Can allergies make you age?

More and more people are suffering from either allergy and/or food intolerances.  Many, many years ago, allergies were something alien; when a child didn’t want to eat certain foods, saying it made him feel bloated or caused a blocked nose, he was told he is “fussy.”

Years later many people’s perspectives have changed, due to more people becoming allergic or intolerant.  The internet and magazines writing about it, put these two on the map, as it were, and today it is not weird anymore if you come across someone who is allergic or has a food intolerance.

What is the difference then? 

An allergy is an abnormal reaction by the body to foreign substances, called allergens.  Once they enter the body, the body’s immune system detects it and produces an allergy-associated antibody known as Immunoglobulin E (Ige), to fight the allergens.  An allergic reaction can be sudden, but it can also build-up over time.  Examples are sneezing, wheezing, itching, developing a rash (like eczema), shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches (migraines included), hives, and a swollen tongue and/or lips, are some of the symptoms.  A sudden reaction will be swollen lips, tongue, not being able to breathe, anaphylaxis shock (the latter can be fatal). 

There are many allergens, for example, dairy products like milk and cream, peanuts, shell fish, bee stings, pollen, smoke (including second hand smoking), avocado’s, bananas, mould, dust mites, animal hair (cats and dogs), eggs, chocolate, colourings, preservatives, chemicals found in washing powders, soups and make-up, deodorant, medicine, like Penicillin, and so forth.

The biggest difference between allergies and food intolerances, is that allergies can be fatal.  Anaphylaxis is the most fatal, although vomiting, skin rashes (e.g., eczema), asthma and diarrhoea, can also be linked to allergies. Food intolerances, on the other hand, is not related to the immune system.   It is not fatal but can cause bloating, constipation, tiredness, irritable bowel symptom, sneezing (hay fever) and a scratchy throat.  There are two different types:

An abnormal absorption of food, that results from an enzyme deficiency (for example lactose intolerance – caused due to a lack of the lactase enzyme – needed by the body to digest the milk sugar lactose);

A reaction caused by naturally occurring chemicals in food, e.g., tyramine and histamine, or food additives, like sulphur dioxide and benzoates.

Do not confuse cold symptoms with an allergic reaction.  Colds usually disappear in a week to 10 days. Allergic rhinitis, on the other hand, can linger for weeks; even months.  Nasal discharge from a cold start of runny, then thickens.  With an allergy it often stays runny, itches, your eyes water and/or your skin itches.  When hay fever turns into sinusitis, your nose can become blocked and feel stuffy all the time.

In an article I read last year, the idea that allergies can age you faster, was discussed.  Today allergies are not just common amongst children, but more adults are becoming allergic as well.  The reasons?  For starters; the type of foods we consume – if not organic, most of the food we buy and eat are ridden with pesticides, fungicides and insecticides.  These chemicals, known as biocides, are designed to kill: “bio-” means life; “-cide” means killing!  The cleaning agents used in our homes and workspace, are also loaded with chemicals and toxins.  Then there is air- and dust pollution, as well as mites!  Many cosmetic brands also have ingredients in that can cause allergies. 

Another factor to consider is stress; especially if you don’t get rid of it.  Stress puts the body in a “fight or flight-mode” and when we are under severe stress, our immune system starts to suffer.  When the immune system suffers, our body’s natural defences against allergies, illness, and so on, drops and we become more susceptible to a disease (dis-ease).  When the immune system is in a red-alert state, so to speak, the body becomes over sensitive to allergens.  And this is where it gets interesting…this oxidative stress, psychological stress, inadequate nutrition and wear and tear, all play a role when it comes to ageing faster.

How is this possible?  Chronic inflammation.  Inflammation is the body’s natural response to stressors and can occur if you injure yourself, as a means to protect the body.  However, when inflammation becomes chronic, then there is a problem.  For example, chronic inflammation can cause arthritis, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancers and even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  Myself, and many doctors and specialists, believe that many of these diseases are preventable.  It has also been proven that 80%+ of cancers today, are caused by stress (this includes personal- and environmental stress factors).  When you have a disease, your body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance; that there is a dis-ease somewhere in the body.  In order to re-balance and boost your immune system, you can take medication, get rid of stress and look at your diet.  Nutrition plays a big role in whether or not you live a healthy life or not (whether / not you suffer from allergies). 

Trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup (deceitfully re-branded as “natural corn sugar”), processed meats, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, cola drinks, and so forth, all play a huge role in our general health and well-being.  Many children, and adults alike, are sensitive to artificial flavourings, colourings and ingredients, that you find in many products today.  It might start of as just an allergy but, if the substances are not cut out of the diet, then, over time, the inflammation that it causes becomes chronic.  Every time an allergic reaction is triggered by an allergen, resources are diverted away from your immune system.  This can, over time, increase the degenerative, ageing effects of the stressors.  As we have noted already, chronic inflammation can lead to other diseases.  Therefore, it is always best to eliminate something from your diet if you are allergic and, of course, even better if you can eat more organic and free-range produce. 

There are many over-the-counter medications that can alleviate allergies.  However, I am of the belief that it is much better, in the long run, to look at the root / cause of the allergies and medicate that.  Homeopathy, for example, has been around for ages and treats the cause and not just the symptoms.  Acupuncture is also a good option and, of course, nutrition (as mentioned before).  Vitamins C, B 6 & 12, as well as Zinc, probiotics and Omega oils, help to give your immune system a boost and keep it strong at the same time.  For sensitive stomachs, I would suggest to use a Buffered vitamin C-powder (tablet).    

Allergies don’t have to ruin your life nor your lifestyle.  As with everything, the best thing to do is to listen to your body, seek the right help when you don’t get better and live a healthy lifestyle.  Whether it is sinus, hay fever, eczema or other allergic reactions that you suffer from, know that there is something that can be done.  If you need to make changes in your diet or change the soap you bath with, so be it.  Your health must come first.  Think of it this way:  if you are a vegetarian, for example, you eat most things except meat.  If you are allergic to shell fish, then you eat everything else except that. 

Allergies should not be ignored by anybody.  If a person is severely allergic, he / she can go into anaphylactic shock if he / she is exposed to certain triggers, for example penicillin.  If you are unsure what you are allergic to, seek help.  Many doctors, especially holistic practitioners, will put you on an elimination diet to find out what the triggers are, or they can do a blood test or an iridology test, to find out.  Once you know, then you can easily manoeuvre your life around it and still live a happy, fulfilling life.

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