Allergies can lead to serious illness, by Julie Stafford – FIT Magazine September 2, 1996
Nancy Squires lived what she thought was a healthy lifestyle for 20 years. She followed a vegetarian diet and her routine included running, hiking, and mountain biking. But after giving birth to a daughter six years ago, Squires started getting recurrent sinus infections. In the past two years, those sinus infections became almost a year round affliction. She tried acupuncture, she followed an herbal remedy and she went to a medical doctor and had a CAT scan. She took antihistamines, decongestants and anti-inflammatory medications. Nothing helped long-term.
The doctor’s recommendation was surgery. In addition to the sinus infections, Squires noticed that her hypoglycemia – which she had always been able to keep in check through frequent meals—see me to be getting worse. If she missed a meal by even 10 minutes, she was slammed with a migrine-type headache. “I felt like something really was completely wrong,”says Squires, who lives in Evergreen. “I read this article about hypoglycemia and they were talking about how it could be caused by a possible food allergy.” After doing quite a bit of reading, Squires contacted the American Association of Naturopathic Doctors in Seattle and got in touch with Boulder naturopath Tara Skye Goldin. Squires’ first appointment with Goldin was in January.
Goldin gave squires a special blood test that can determine which foods people are allergic to. The blood was sent to National BioTechnology Labortory in Ket, Washington, and the results came back positive for most of the staples in Squires’ diet—the biggest problems were carry, eggs, corn, wheat and soy. Up to 80 percent of the most common chronic problems are caused by food allergies, says Raymond Suen, president of National BioTechnology Laboratory. Some of the symptoms associated with food allergies include ulcers, mood swings, depression, food cravings, recurrent ear infections, headaches and migraines, canker sores, asthma and arthritis.
There are two types of allergic reactions: The immediate reactions which can cause such problems as rashes, hives, headaches and intestinal disorders; and delayed reactions, which can go undetected for years and result in such illnesses as chronic fatigue, arthritis and eczema.
Sometimes people have had food allergies since they were small children, says Goldin. For example, they may have been allergic to milk, which caused recurrent ear infections and as they grow older their problems shift to other areas.
Many times, though , the problems start to show up as people get older. “The way we think this happens is the intestinal walls get leaky,” says Dr. Robert Rountree, who practices at Helios Health Center. “There’s all kinds of things that can break down the mucous barriers lining the cells of the intestines. What happens is microscopic particles can go right into the bloodstream. If they deposit in the joints, you may get arthritis. If they deposit in the skin, you may get eczema.” Some of these things that can break down those linings include Aspirin, alcohol, chronic infection, stress, poor health and antibiotics.
Different practitioners have different methods of determining which foods their clients are allergic to. For example, Goldin uses a blood test and Rountree usually relies on a food diary. He asks patients to keep a detailed log for several weeks recording what foods they eat, and how they felt within 30 minutes and then a day on so afterward. Through that, he usually is able to figure out which foods aggravate symptoms. Making drastic changes in your diet can be difficult. Goldin says she usually tries to give her patients some suggestions and National BioTechnology Laboratory sends back recommendations and recipes with test results. Squires’ first concern as a vegetarian was how she would get protein.
“After a long, agonizing decision,” Squires says,”we now include cold water fish in our diet like every other day.” The only grains she can eat are rice and some exotic grains, such as amaranth. It took a while for Squires to get used to her new way of culinary thinking. Within three weeks of making drastic changes to her diet, Squires felt like a different person.
“You wouldn’t imagine the difference. It is shocking,”she says. “Not only have I not had any sinus trouble, but I can actually feel air in my nose for the first time in years. The biggest thing I notice is that my hypoglycemia symptoms are so much reduced…Now if I miss my food dose by a couple of hours, it’s not a problem.” The first week you make changes, Goldin says, you may actually feel worse and might find yourself craving foods because the body is going through withdrawal. But in weeks two, three, and four you should feel better, Goldin says.
Squires can attest to that. About 21/2 days after she made changes to her diet, she felt like she had the flu. Within another 3 days, she started feeling better. And by three weeks she felt great. Making the changes are worth it, she says. Suen tells of a woman who had been on arthritis medication for 10 years. While the drugs helped ease her pain, her arthritis persisted. After being on medication for a while she started retaining water and her general health began to decline. Finally she wet to an alternative health practitioner and found out she had allergies to certain foods she ha been eating. Today, Suen says, her arthritis is gone and she’s not on any medication.
Because eliminating foods she was allergic to has made such a difference in Squires’ life, she convinced her mother – who has taken blood pressure medication for years and has high cholesterol – to have a blood test, too. It turns out she has many of the same food allergies as her daughter. “She went on this diet and has been on it for two months,”says Squires. “It was just incredible. She’s been on this blood pressure medication for like 10 years, but (after eliminating food allergens from her diet) she started feeling light-headed when she stood up. She went to the doctor and they had to reduce her blood pressure medication in half.”