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The Allergy Book
Solving Your Family's Nasal Allergies, Asthma, Food Sensitivities, and Related Health and Behavioral Problems
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Allergies are one of the most common ailments, causing children to miss school and parents to miss work. Left untreated or unresolved, stuffy noses, itchy skin, and irritated bellies can lead to chronic asthma, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurological disorders.
Today’s parents don’t just want to treat their family’s allergy symptoms; they want to eliminate allergies and prevent chronic and long-term health complications. The Sears show them how. Drs. Robert and William Sears present a science-based approach that has helped alleviate allergies in many of their patients, providing a plan not only for treatment, but also for prevention.
A family-friendly resource, The Allergy Book offers all the reassurance and accessible, practical advice that parents need to resolve their children’s allergies, now and throughout their lives.
Table of Contents
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.
This book is intended to provide general information for the treatment of allergies. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice. The treatments presented here are for educational purposes only. If any of the information in this book conflicts with the advice you receive from your own physician, you should follow your physician's instructions. Any medical treatment, whether natural, over-the-counter, or prescription, has the potential to cause harmful side effects. You should seek the advice of your child's primary care physician before beginning any type of treatment for your child.
Allergic disorders are the single most common medical and nutritional problem faced by children and adults today. While only a mild nuisance for some, allergies present a lifelong challenge for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. And allergies are more than just a runny nose: they affect virtually every organ system in the body. They irritate the skin, tighten the lungs, inflame the gut, overstimulate or suppress the immune system, and interfere with the proper development and function of the nervous system. Allergies have a profound effect on long-term health and well-being that extends far beyond the annoying symptoms.
The percentage of people who suffer from allergic disorders has steadily risen year after year in recent decades, and this trend shows no signs of slowing. The primary reason for this continued rise is unclear, but most doctors and researchers suspect it is due to environmental influences (chemicals, toxins, pollutants, and poor nutrition) on our genetic health. These influences are compounded by the fact that allergies tend to run in families; parents with allergies have children with allergies, and they grow up to have more allergic children.
This phenomenon is called epigenetics, and it is explained in more detail here. In short, our environment affects how our genes function. Negative environmental influences cause our genes to misbehave and express themselves in unnatural ways. One of these consequences is that the allergic branch of our immune system becomes hyperreactive, and allergic disorders arise. These genetic shifts are passed from parent to child, and the cycle continues. It may be that the best long-term solution to our society's allergy problems is to clean up our planet and our lifestyles. In the meantime, there are numerous steps we can take as individuals to improve our health and alleviate our allergies.
This book was written so that your child won't have to suffer anymore—and neither will you. The course of your life will be changed from one of lifelong symptoms and chronic disease to one of health and happiness. We, Dr. Bob and Dr. Bill, will help you track down what is causing your family's symptoms, and we will tell you how to eliminate the offending agents. For some lucky ones, nothing more is needed. Find the cause and remove it from your life: problem solved. If only it were that simple for everyone. For many, the journey will be more challenging and convoluted. Multiple allergies may be involved. There may be immune dysfunction that needs to be repaired or an inflamed gut that needs to be healed. Treatment may be necessary to bring the body's allergic and inflammatory reactions under control before successful resolution is achieved.
On a personal note, I, Dr. Bob, have suffered from nasal allergies and asthma for most of my life. I have used inhalers on and off (mostly on, until recently). I have been on daily allergy medications. I have used natural supplements. I've been tested for allergies several times. I've tried it all. It has taken years of investigation, but I have finally reached a point where my asthma and allergies no longer affect my daily life, or even my weekly life. I can now go weeks, sometimes months, without turning to my inhaler or pillbox. In the following pages, I will share information about the nutritional and environmental changes I've made and the supplements and natural treatments I use that have made the greatest difference.
A note from Dr. Bob: This book is a collaborative effort between Dr. Bill and me. We share many anecdotes about our experience in the office, and you will notice we refer to ourselves as "we" in such cases. However, as I am the one with allergies, I have more personal stories to share. In the illustrations told from a singular perspective, the "I" refers to me. From here on out, we won't remind you that it's Dr. Bob sharing his life. In the few cases attributed specifically to Dr. Bill, we will make note of that.
Your journey through this book will depend greatly on what type of allergies you and your child have and which of the body's systems are affected. Here is a short preview of each allergic disorder to help you understand the direction in which this book will take you:
Nasal symptoms are perhaps the most common manifestation of allergies. Chronic runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing are annoying to both the sufferer and those around them. Careful detective work can likely track down the offending allergens, and, if needed, appropriate testing can reveal the answers. Perhaps it's dust or pets. Maybe it's a food allergy, such as to cow's milk. For those with multiple allergies that cannot be eliminated, appropriate use of allergy medications can bring blessed relief, and natural products are available that can be of equal benefit. Environmental control measures can also reduce exposure to the offending agents. Other causes of nasal problems, such as sinus infections or enlarged adenoids, should be considered when necessary. It is crucial to track down the cause, because those with unresolved nasal allergies are at risk of later developing asthma.
Asthma is a more serious situation that requires treatment beyond allergy testing and the elimination of offending allergens. Medical treatment is usually needed to control asthma symptoms and bring adequate relief to the respiratory system, and it can be safely and effectively administered. Some natural products may also help. But a key aspect of resolving asthma is to reduce the body's inflammation as a whole. The gut must be healed so that the immune system can function appropriately and the allergies and inflammation in the lungs can be relieved.
Skin allergies, such as eczema, hives, and other rashes, are a common occurrence during infancy and can persist through childhood into adulthood. Tracking down and eliminating the causes of skin allergies, and following proper skin care techniques to limit skin irritation, are a must—not only for relief, but also to reduce the risk of asthma.
Food allergies are a growing problem. Some are obvious, such as an immediate allergic reaction to peanuts or shellfish. Understanding how to avoid hidden sources of severely allergic foods is key for those with such allergies. Yet most food allergies aren't so obvious. We will walk you through the investigative steps you should take to determine whether you or your child has food allergies, which foods cause the allergies, and how to maintain proper nutrition as you eliminate those foods from the diet.
Food sensitivities are a whole different ball game. Instead of causing a classic allergic reaction, some foods affect the immune system in a nonallergic way or have a chemical influence on the body and brain. Gluten sensitivity is a growing example, and casein (milk protein) sensitivity is more common than many people believe. Artificial food ingredients take their toll as well. These effects can manifest themselves as intestinal problems, behavioral challenges, learning difficulties, recurrent illnesses, or even mood disorders.
The medical, behavioral, and developmental conditions that can be attributed to food allergies or sensitivities include infant colic, extreme tantrums, attention and hyperactivity challenges, recurrent ear and sinus infections, autoimmune diseases, and other childhood and adult illnesses. Identifying and eliminating allergies and food sensitivities, and healing the gut and immune system, will improve these conditions.
No matter which bodily system allergies affect, the path to healing should begin by determining which allergens are causing the problem. We provide a complete guide to allergy testing in the following pages, including skin testing, blood testing, and alternative medicine approaches such as muscle testing. But allergy testing isn't perfect, and parents will often need to play allergy detective to determine what their family is allergic to.
Mainstream medicine has come a long way in treating and eliminating allergic disorders. Much of what we share in this book follows the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology. We routinely refer patients to pediatric and adult allergists in our area, with great results. But there are times when allergy testing doesn't find the answer and long-term medication isn't ideal for a child. In such cases, an integrative medicine approach is warranted. We will show you how to make appropriate use of natural medicine and alternative medical providers to find the answers you seek. This includes paying close attention to your child's—and family's—nutrition. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, has been quoted as saying, "Let food be your medicine." What you eat can either hurt or help your allergic disorder, so we offer a nutritional plan that decreases body inflammation and allergic reactivity and improves gut and immune health. These steps are essential to successful allergy resolution.
No matter what type of allergies your family has, this book will provide the step-by-step guidance you need to find the appropriate solutions. Our goal is threefold: to help you diagnose your allergies, to help you properly treat your allergies, and, most importantly, to help you eliminate your allergies and improve your long-term health.
The Fascinating World of Allergy and Immunology
We are fascinated by the immune system; the way it interacts with the environment around us is quite extraordinary. But we won't presume that you share the same degree of wonderment that those of us who work in the world of allergy and immunology do. In order to understand allergies, though, you need a general understanding of the immune system. The following section presents a basic overview of how the immune system works, with an emphasis on the allergic branch—and as you read it, you just might find that you too are fascinated.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Allergen is a term you'll see throughout the book, and it refers to anything that triggers an allergic reaction. Our immune system's response to allergens is what causes millions of us to suffer from allergic disorders. Understanding the allergic branch of the immune system will therefore help you understand allergy testing, treatment, and prevention.
The immune system is composed of white blood cells, antibodies, and various chemicals, all of which respond to anything foreign that invades the body. When it comes to germs, white blood cells engulf and kill the germs, then pass the word to the rest of the immune system; this way, the immune system is ready to attack the germ more quickly the next time it comes calling. Cancer cells are eliminated in a similar manner. This type of immunity is a positive thing, as it helps protect us from serious diseases. But when the offending agent is something that triggers an allergic reaction, the response isn't so pleasant.
Our immune system has many different types of white blood cells, each with a unique function, and they all communicate with each other to coordinate their response to invaders. White blood cells are divided into two groups: innate immune cells and adaptive immune cells.
Innate immune cells are our first line of defense. These are the sentry cells that immediately attack invaders. Some of these white blood cells, such as natural killer cells and neutrophils, primarily attack germs. Other white blood cells respond to both germs and invading allergens, and include the following:
Mast cells. These are the allergy-responding cells that live in the skin and in our mucous linings (eyes, nose, mouth, lungs, and intestines). They are primarily responsible for releasing histamine when an allergen invades. Histamine is what causes the itching and swelling we experience in an allergic reaction. Mast cells also release chemicals called leukotrienes and cytokines, and certain other acids and enzymes, all of which further the allergic reaction and cause inflammation (redness and swelling).
Basophils. These cells circulate within our bloodstream and release histamine when an allergen enters the bloodstream. They also release cytokines as part of the body's inflammatory response.
Eosinophils. These cells circulate in the bloodstream and then, when an allergen invades, move into body tissues, where they contribute to the inflammatory response to the allergen. They also attack parasites.
Dendritic cells. These live in our skin and mucous linings. Instead of reacting to the allergens by releasing histamine, as mast cells do, these cells engulf the antigen and bring it to the nearest lymph node, where the antigen is introduced to the adaptive part of the immune system (see below). This, in part, is how the rest of the immune system remembers that the body is allergic to that allergen, causing the body to react in the same way to that allergen with each subsequent exposure. Thanks a lot, dendritic cells! These cells aren't all bad, however. They perform the same function with invading germs, so that the body can create better immunity against that germ.
Macrophages. These are another type of "tattletale" white blood cell, which recognize allergens and then send out chemical messages to attract eosinophils, basophils, and some adaptive immune cells.
Epithelial cells. These are actually not white blood cells but structural cells that line the airways of the lungs, bloodstream, and other body tissue linings. These cells respond to allergens by releasing chemicals that attract allergy-fighting white blood cells to the area.
This branch of the immune system is our second line of defense and is composed of white blood cells called lymphocytes and antibodies called immunoglobulins.
Lymphocytes circulate in the bloodstream and congregate in the lymph nodes. These cells, and the antibodies they produce, are the reserves that launch an organized attack on foreign germs and allergens. What sets adaptive immunity apart from innate immunity is memory. When the innate dendritic cells (see above) bring germs and allergens to the lymphocytes, the lymphocytes commit them to memory. On a positive note, this means that the lymphocytes remember past germs and are poised to eliminate those germs when they invade again. Unfortunately, these cells also harbor the memory of what the body is allergic to, and they will launch an allergic response at the slightest provocation. There are two different types of lymphocytes, and each plays a unique role in allergic and immune responses:
1. T lymphocytes: These cells kill germs and react to allergens by releasing chemicals called cytokines, which are toxic to the invaders. T lymphocytes provide what is known as cell-mediated immunity, because the immune cells kill invading germs directly. There are several types of T lymphocytes, but two are particularly important in regard to allergies: Th1 cells primarily fight germs and contribute to delayed allergic reactions, whereas Th2 cells are primarily responsible for programming the rest of the immune system to respond to allergens in an allergic manner.
2. B lymphocytes: These cells are filled with antibodies that are specific to past germs and allergens. When B lymphocytes encounter those germs and allergens in the bloodstream, they release the antibodies to attack and destroy the invaders. This process is known as humoral immunity, referring to the bodily fluids, or "humors," which provide the immune response. These cells reside in the mucous lining of body tissues, ready to release their antibodies when an allergen comes along.
Immunoglobulins are the antibodies produced by B lymphocytes. They either float around in the bloodstream or remain within the B lymphocytes, ready to be released when needed. Antibodies neutralize germs and allergens by binding to them. They also help T lymphocytes and other immune cells recognize the invaders. There are five types of antibodies, each with a unique role:
1. IgM: This is the antibody that is immediately produced by B lymphocytes in response to an invading germ. It has very little to do with allergies.
2. IgG: This is the most prevalent antibody within the bloodstream. It takes longer to produce, but it stays around for a while to continue the cleanup job after the IgM antibodies are used up. IgG antibodies that are specific to past infections will circulate continuously in the bloodstream. It is theorized that IgG antibodies may play a role in chronic allergic responses.
3. IgA: This class of antibody circulates in the bloodstream and plays a similar role in germ fighting to those of IgM and IgG. It is also found as a first line of defense where germs tend to invade—namely, in the mucous lining of the nose, mouth, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. It is present in high levels in breast milk.
4. IgD: The role of this antibody is unclear to researchers; it is present in very low levels throughout the body.
5. IgE: Last but certainly not least, this antibody class is the bane of allergy sufferers everywhere. It is barely detectable in the bloodstream of healthy individuals, but those with allergies and parasitic infections have high circulating levels. IgE antibodies bind to allergens when they invade the body tissues and initiate the allergic response. You will become intimately acquainted with IgE in the next section and in chapters to come.
THE ALLERGIC IMMUNE SYSTEM
Now you have some general knowledge about how the immune system works. We told you it was fascinating! Next, let's take a closer look at the immune system of a person who suffers from allergies. We guarantee that this will be equally interesting.
Details of the Allergic Response
The first time a person is exposed to an allergen, the dendritic cells bring the allergen to the T lymphocytes in the nearest lymph node. Any potential substance that the person is not allergic to is ignored and discarded. But if the lymphocytes recognize the substance as an allergen, a complex cascade of immunological events begins that eventually results in an allergic reaction.
First, the Th2 type of T lymphocytes within that lymph node proliferate in response to the allergen. As you have probably already forgotten, the Th2 lymphocytes are the immune cells primarily responsible for programming the rest of the immune system to react in an allergic manner. They achieve this by secreting cytokines that activate B lymphocytes, the cells that produce the IgE antibodies that will eventually react to that specific allergen the next time it enters the body. This cytokine-mediated activation occurs throughout the body so that B lymphocytes everywhere are primed and loaded with IgE antibodies to be released at a moment's notice. But the cytokines don't stop there. They also program the mast cells, the basophils, and the rest of the innate immune cells that reside in body tissues and mucous linings to be ready to react to that specific allergen.
Enter the allergen for the second time. The IgE antibodies are the first to recognize and bind to the allergen. The innate immune cells then recognize the antibody/allergen complex and respond in two ways: they release various chemicals (histamine, acids, and enzymes), which cause swelling, itching, and irritation in the surrounding tissues, and they release more cytokines, which attract more allergy-responding immune cells to the area. T and B lymphocytes are alerted, and the allergic response is propagated throughout the body to varying degrees, depending on how allergic the person is. Histamines also activate sensory nerve cells in the area, which alert the brain to the allergen's presence and help trigger sneezing.
Okay. So how does this translate into the allergic reaction that you specifically feel? You can blame that mostly on the histamine. This chemical irritates the body tissues wherever it is released. In the nose, for example, it causes the nasal lining to swell, causes increased mucus production, and provides that wonderful itching sensation. Cytokine chemicals add to the effect. For those of us with asthma, the same thing happens in the airways of our lungs: swelling and mucus. We are spared the itching; instead, we get to experience tight breathing (wheezing) as the muscles that surround our airways respond to the histamine by contracting and squeezing the airways. How about the skin? It's mostly the same process: the redness, swelling, and itching manifest as hives, other rashes, and swelling of entire areas of the body. For those with food allergies, the reaction begins in the lining of the gut, which can result in pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
No matter where the reaction begins, the immune response can spread through the bloodstream to trigger allergic reactions throughout the body. The few who are severely allergic will go into anaphylactic shock; this happens when so many immune cells release their IgE antibodies, histamine, and cytokines simultaneously that severe swelling occurs throughout the body. Blood pressure drops as the blood vessels dilate in response to the histamine, and the person goes into shock.
Chronic Effects of a Heightened Allergic Response
A healthy immune system of a nonallergic person is in perfect balance. With the allergic branch quiet, the germ-fighting, cancer-preventing, and chronic disease–inhibiting aspects of the immune system can do their job. In someone with an allergic disorder, the allergic part of the immune system continues to react as long as the body is exposed to the allergens. The other parts of the immune system are suppressed because the system is expending all of its energy fighting allergies. Furthermore, the overproduction of immune cells and continued release of cytokine chemicals cause ongoing inflammation throughout the body. Chronic allergies can mean more than just annoying symptoms—they can impact lifelong health. We will now introduce you to some key ideas regarding the unbalanced immune system, which we will refer to throughout the book.
Th1/Th2 imbalance. This term describes how the immune system is constantly shifted toward the Th2 side (the allergic branch). The Th2 immune cells actually suppress the Th1 side (the germ-fighting branch)—meaning those with chronic allergies will have low Th1 function, which increases susceptibility to infections. The result is that those with chronic allergic disorders are more prone to have even more problems as they get older. Throughout this book, we stress the importance of finding and eliminating all sources of allergies and focusing on natural ways to keep the Th1/Th2 systems in proper balance.
Persistent class switching. Class switching refers to the ability of the B lymphocytes to switch the class of antibodies they produce. As you learned here, B lymphocytes produce IgA, IgD, IgE, IgM, or IgG antibodies. When a person is fighting an infection, B lymphocytes will switch to producing IgM and IgG. When responding to allergies, they switch to producing the IgE class of antibodies. Those with chronic allergic disorders have a continued switch toward the IgE side. This contributes to the chronic effects of allergies and makes a person more prone to future allergic problems.
Inflammation. We use this term to describe the irritating effects of the cytokines, acids, and enzymes secreted by immune cells. This inflammatory response from the immune system doesn't just occur with allergies. Injuries, infections, chronic diseases, unhealthy foods, and unhealthy lifestyle choices all make the immune system react with an inflammatory response, which damages tissues and causes chronic wear and tear on the body. Eliminating allergic disorders, and following other steps to reduce body inflammation, are crucial for long-term health and wellness.
Autoimmune disorders. These are chronic conditions in which the immune system attacks the body. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lupus are examples in which the immune system turns against a person's own body and attacks a particular organ system. The chronic imbalance of an allergic immune system increases the risk that the immune system is eventually going to turn against the person's own body in an autoimmune manner.
The gut/brain connection.
- On Sale
- Apr 7, 2015
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Little Brown Spark