Children’s allergies are an immune response, by the body, to certain stimuli in the environment, known as allergens. When exposed to an allergen the body overreacts and releases antibodies to fight the invader. The end result of this release is swelling and inflammation. Common symptoms of children’s allergies are; coughing, sneezing, skin irritations, respiratory problems, headaches, irritated eyes, stomach pain and diarrhea.
Children’s allergies can fall into three different categories:
1. Inhalant and environmental allergies: This is the most common form of allergy diagnosed and the form of allergies that people are most familiar with. This form of allergy is known as hay fever and occurs in the spring and summer. It can be caused by dust, pollen, animal dander and mould spores.
2. The second class of allergies are food allergies. This includes both innate and acquired food allergies. Innate allergies are immediate reactions to foods such as peanuts. These reactions are immediate and life threatening. Acquired food allergies are those that develop over time and are better known as sensitivities or intolerances.
3. Chemical sensitivities are the third class of allergies. We are bombarded with thousands of different synthetic chemicals every day. They can overwhelm our immune system and we can develop allergies to these many chemicals. Common synthetic chemicals that children can be allergic to are medications, food additives, scents, cleaning products, petrol products and many other synthetic chemicals. In many cases “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities or MCS” can be considered a sign of solvent toxicity.
A person can be allergic to virtually anything and the allergens a person is allergic to differs from one person to another. It is estimated that ¼ of all individuals are allergic to at least one substance. These rates are increasing in society; however, we don’t exactly know why. One hypothesis is that the increased hygiene of individuals has led to an increased rate of allergies. In the past children’s immune systems would be exposed to allergens earlier in life, while their immune system was still developing, allowing the body to properly respond. However, children are now being exposed to these same allergens later in life, after their immune system has developed, resulting in an overreaction. That is not to say this is the only factor in the development of children’s allergies as the development of allergies is multifactorial. For example, it has been found that there is a strong genetic component associated with developing allergies (1). Liver toxicity also plays a large role in contributing to allergies. The liver is the main organ of detoxification, if it is not working well, then the detox process is taken over by the skin, lungs and bowels. The skin and lungs are not particularly effective at detoxification leading to conditions like allergies, asthma and eczema.
Additionally, because of the diets we eat (refined white flour, white sugar, processed foods) and our overuse of antibiotics the flora of our digestive systems is different than it has been in the past. There is a greater amount of Clostridium difficile in our digestive tract. It has been found that individuals who have higher levels of Clostridium difficile also report a greater occurrence of allergies (2). It has also been found that babies who are not breastfed are more susceptible to developing allergies (3).
Conventional medicine treats allergies by prescribing antihistamines, corticosteroids, and decongestants. However, these medications just mask the symptoms of children’s allergies and some have serious potential side effects. When an immune response is triggered the body releases a substance called histamine. Histamine is responsible for the swelling and redness associated with allergies and so anti-histamines block histamine receptors preventing this reaction from taking place. The common side effects of histamines are drowsiness; however, many newer anti-histamines do not cause drowsiness. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation by supressing the immune system. Side effects can include weight gain, liver and kidney damage, bone thinning, growth suppression and many others. Decongestants do exactly what their name says, relieve congestion. Side effects caused by decongestants include an increase in blood pressure, insomnia, irritability and addiction.
A naturopathic approach looks to identify why an individual has an allergy and then treats the root cause of the allergy. To discover what is causing an allergy blood and other laboratory tests are performed. The most common test that Dr. Mason-Wood performs is a food intolerance test. Almost everyone is intolerant to certain foods and simply removing these from an individual’s diet generally reduces symptoms of allergies. Since an individual has been consuming foods that they are intolerant to their digestive tract most likely needs repair. If the digestive tract is damaged then food particles, that are not completely digested, can enter the bloodstream. The body does not recognize these foreign particles and mounts an immune defence against them. To restore the gut to optimal conditions the foods that set off an immune response must be removed and then the leaky gut syndrome must be repaired. This will involve taking supplements, probiotics and botanicals.
After the stomach is healed most people experience a significant reduction in allergy symptoms. However, this may still not be enough. The toxic load in the body may be very high and the cause of some allergies. We are exposed to thousands of toxins every day and these can accumulate in our body causing our immune system to always be “on”. By detoxing we can remove the chemicals that have accumulated in the body over the years such as heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products and many other man made chemicals. This gives the immune system the ability to rest which can alleviate allergy symptoms. However, because the immune system has been stressed for so long, and an individual may be using corticosteroids to treat their allergies, an individual’s adrenal glands may not be functioning properly. The adrenal glands are responsible for creating stress hormones. When someone has allergies or is chronically stressed over long periods of time the adrenals constantly pump out stress hormones until they can’t anymore. This burnout or adrenal fatigue is common in individuals who are chronically stressed or have allergies. Therefore, the next step in treatment is to support the adrenal glands with various supplements and botanicals to get them back to optimal functioning.
There are various other modalities of treatment that Dr. Mason-Wood may employ to treat children’s allergies such as sublingual immunotherapy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, injection therapies, environmental medicine and physical medicine. Conventional medicine only suppresses the symptoms of your allergies. Dr. Mason-Wood will find and treat the root cause of your allergies. This ensures that your allergies don’t come back every year and are gone for good. Book an appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood today to rid yourself of allergies!