Who would have thought a world without antibiotics, sterilized water, antiseptics, hand sanitizers, sewers, and sanitation actually protected us from allergies?
1 in 10 children develop asthma; there are 10 times more incidences of allergy related symptoms and we seek simple answers to explain this complex phenomenon. It is a knotty interaction of our genes, environment and most importantly the bacteria in our gut. The gut is also called our second brain that houses almost 1 kilogram of these bacteria collectively called “microbiota”.
We are constantly seeking more natural treatments to combat these allergy symptoms with honey, vitamins A and C or even the netti pot. However it is important to understand diseases and allergies are simply a delusion. What we really need to understand is why our efficient body seems to grapple with certain stimuli in the air, in our food or on our skin.
There are several theories but here are the most discussed:
1. The Hygiene Hypothesis
We can’t deny that infections were an enormous problem and that the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics helped dramatically, but in recent years, we may have swung the pendulum a little bit too far toward cleanliness and sterility. Not all bacteria are harmful, and humans are living organisms with an entire ecosystem of bacteria in, on, and around us—making up our microbiota. Killing bacteria with our cleanliness rituals has led to our immune systems becoming hypervigilant and the dial is turned up toward overreacting to even innocuous stimuli. So we become sensitized to our own natural surroundings and food. Who would have thought that a world without antibiotics, sterilized water, antiseptics, hand sanitizers, sewers, and sanitation would actually protect us from allergies?
2. Vitamin D deficiency
Low vitamin D levels and its inability to be utilized in the cells is associated with an increase in allergies. Simply increasing your exposure to sunlight and the vitamin D in your diet may be enough; however, vitamin D supplementation in conjunction with addressing our gut health problems seems to be the best combination therapy.
The exposure to antibiotics during pregnancy or the early stages of life increases the incidence of atopy, eczema, and colic in children. The mechanism is thought to be due to changes in the balance of the good and bad bacteria—leading to dysbiosis and leaky gut.
Breastfed infants have less colic, eczema, and allergies than bottle-fed infants. This is because breast milk is rich in immunoglobulins that help us develop balanced immune systems. Ideally, our immune system will protect us from harmful bacteria and not overreact to benign substances, which is what happens with allergies.
5. Birthing history
Children born vaginally are at an advantage when it comes to colic, allergies, and infections compared to children born through cesarean section. The mother’s birth canal bacteria seems to protect the infant from future allergic health problems.
6. Microbiome imbalance
Once the harmony with our gut bacteria is upset it is feasible to rebalance this; however, it does require a five-prong approach:
Remove the eight most common foods that cause allergies and sensitivities. This includes but is not limited to gluten, dairy, peanuts, corn, soy, shellfish, eggs, and nightshades.
Replace digestive enzymes and acid to help break down food efficiently. This allows the good bacteria to perform their activities, keeps our vitamin levels in a good place, and helps balance our hormones.
Replace bacteria by adding probiotics, understanding that the probiotics’ efficacy is dependent on other dietary changes.
Institute a detox and repair mechanism using herbs and protein. This can reduce inflammation in the gut and cleanse the liver so it can do a more efficient job of detoxing.
Slowly reintroduce the foods removed to see which affect the gut adversely, and then avoid those foods in the long term.
Though I have tried to simplify the process in this article, it’s important to understand that when the body exhibits symptoms—even ones as benign as allergies—it’s important to take notice. Allergies are a simple expression from your body that it’s unbalanced and a warning sign of a future autoimmune disorder. So instead of treating them with medications, let’s rebuild your health to get back to living in harmony with your surroundings.
Nisha Chellam is a board Certified Internist and board certified in Holistic and Integrative Medicine. She practices Functional Medicine in Novi, Michigan. The core values of her practice are: “1. Disease do not exist 2. Disease begins in the gut; fix your gut fix your disease 3. There is only one phenomenal doctor and that is you”