It's only August and the unseasonably warm weather is waking up the blossoms. Soon we will hear the familiar Spring chorus of sneezes from those who experience pollen allergies. Is climate change increasing the incidence of allergic illness in our world? Quite possibly…
Reports of pollen allergies first appeared around the time of the industrial revolution, but the correlation is unclear. Pollution, new food sources or hygiene practices may have contributed to the emergence of this new illness. According to Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2016, climate change played a significant role in the development of contemporary pollen allergies. “When exposed to warmer temperatures and higher levels of CO2, plants grow more vigorously and produce more pollen than they otherwise would”, according to Charles W. Schmidt, who wrote this report.
So the longer our planet’s atmospheric and water temperatures rise, the more pollen we will be inhaling throughout longer, warmer seasons. This will affect primarily allergy sufferers, but also eventually the allergen load on the immune systems of non-allergic individuals will shift their immune balance towards heightened reactivity, influencing their epigenome and possibly passing this increased reactivity to their offspring.
Living with allergies can range from a nuisance problem to a medical emergency. Most allergy sufferers are aware of their health issue and receive correct treatment for their condition, but others may be struggling with marginal poor health due to allergic reactions without being correctly diagnosed or treated, leading to fatigue, underperformance and a level of constant unwellness.
Allergic illness has a genetic basis. People who experience allergies will have a parent or grandparent who was diagnosed with an allergic illness, such as asthma, hayfever, urticarial or eczema. However, it is also possible for anyone to be sensitive or intolerant to substances in our diet or environment that can adversely affect our health, such as diarrhoea and headaches after eating food containing the flavour enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Inhalant allergens, which can trigger asthma or hayfever, include dust, dust mite, animal fur and dander, moulds, grass, and floral pollens. In springtime, those who are sensitive to pollens might suffer with vernal rhinitis (sneezing, watery nasal discharge, itchy throat and dry cough) or vernal conjunctivitis (itchy, streaming eyes). If these individuals move to an area where there are very few pollens, such as by the ocean or in the desert, their symptoms will quickly resolve.
Similarly, if they move to another region or country with different trees and plants to the ones to which they were mostly exposed during childhood, this can also remove the usual pollen triggers of their condition. My late husband would always experience a sudden onset of hayfever when he returned to the English cottage garden of his youth, but then it would clear when he returned to the subtropical ocean environment of the Northern Beaches.
When an allergic illness becomes established, it is most important to receive medical management to prevent urgent symptoms, like difficulty breathing, and to avoid serious complications. For example, hayfever that becomes chronic (long term) can be complicated by secondary infection of the sinuses (sinusitis), which can drip into the chest, producing a chronic cough (sino-bronchial syndrome). Initially, allergy treatments might include antihistamines, preventative drugs, corticosteroids and antibiotics for treating secondary infections. Occasionally, adrenaline (EpiPen) must be injected into someone who is having an anaphylactic reaction to an allergenic agent.
Once the need for urgent medical care has been met and the condition has been stabilised, alternative allergy management solutions can be explored. Especially if the condition becomes low-grade and protracted, it is important to address the underlying causative factors to remove the allergy triggers and to calm the immune system and inflammatory processes that drive allergic illness.
Over the past thirty years, in my holistic medical practice, I devised a protocol for reversing allergic illness, motivated by a personal drive to live without allergies, having had asthma, eczema and hayfever throughout my earlier life.
In my Healthwise practice, I help to design a personal protocol for my patients who are suffering with allergic manifestations, which is drug-free, safe and effective.
The basics of my allergy reversal approach involve:
Herbal immune regulation
Liver detoxification program
Correction of the intestinal microbiome
Nutritional organ and tissue restoration
Sustainable dietary support
With this protocol, I find it can take up to six weeks to reduce most low-grade, chronic allergy states to manageable with natural solutions, then a total of six months to create a low-reactive immune system that is not easily aggravated by allergen exposure.
All my allergy management protocols are individually designed and supported by allergy testing, digestive analysis, blood and even gene profiles, wherever necessary.
Allergies are compounded by poor liver function. Sluggish liver metabolism and filtration could result, for example, from a previous illness (glandular fever, hepatitis, food poisoning), a chemical exposure (alcohol, glues, solvents, paints), long-term medications (PPI’s, anti-depressants, antibiotics), general anaesthetics, and chronic stress.
All of these insults to the liver reduce its efficiency of removing toxins and metabolic waste from the blood. A “toxic load phenomenon” then develops, which upregulates the immune response and overstimulates allergy reactivity. Reducing this toxic burden on the liver is the initial key to improving allergen tolerance, which produces true long-term clinical benefits.
“Antibiotic abuse” has become a medical dilemma. Broad spectrum antibiotics have been prescribed to the public by the medical profession excessively and indiscriminately in an alarming number of cases over the past few decades. With recent research into the role of the intestinal microbiome, we now realise the crucial role that the billions of beneficial probiotic organisms, which are decimated by one single course of antibitoics, play in maintaining our immune equilibrium. By upsetting the body’s normal balance of gut microbes, antibiotics may also prevent our immune system from distinguishing between harmless chemicals and real attacks.
“The microbial gut flora is an arm of the immune system”, says Gary Huffnagle of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbour. His research group has provided the first experimental evidence in mice that upsetting the gut flora can provoke an allergic response.
This is the reason that I prescribe probiotic replacement supplements to my allergic patients, to downregulate their gut-driven immune vigilance.
If you suffer from allergies and you have not had these correctly identified, it is advisable that you undertake allergy testing with a medical specialist. I recommend this approach, as it is my experience that most GP’s are not fully across allergy management today, nor do they allow for the time to thoroughly investigate allergies and discuss suitable treatment solutions, including non-drug solutions.
Dr Richard Baker is a specialist medical practitioner in Sydney’s CBD, who provides a complete suite of allergy testing and desensitisation programs. For further information about the services Dr Baker provides, and his fees and Medicare rebates, explore his website.
It is also my experience that these drugs are not very effective at managing either acute or chronic allergy symptoms. Non-sedating antihistamines were designed to reduce daytime drowsiness, which can affect mental and physical performance, but that is where they compromised their efficacy.
I actually think that they impair liver function when taken long term, further entrenching the allergy syndrome over time. In my opinion, the old-fashioned antihistamines, like promethazine, which cause drowsiness, are far more effective and can be taken before bed for minimal interference with daytime activity. They are also excellent in preventing nocturnal itching and scratching, which sometimes complicates moderately severe eczema. Ask your pharmacist to advise you on the most suitable antihistamine for your specific condition.