Allergies

Overview

Allergies are a nuisance to people all over the world. For example, about 10% of the world's population suffers from food allergies alone. In our country, 55% of the population tests positive to one or more allergens. Allergies occur when your body's immune system overreacts to an allergen, which is a particle in the environment that is normally harmless. Some examples of allergens include pollen, dust, mold, medications, foods, additives to processed foods, cleaning products, and animal dander. One potential cause for such a high rate of allergies is the excess use of antibiotics, which negatively affects the immune system by causing it to hyper-react to allergens. People affected by allergies have an increased risk for developing asthma. 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Allergens can affect many different areas of your body such as the nasal passages, skin, intestinal tract, and lungs. Because allergens can affect so many areas, there is a very wide array of possible associated symptoms, such as itchiness, postnasal drip, swelling, wheezing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Furthermore, exposure to allergens can cause symptoms to present within minutes, or it may take days to manifest. 

The most commonly used allergy test by the medical community is the scratch (aka skin prick) test. This test is relatively effective at identifying allergens, but it carries the rare risk of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Safer tests include the radioallergosorbent test and the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, which test blood levels of specific antibodies. Another method of identifying allergens is the elimination-challenge diet. This diet involves the removal of certain foods for two or more weeks. The patient documents their symptoms while slowly continuing to remove specific foods until all allergic symptoms resolve. Then, the foods removed during the diet are slowly and systematically reintroduced until symptoms reappear. This method is effective at identifying allergies caused by food, but is very difficult to follow and results in low levels of patient compliance.

Medical Treatment

The medical model's primary method of treating allergies is by instructing the patient to avoid the identified allergen (which may not even be a possibility) and treating the symptoms with pharmaceutical prescription or over-the-counter drugs that depress the body's immune response to the allergens. Such drugs include antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids. Treating allergies with medications can be effective at decreasing symptoms, however there are some people who find little to no relief with this method. And, like most medications, there are many side effects to these drugs, some of which are potentially deadly. Furthermore, treating allergies with medication does not address the main problem of why the body is overreacting to a normally harmless particle.

How We Can Help

The first step we take to help those suffering with allergies is to support the normal physiology of the body with special concentration on the immune system.

If the immune system is functioning properly, it will be able to respond appropriately to any allergen it encounters. Many patients respond quickly and favorably to this natural method of treatment, which addresses the cause of the problem rather than merely suppressing the symptoms. However, for patients with more complex cases, we will also identify the allergens causing their symptoms by utilizing one of the safer reliable allergy testing methods mentioned above or other more specialized blood tests. Once the allergens are identified, we help our patients remove those allergens from their environment, which can be more difficult than one may think.