According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, approximately 40 million Americans suffer from allergies, with four million workdays lost annually due to hay fever alone.
While the word "allergy", may trigger images of nasal congestion, itchy throat, runny nose and breathing difficulties, we define "allergy" more broadly at my Santa Monica allergy practice to include countless allergens existing in food or water, and chemicals in our environment. Less common but still chronic allergy symptoms can manifest as constipation, gas, bloating, headache and fatigue. These kinds of allergies often go undiagnosed, creating great frustration for allergy sufferers.
Not every allergic reaction is visible or severe. Have you noticed that every time you eat certain foods, you have a slight stomachache or headache? Or you may feel unwell when visiting certain environments. Often, we simply do not connect the dots. You may say "I don't feel sick... exactly," or "I feel off today," without recognizing allergies may be the cause. Your body's allergic reaction depends on degree of exposure, genetics, overall toxic load, general physical health and stress levels.
Why Allergies Make You Sick
Besides the typical cascade of hyper-immune reactions, allergens stress the body's "fight or flight" response, triggering a host of physical and biochemical reactions. These acute and chronic stress responses affect wellbeing and negatively impact the body's natural immunological powers, making healing more difficult. Every time your immune system is challenged, your body struggles to fight. Soon, you feel tired, lethargic and sick, perpetuating this vicious "fight-or-flight" cycle.
What can the allergy sufferer do? My new book, The 7 Day Allergy Makeover, addresses the root causes of your allergies by recognizing and reducing your exposure to obvious and hidden allergens. It is a step-by-step program to teach you how to transform your lifestyle, diet and personal environment to reduce allergy/sensitivity symptoms, restore immune health and increase energy and vitality.
These steps from day one of The 7 Day Allergy Makeover will get you started:
Day 1 -- Clean Up Your Nutrition
The correct diet can dramatically reduce your allergy symptoms. Our day one goal is to eliminate allergy-inducing foods and replace them with healthier choices.
Do you know the seven most common food allergens?
Five Steps to Healthier Habits That Minimize Allergy Symptoms
1. Add Plenty of Fiber to Your Diet -- A minimum of 35 grams per day facilitates the growth of beneficial bacteria in your intestinal tract, increases optimal bowel movements and aids in binding of toxins and other chemicals for elimination. Add vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts (ones you know you are not sensitive to) and seeds to your diet.
2. Cook and Clean Foods Properly -- cooking foods eliminates bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Use proper cooking equipment (glass, iron or enamel pots and pans) to avoid ingesting chemicals and metals found in plastics, Teflon, and aluminum and stainless steel (nickel alloy). Always clean raw foods properly, since they can carry mycotoxins, bacteria, fungi and parasites. All fruits that can be peeled should be, as peels often collect mold. Thoroughly cleanse peel-free fruits such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and if you find one moldy berry in the box, the rest of the berries may be contaminated. Better to throw out than be sorry!
3. Eat Whole, Organic, Seasonally Grown, Local Foods -- Buy local and buy organic as often as you can to reduce your intake of pesticides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals and chemicals. Studies show organic foods contain higher vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus are significantly lower in pesticide residues and higher in antioxidant activity.
4. Eat the Right Proportions -- Meals should contain balanced protein, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates and fats. An easy way is to divide your plate -- fill half with vegetables, a quarter with protein and the other quarter with low-glycemic, gluten-free carbohydrates. Add some good fat -- olive oil or avocado -- to help your body absorb nutrients that remove toxins and eliminate allergens.
5. Chew Each Bite of Food 20 Times -- Are you an "inhaler"? Improper chewing can cause poor digestion, which can contribute to food allergies. Chew each bite 20 times to release enzymes in your mouth and saliva and facilitate digestion. Take your time and spend at least 20 minutes sitting at a table to enjoy each bite of food rather than eating in your car or standing.
Next Time: Day 2 -- Clean Up Your Water.
For more detailed information, you are welcome to a free chapter from my book, The 7 Day Allergy Makeover.
For more by Dr. Susanne Bennett, click here.
For more on personal health, click here.
For more on natural health, click here.
Biesiekierski JR, et al. Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar;106(3):508-14; quiz 515.
Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):4-12.
Dias A, et al. Persistence of cow's milk allergy beyond two years of age. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2010 Jan-Feb;38(1):8-12.
Ogura Y, et al. [The incidence of food allergy in atopic dermatitis]. Arerugi. 2001 Jul;50(7):621-8.
Wood R, et al. The natural history of IgE-mediated cow's milk allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2007 Nov; 120(5): 1172-1177.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more