sufferers. However, because small dogs have less skin, they produce less dead skin flakes. It's also thought that breeds who are low hair shedders also shed less dead skin flakes.
So there you have it, no-ones allergic to dog hairs, it's the dead skin flakes that cause the allergic reactions to dogs. If you have allergies to dead skin flakes, first consider a small dog and secondly, consider a low shedding breed, like a Poodle, Maltese Terrier, or one of the many other low shedding breeds. (Choose a breed who is rated 1 or 2 stars for "Shedding")
And, to be safe, if you do have allergies, arrange to spend some time around some dogs of the breed you are interested in, (maybe at a breeders home), to make certain that they don't trigger your allergies . . . before you get one!
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