Are Allergies a Symptom of our Modern Lifestyle?
According to Wikipedia, allergies are a number of conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to something in the environment (usually a protein) that causes little or no problem in most people.
Normally we think of the symptoms of allergies as hayfever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, asthma and anaphylaxis. However, according to Dr. John Bergman, most autoimmune diseases (where the immune system attacks itself) could be considered to be allergic and more and more diseases are now being categorised as autoimmune.
Could most illnesses be seen as the immune system overreacting to a foreign protein?
Allergies and Their RiseAllergies go back as far 3,300 BC where a pharaoh in Egypt died of a wasp sting and over the years have usually affected less than 5% of the population. However, allergies have tripled in the last 20 or so years now affecting 50% of children in the United States, with Australia not far behind. This is an alarming increase so we need to look at what may be causing this massive rise of allergies in children.
What Could The Causes Be?
1. The hygiene hypothesis - we all know that healthy bacteria is good for us. More and more research is coming out to suggest that the wider the array of bacteria we are exposed to as a child will stimulate a healthy immune response. We could say that "individuals living in too sterile an environment are not exposed to enough pathogens to keep the immune system busy" (Wikipedia). Meaning that if there is not sufficient immune stimulation, our bodies will start attacking itself! Children growing up in larger families, in the country, exposed to outside conditions with animals and pets will naturally have a stronger immune system. Couple this with the use of sterile anti-bacterial wipes and a child will be set up for an allergic response. Research shows that allergies are lower in houses with dust and no anti-bacterial wipes.
2. Vaccinations - as an allergy is considered to be an abnormal reaction to a foreign protein, injecting foreign proteins into the bloodstream can be seen as leading to hypersensitivity of the immune and nervous systems. Considering children now receive something like 38 vaccinations by the time they are six years old, is it any wonder that more and children are becoming allergic? What also needs to be considered is what the vaccination is cultured in, i.e. milk, soy, gelatine and other proteins that may cause an abnormal response.
3. Toxic food - most food is designed for human consumption, as this is how our species has survived over the years. However, whenever food is tampered with and altered by adding chemicals, preservatives, MSG, sodium nitrate, massive amounts of sugar, or it is genetically modified or irradiated, it is likely to become toxic and therefore be classified as a foreign substance in the body whereby an allergic response will be activated.
4. Gut Flora - we were also designed to eat a certain amount of bacteria with our foods which will then colonise the gut with the right bacteria. Food that we pick ourselves or buy direct from the farmer will have a certain amount of dirt and bacteria on it. Food that is processed is made to sit on the shelf for extended periods of time and will not contain any useful bacteria.
5. Genetically Modified Foods - have not been studied on humans, are resistant to pesticide sprays and are deficient in nutrients potentially robbing our bodies of necessary vitamins and minerals.
6. A low fat diet - this has been put forward over the years as being healthy along with a low carbohydrate diet. Neither are healthy diets. Our diets should contain plenty of healthy fats, a preference for omega 3's over omega 6's and plenty of plant-based carbohydrates. A high healthy fat diet leads to less allergies according to research.
7. Anti-histamines - are now known to cause leaky gut, cognitive problems, confusion and brain damage if used for extensive periods of time.
8. Caesarian births as opposed to a natural birth, robs the baby of the mum's good bacteria via the birth canal.
9. Bottle feeding (especially GMO soy formula) will again sensitise the immune system by introducing yet another foreign protein into the body.
What can you do?
1. Enjoy a whole-food, organic, local, plant based diet with lots of green leafy vegetables, good sources of protein and healthy fats. Include coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts and avocados.
2. Use non-toxic cleaning products or make your own.
3. Avoid all over the counter medications, antibiotics and prescription drugs as much as possible.
4. Have a natural birth if possible and breast feed.
5. Explore the protein contents of vaccinations if you choose to have them.
6. Use filtered water.
7. Get adequate sunlight daily for optimal vitamin D.
8. Include probiotics, fermented foods, kimchi and kefir in the diet.
9. Use saunas to detox and exercises that make you sweat.
10. Include regular exercise in your weekly schedule.
11. Take time for rest, prayer, meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction techniques.
We could consider that our modern western lifestyle has contributed to the massive increase in allergies in the last twenty to thirty years.
By having an awareness of the causes, we can minimise allergies for ourselves and our children.
Suzanne Staples ND DBM Naturopath, Homoeopath, Herbalist Copyright Suzanne Staples