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Claire Nielsen: Allergies are the sneaky epidemic

Allergies sneak up on us and if ignored or tolerated over the years, can have a cumulative negative effect on our health.
Stomach aches and digestive issues are just two of the ways allergies affect us.

These days everyone seems to have some allergy or another.  Is this because the food we eat is often modified, processed, or so pumped up with artificial sweeteners, salt, flavouring, hydrogenated oils and stabilizers, or grown with exposure to pesticides, herbicide and fungicides. Possibly all of the above. When the body says ‘no’ to something it is exposed to, an allergy may occur.

Years ago, I read a book on allergies written in 1994 where the author stated that 20-25% of the population suffered from allergies of one sort or another, and that antihistamines or decongestants were two of the most commonly used medications (next to antidepressants). It is now almost 30 years later and the issue with allergies is even more prevalent. So why, in this day and age, are the numbers of those with food sensitivities rising at an alarming rate?  I believe this is largely due to the poor quality of food we eat and our inability to properly digest what we put in our body.

All our health starts in our digestive system and if we don’t have the proper enzymes to digest our food, or we are eating food that our bodies just can’t digest, our bodies react in a resistant way. Eating for gut health with vitamin and enzyme rich foods boost the immune system and repairing the digestive system is important to help counter food sensitivities. This is a major simplification of a very in-depth topic.

The main food allergy symptoms include: body and joint pain, migraines, skin rashes, hot flashes, congestion (mucus), stomach aches, headaches, hyperactivity, lethargy, fatigue, bed wetting, depression and irritability, cravings, aggression, excitability, digestive issues and many others.

Allergies sneak up on us and if ignored or tolerated over the years, can have a cumulative negative effect on our health. Ignoring the subtle symptoms of an allergy could result in long-term major health issues as we stress our digestive system, our organs and our immune system.  Once we have a compromised immune system our health can deteriorate quickly.  According the Dr. Bateson-Koch, ‘allergies may not cause all diseases but they can be involved in any disease’. Allergies cause a weakened immune system over time, enabling other diseases to take a hold.

In addition to food, allergies could be triggered by pollen, dust mites, perfumes, chemicals in clothing and carpet, hair sprays, dander, mildew or mold, changes in weather or a variety of other causes.  Once we find the offending allergen, we can try our best to avoid it or change our environment and/or diet. If we don’t know the allergen, medications like oral or nasal antihistamines or steroids, mast cell stabilizers or leukotriene modifiers are often prescribed, or in severe cases: immunotherapy.   Allergies are often poly-causal (many causes) which can confuse doctors who are often only looking for a single cause in order to prescribe a medication. For this reason, allergies can be impossible to diagnose, often ignored or attributed to emotional stress (in our heads).

I have suffered my whole life with allergies, with my main symptoms being inflamed nasal passages, mucus and eczema. I always knew there was a food connection because some foods (like wine, peppers, milk or chocolate) would cause immediate hives or congestion. I have gone to the doctor for allergy tests many times and repeatedly informed that I didn’t have any. This has always been infuriating, as I knew I had allergies. It was through a hair follicle analysis done by a naturopathic herbalist that I confirmed many trigger foods (some I didn’t even realize). Knowledge is power and I am able to keep my allergies at bay, for the most part, by avoiding triggers.

Unless the allergy is life threatening, I believe that lifestyle, environment and dietary changes (to include digestive enzymes and immune boosting foods) should be adjusted before medications, as many medications come with their own issues and side effects, often masking rather than treating the symptoms.  I have been prescribed everything from anti-histamines to high cortisone creams and prednisone to battle my allergies but it is only through managing my diet that I have found lasting relief.

An Elimination Diet involves cutting out certain foods linked to a variety of symptoms for a period of time to see if symptoms decrease. Space prevents me from going into more detail but I urge those who suspect they may have allergies to read books such as ‘Basics of Food Allergy’, ‘The Total Food Allergy’, ‘Allergy – Disease in Disguise’ or any number of other publications.  In a future article I will go into more detail on some suggestions found in reputable publications. I will also cover the liver / eczema connection. Please don’t ignore your allergies or intolerances. They could contribute to more serious inflammatory conditions later in life.

Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment