Allergies: Do You Suffer From Them?
Holistic Living

Allergies: Do You Suffer From Them?


7 June 2015


I went through most of my life thinking I was allergy-free. After all, I never suffered from any symptoms, not that I knew of anyway. Sure, I frequently suffered from headaches and may have been a tad moody sometimes but surely that’s got nothing to do with allergies. Everyone suffers from headaches and mood swings every once in a while; perfectly normal, right? WRONG! Did you know that allergies can produce many symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to an allergic reaction? Read on to find out more.

What is an allergy?

The word ‘allergy’ is derived from two Greek words that mean altered reactivity.

An allergy is your immune system’s overreaction to substances in our everyday environment that would otherwise be harmless. It can cause inflammation anywhere in the body in the form of pain, swelling, heat and redness. In fact, any symptom in your body can be of allergic origin.

How do we recognise an allergy? Many people think allergies come in the form of a sniffly nose, teary eyes, asthma, skin rashes and sinus problems, but it’s actually more than that. Did you ever think that your headache, arthritis, depression, moodiness, fatigue, paranoia, constipation, backache or low blood sugar may be a symptom of allergy? Because it can be.

The substances that induce the immune system to overreact are called allergens. Our body produces proteins called antibodies to neutralise the allergens. There are 5 different types of antibodies: IgE, IgG, IgA, IgM and IgD (Ig stands for immunoglobulin).

Traditional allergists classify an allergy as only those reactions that involve the IgE antibody; the antibody involved in immune-type reactions. IgE is the classic marker for allergy.

However, now, a broader definition of allergy to simply mean ‘altered reactivity’, is being accepted. In this article, we will be discussing allergy under this broader new definition. We will look at allergy as:

An adverse response to a substance by one person but not by most people. 

Below, immune-mediated food allergy and non-immune mediated food intolerance, is explained, to give a better understanding on the different types of allergies.

True Food Allergy (Immune-mediated)

True food allergy is an allergy that invokes an exaggerated response from the immune system and involves the IgE antibody. IgE antibodies attach to specific allergens and release histamine to protect the body from the allergens, as they see them as ‘foreign material’ (hence why people take anti-histamines to counteract an allergic reaction).

Usually, the body has its own control system in place that prevents the body from making IgE in response to harmless materials. But in an allergic individual, this control mechanism is faulty and IgE is triggered from innocuous substances like eggs and nuts. In true food allergy, this adverse reaction to food can happen very quickly.

Food Intolerance (Non-Immune Mediated)

When the immune system is thought to not be involved in an adverse reaction to food, it is known as food intolerance. Food intolerance produces adverse reactions in the body through a variety of mechanisms but it does not produce immune reactions so it cannot be detected from a skin prick test (the diagnostic method for true food allergies).

However, the symptoms produced by food intolerance are often indistinguishable from the symptoms of true food allergy, except for the severe allergic reaction anaphylaxis, which occurs quickly and may result in death. Only true food allergies can result in anaphylaxis.

Commonly eaten foods tend to be the problem in food intolerance, such as wheat and milk, as large intake of a certain food can trigger an intolerance to that food. Unlike true food allergies, the response to foods is very slow in food intolerance, with symptoms appearing a few hours to two days after ingestion. Food intolerance is much more common than true food allergy.


Why is allergy on the rise?

Allergy is the result of a combination of things such as genetics and environmental factors. Genetics create the tendency for allergies to develop and the environmental factors push the person into expressing that potential and actually developing that allergy.

1. Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in determining whether a child will have allergies. Parents who have allergies are much more likely to produce children with allergies (especially if it’s the mother). It gets worse if both parents suffer from allergies, as the children will have an even higher chance of being affected.

The allergy that develops in the child, however, is not necessarily the same allergic disease as the parent. The parent may suffer from hay fever, but the child from eczema. There is also no correlation in the severity of the allergies.

2. Hygiene Hypothesis

This hypothesis states that being too clean is causing us to develop allergies. Our obsession with cleanliness is reducing our exposure to good and bad germs. Exposure to these germs early in life is actually beneficial to us as they stimulate the natural development of the immune system by challenging it and through this way, also strengthening it.

This hypothesis is supported by German farming studies that showed children living close to livestock, most likely due to their exposure to lots of microbes, have a lower incidence of asthma and allergies as they grow up.

Most of us now live in cities where we have minimal exposure to animals and environmental micro-organisms, which may be why we are becoming more allergic.

3. Enzymes and Digestion

Almost all foods require an enzyme for proper digestion. Foods that are eaten frequently stress the enzyme system that deals with the food.  Most people like eating the same foods but in different ways e.g. soy can be eaten as tofu, tempeh, soy sauce and soy milk. Eating the same food on a daily basis depletes the enzymes in the body that are required to break it down, and this leads to the development of allergies.

On top of that, our diets are now high in refined processed foods, fats and sugars, and this alters our normal digestion. Foods that are fully digested and broken down into their proper end products are recognised as nutrients by the body; carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, proteins into amino acids and fats into fatty acids.

However, when our digestion is impaired, foods are not fully digested and enter the blood stream in the incorrect form. The body then attacks them as they don’t recognise them as nutrients, but instead as foreign invaders, so we get an allergic reaction.

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4. Leaky Gut Syndrome and Dysbiosis

A healthy gut lining only allows fully digested fat, proteins and starches to pass through into the blood stream. When the gut lining becomes damaged and is more permeable than normal, commonly known as leaky gut syndrome, larger molecules are able to pass through, such as undigested  and partially digested food particles, bacteria and other organisms. The immune system doesn’t recognise these molecules and think they are foreign invaders so it starts attacking them, creating inflammation throughout the body.

In a healthy gut, the beneficial bacteria residing in the gut, keeps pathogens (organisms that can cause disease) in check. When there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, called dysbiosis, pathogens can thrive,  causing inflammation and a more permeable gut lining, i.e. leaky gut. Antibiotics and drugs such as steroids and antacids are some of the main causes of dysbiosis.

The gut is very important for immune function as 80% of our immune system resides there. Dysbiosis results in the loss of important immune functions and protection, and a predisposition to allergies.

5. Stress and Environmental Factors

Any type of stress that a person is unable to cope with, causes physical and mental changes that can contribute to a person developing allergies.

We are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals daily from our air, food and water that exert stress on our body. Over time, this constant exposure causes a build-up of toxic load, more than the body can handle and detoxify, leading to the development of allergies.

This is supported by epidemiological studies that suggest a strong relationship between air pollution and the development of allergies.

6. Infectious Illnesses

Infectious illnesses that are low-grade, prolonged and chronic, result in the body becoming more allergic as they cause changes in the body that makes it susceptible to allergies, such as tissue damage and a weaker immune system from being overworked.

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Allergy Symptoms

Contrary to popular belief, any symptom can be an allergy. Here’s a list of symptoms that can be the result of an allergic reaction to food and environmental chemicals.

(Taken from Allergies: Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch)

Neurological symptoms

Amnesia, Apathy, Aphasia (inability to speak), Blackouts, Coma, Delusions,

Depression, Disorientation, Dizziness, Emotional instability, Epilepsy, Fainting, Fatigue. Feeling of indecision, Hallucinations, Headaches, Hyperactivity, Impaired comprehension, Impaired coordination, Irritability, Lethargy, Melancholy, Mental lapses, Moodiness, Nervousness, Neuralgia, Paranoid thinking, Sleeplessness (insomnia), Stammering, Violent behaviour, Withdrawal.

Joint symptoms

Joint pain, Arthritis, Swollen ankles.

Circulatory symptoms

Anemia, Angina pectoris, Chest pain, Edema, High blood pressure, Irregular heartbeat, Irregular pulse, Phlebitis

Respiratory symptoms

Asthma, Bronchitis, Coughing, Runny nose, Sinusitis, Wheezing, shortness of breath.

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Abdominal pain, Belching, Bloating, Canker sores, Colitis, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Diverticulitis, Duodenal ulcer, Excessive gas, Food cravings, Gagging, Gall bladder pain, Heartburn, Hemorrhoids, Hunger pains, Indigestion, Nausea, Peptic ulcers, Salivation, Stomach cramps, Vomiting.

Skin symptoms

Acne, Bleeding and bruising, Clammy skin, Eczema, Hives, Itching, Sweating, Tendency towards cracked skin.

Muscle-skeletal symptoms

Backache, Myalgia (muscle pain), Neck ache.

Hormonal symptoms

Dysmenorrhea, Frigidity, Impotence.

Other symptoms

Bed-wetting, Cataracts, Conjunctivitis, Diabetes, Failure to thrive (in infants), Fever, Hoarseness, Lower blood sugar, Multiple sclerosis, Obesity, Otitis media (discharge from ear, earaches), Sneezing spells, Swelling around the eyes, Tinnitus (ringing of the ear).


If you think you may suffer from allergies, here is a list of tests that can be done to confirm or dismiss your suspicions.

Skin Testing

This is the skin prick test and swelling and redness would indicate an allergy to the substance. It tests for only IgE mediated allergy.

RAST (Radioallergosorbent Test)

This is a blood test that measures the amount of IgE antibodies to detect an allergy.


This is a blood test that can detect antibodies or infectious agents. It can detect both IgE and IgG mediated allergies, hence can be used for delayed food allergies.

Cytotoxic Test

Living red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are exposed to food and chemicals and their reactions observed for any changes.

Elimination Test

Working with a qualified health practitioner, patients go on a hypoallergenic diet for a week and foods are gradually reintroduced one at a time to see if there are any reactions.

Muscle Testing

Weakened muscle response, when the substance is placed on the patient’s body, pressing on a muscle, indicates sensitivity to that substance.


So if you think you may suffer from allergies, get yourself tested. The sooner you find out what you’re allergic to, the sooner you can take the necessary steps to alleviate the symptoms. And it will result in a happier and healthier you. Trust me, I speak from experience!


Bateson-Koch, Carolee. Allergies. Disease in Disguise. USA: Books Alive, 2003

Brostoff, Jonathan., Gamlin, Linda. Food Allergies and Food Intolerance. USA: Healing Arts Press, 2000

Allergy UK. “Why is allergy increasing”,

Jenerowicz D1, Silny W, Dańczak-Pazdrowska A, Polańska A, Osmola-Mańkowska A, Olek-Hrab K. “Environmental factors and allergic diseases”,


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