Autumn Frandsen ND
Allergies are a Common, Chronic Problem
According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 5 people are affected by both allergies and asthma and 1 in 3 people are affected by allergies alone. Allergists and immunologists characterize allergies as an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched, and have identified allergy symptoms as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. They say severe cases can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death. I have found that allergies can also present as dizziness, allergic conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal symptoms (including Crohn’s and colitis), anxiety, fatigue, depression, body pain, and insomnia.
Some Suffer Allergy Symptoms Year Round
Contrary to popular belief, allergies do not always limit themselves to “allergy season”. Seasonal allergies are often just the body’s warning sign for a bigger struggle going on in the body. Often, year round allergies will present as something entirely different than the typical sneezing, wheezing, itching, and watery eyes that are commonly associated with seasonal allergies. What happens when someone has these symptoms all year round? Are they still considered seasonal allergies? Sometimes. If a person is affected by different allergens at different times during the year, the seasons still dictate allergen growth, so technically, they are seasonal allergies. However, for some allergy sufferers, there is no relief once the season is over. I have many patients that this applies to, while most patients experience symptoms only in the spring and fall. The mold allergan that is prevalent in the fall (see Fall Allergies, Look Out for Ragweed and Mold) can cause lingering problems into the winter while newly blossoming flowers, trees, and shrubs can start affecting people at the end of the winter, and into the spring and the summer. One example of this is a patient of mine who had visited several optometrists and ophthalmologists due to pus coming out of her eye in large quantities periodically through the day. She received many different eye drops including steroidal eye drops and allergy eye drops with no relief from any of them. She came to see me and we identified several environmental allergies that were only manifesting as allergic conjunctivitis. She was skeptical about this information because she had used allergy drops in her eyes with no relief and assumed that if the allergies were bothering only her eyes then a direct application of medicine to her eye seemed like it would treat the problem if that was indeed the problem. I explained that allergies can cause a reaction on an immunological level and in attempt to purge the body of harmful substances, it may have attempted to express them out through any means necessary. This indicates that it wasn’t necessarily her eyes that were affected but that there was something more serious going on inside. After doing some lab testing, we found that she had an autoimmune condition underlying her immediate concern. Identifying the allergies and correcting them not only cleared up her eyes, but brought her high antibody complexes in her body down to normal range.
The Problem with Allergy Shots
Allergies are the fifth most common chronic disease in the United States and account for over 17 million outpatient office visits per year. One would think that with all of the allergy sufferers out there and all of the information available that there would be accurate and comprehensive allergy testing available in the mainstream medical community, but I have not found this to be true. As with the diagnosis, allergy treatment is even farther behind in many mainstream medical practices. In the U.S, the most widely accepted and commonly reimbursed testing method is skin prick testing and the treatment is allergy shots. The problem with skin prick testing is that it is painful, can often cause serious reactions in extremely sensitive patients (most of those that seek help), and often fails to uncover any allergies that manifest as dizziness, fatigue, depression, GI issues, allergic conjunctivitis, autoimmune conditions, body pain, or insomnia. Even those with severe seasonal allergies may not receive an accurate diagnosis with skin prick testing. The mainstream treatment for allergies is even more problematic for those with extreme reactions or with obscure reactions, such as those mentioned above. Allergy shots can take 5-10 years to be effective and are painful as well as generalized. Those with severe allergies are often unable to tolerate the allergy shots that are made as "one strength fits all" instead of being tailored to the degree of sensitivity of each allergy sufferer. Those that can tolerate the dosage often find it inconvenient and/or painful and eventually abandon the shots altogether. Still more find them ineffective. This is likely due to large amount of immune complexes we have in our mucosa that may not be reached with injections.
Oral Immunotherapy for Allergy Treatment
Many allergists believe that it is impossible to cure an allergy, but I do not believe that is the case for all people. Once the allergies and sensitivities are identified using both IgE and IgG testing in the blood and/or an electrodermal screening tool (completely painless and noninvasive diagnostic tool that introduces the electromagnetic frequency of particular substances for purposes of measurement), it is possible to then provide effective allergy treatment using an oral desensitization method. This has not been used in the United States for much except peanut allergies due to minimal funding for research, but has been used widely and effectively across the world, and most specifically in Europe, for the last 10 years.
Oral immunotherapy is a safe, more convenient, and very effective method of treating patients. It can not only treat environmental and seasonal allergies, but also chemical and food allergies/sensitivities as well using a simple once per week oral dose. While the mainstream medical community is far from using this method of allergy treatment for anything but IgE mediated/anaphylaxis inducing allergies, I have found that oral immunotherapy has been life changing for many patients with a whole host of allergy symptoms.
Autumn Frandsen N.D. is a Naturopathic Physician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. As a naturopath, her philosophy is to use the least invasive and effective method to bring balance to the body and restore health. Her areas of focus include Allergies, Environmental Medicine and Chemical Sensitivities, Homeopathy and Herbal Medicine, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Anti-Aging and Weight Loss.
“Chronic Conditions: A Challenge for the 21st Century,” National Academy on an Aging Society, 2000
CDC Fast Facts A-Z,” Vital Health Statistics, 2003