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The word “allergy” was created 100 years ago to describe strange and unusual reactions to substances that we eat and inhale. We can also have allergic skin reactions to natural substances, like plants, or man-made chemical products like soaps and detergents.
It is estimated that 15-20% of people have these strange responses to airborne particles that can be roughly divided into pollens and non-pollens. Pollens are more seasonal, but in California the season may be quite lengthy and extend from early January until late October, especially during windier times. The non-pollens include house dust, molds and animal dander, as well as foods. Non-pollens affect us throughout the year but tend to be worse in cold weather when doors and windows are shut.
This kind of reaction is much more commonly recognized than airborne allergies. In my experience they affect well over half the American population and in many (perhaps most) cases people have no idea why they are suffering. This is why integrative allergy testing and treatment are so important.
Airborne allergies are associated with stuffy, runny noses; sneezing; itchy, watery eyes; and skin rashes, but can also be a major cause of fatigue and brain-fog. Food allergies can result in serious life-threatening reactions, although these anaphylactic reactions are not common. The offending foods are usually a type of shellfish, tree nut or peanut (a legume), but any food can be suspect in any individual. Food sensitivities however are quite common and besides typical allergy symptoms, they may contribute to fatigue, aches and pains, migraine headaches, fluid retention, excess body fat and a variety of abdominal complaints.
Allergies have fascinated me for many decades, mainly because they are much more common and problematic than is widely perceived. For many years at PMCM we have done skin testing for our patients for allergic reactions and we have helped thousands of patients (adults and children) with their allergies and sensitivities using methods that are effective and generally very well tolerated. These methods are called Intradermal Allergy Testing and Sublingual Antigen Therapy.
Blood and skin tests can both be used for food reactions and can measure antibody levels to each food, with the blood showing primarily a delayed antibody reaction, whereas an allergy (IgG) antibody is harder to measure in the blood. Thus, this method only tests for one possible cause of food reactions. The skin tests on the other hand can measure both immediate and delayed reactions, so it mobilizes much more of the totality of the immune attack, which is the exaggerated response to the food or allergen. Blood test results for food allergies may also differ from lab to lab using the same blood sample. I order the blood test when a patient cannot be skin tested due to serious asthma or eczema or the use of drugs that would interfere with the skin test results. Some patients may prefer a blood test as a simpler process, and this information can help find a helpful path for eliminating the food reactions and then the information can be used to create a dietary plan to evaluate the actual experience of avoiding the foods and then testing them again through intake in the diet. At some point, the skin testing always seems to add helpful information to guide us nutritionally.
At PMCM we favor intradermal tests where specific substances are injected just beneath the superficial layer of skin to raise small bubbles on the skin surface. Different dilutions of the allergen may be used causing a specific positive growth of the skin wheal (swelling). The process is repeated 15 minutes later with a weaker dilution next to the positive result, until a non-reactive treatment dose is achieved. This process allows us to determine what allergens the patient is reacting to, as well as the degree of the reaction. Airborne inhalants and food test results are provided for each patient in a convenient and easy to read chart that includes food rotations and dietary suggestions based on the test results.
The testing process importantly helps us to determine the dose of the allergen to use in immunotherapy to help with symptom relief and a reduction and de-sensitization of allergic reactions over time. Treatment is usually provided in bottles of liquid which are squirted under the tongue usually two to four times a day based on response. This method is called “Sublingual Immunotherapy” or S.L.I.T. It has been used successfully in Europe for decades and has also become more popular in the United States. I favor this method because it’s easy to use, helps our patients with symptom relief and has never caused any serious adverse reactions in our many years of experience.
Retesting is recommended once a year for items that score significantly positive. Retesting also helps us to adjust the strength of each antigen as you de-sensitize to help reprogram the immune system to not react to the allergens. The entire process may take one to two years on average; symptom relief, however, may be experienced in degrees shortly after the commencement of therapy. Sublingual treatment — with or without accompanying allergy medications, herbs and vitamins—can work very well.
Affordable and Convenient – Especially for Children
This method is both cost effective – less than a $1 per day. It is also convenient and there are no side effects as with antihistamine medicines that can make you drowsy. These drops strengthen your immune system to naturally inhibit the histamine and immune reaction for foods, molds, pollens and inhalants. Up to 15 allergens can be put in one sublingual dropper bottle. This is not possible with desensitization shots, not to mention the cost and inconvenience having to go thru the weekly injection process in the doctor’s office. The Sublingual approach is a smooth and simple one for children as well as adults – one drop in the morning and one in the evening. Our office gets many referrals from other doctors and pediatricians for our testing and treatment and the youngsters tolerate it quite well.
Integrative Family Medicine Physician, Author and Educator