While we all know how important our immune system is, it is the over-reaction of that very system that is giving many of us fits this time of year. After being stuck inside all winter, the first thing we want to do is enjoy the outside. But, unfortunately, with that comes the pollen and dander, congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and burning throat. Believe me, I know these problems all too well. I am a proud citizen of Louisville, Kentucky; the Allergy Capital of the World. In this article I will discuss 5 little known facts about allergies that may help you understand you or your child’s symptoms and how to help alleviate them.
What is Behind the Drastic Rise in Allergies?
A recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that food allergies among children have increased 50% from 1997 to 2011 (http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats). It has become a common concern in schools and at birthday parties; it is now commonplace to ask about food allergies because they are so rampant. So what is behind this drastic increase? There are several theories that have been suggested. Some have proposed that the delayed introduction to foods with an increased potential for allergies, is actually having the opposite effect and increasing food allergies instead of preventing them. If we introduce small amounts of foods such as peanuts to children at a younger age, then their body will be more likely to handle it. Another theory is that our allergies are affected by the way we prepare our food. Roasting peanuts, like we do in America, seems to elicit more of an allergic response than boiling them. Another major theory is the Hygiene Hypothesis, which states that our nation’s excessive cleanliness interrupts our immune system’s natural development leading to the increase in allergies that we are seeing. Since we are no longer introduced to all of the various types of microbes, our immune system does not fully mature. Some things that have exacerbated this problem is the overuse of antibacterial soap and antibiotics (http://fooddrugallergy.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=40). It would appear, that our overzealous attempt to become healthier, has actually created more health problems for our society.
What Causes Allergic Shiners?
Have you ever wondered what causes those dark circles under your eyes? One of the most visible symptoms of allergies is the characteristic allergic shiners, which make you appear as if you have a black eye. The nasal and sinus congestion that allergies cause can produce so much pressure that blood vessels in the face become constricted. Since the blood cannot flow freely back to the heart, it pools under the eyes. The venous blood lacks oxygen, and thus appears bluish and makes allergy sufferers appear to have survived a fight. Trust me, concealer has become my favorite morning companion.
8 Foods are Responsible for 90% of Food Allergies
Most food allergies can be attributed to only 8 foods. Milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and wheat are among the top allergy producers. Peanut allergies have become so prevalent that many places exclude or limit the amount they serve. Peanuts were once a common staple of all airline flights, but that is no longer feasible with so many serious adverse reactions.
Is There a Link between Allergies and Behavioral Disorders?
Is it just coincidental that as allergies have increased, we have also seen a similar increase in behavioral disorders? More and more studies are confirming what people have long theorized, there is a direct correlation between allergies and negative or hyperactive behavior. In the past, out of control behavior was associated with increased sugar and chocolate in the diet, but now we are starting to see that other foods that children may be allergic or intolerant to may also be having a negative impact on their behavior. As a teacher, I cannot tell you how many children I have seen with behavioral disorders that also have many food allergies, environmental allergies or asthma.
A recent study published in the August 2013 edition of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that boys recently diagnosed with ADHD were 40% more likely to suffer from asthma and 50% more likely to have seasonal allergies. While there is an undeniable correlation between ADHD and allergies, it is unknown what exactly this correlation means. It is unclear at this time if one malady leads to the exacerbation of the other. Allergies and asthma do contribute to sleep loss, which could contribute to inability to pay attention. Many of the medications to treat allergies can also cause children to be overly active (http://www.healthcentral.com/allergy/c/3989/163611/adhd-allergy-link/) . There has also been much research indicating that those with food intolerances may be more sensitive to food additives and food dyes that are believed to increase behavior problems. I would suggest trying a food exclusion diet and document your child’s behavior over the course of a week to see if there is any change. If eliminating processed food helps both you and your child, then it is worth a try.
Can Consuming Local Honey Really Reduce Allergy Symptoms?
While many people swear by local, unprocessed honey as a remedy for allergies, there is no evidence to back up these claims. It is believed to work much like an allergy shot, by introducing your body to small amounts of allergens in an attempt to gradually desensitize your body to it, and lower the immune response. However, most pollen in honey is from flowers, not the airborne pollen from grasses and trees that most people are allergic to. Although honey may not reduce allergies, it has been shown to have several medicinal benefits such as decreasing inflammation (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/expert-answers/honey-for-allergies/faq-20057927). Therefore, it may be able to decrease some of the symptoms of allergy sufferers. Whether it is a placebo effect or something more, if it seems to work for you, it certainly couldn’t hurt to add a little honey to your diet.
Food Allergy Research and Education, “Allergy: Facts and Statistics”, http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
UCLA, “Why are Allergies Increasing”, http://fooddrugallergy.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=40
Brent Bauer, M.D., “Can Honey Lesson Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?”, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/expert-answers/honey-for-allergies/faq-20057927
James Thompson, M.D., “ADHD and Allergy: Is There a Link Between the Two”, http://www.healthcentral.com/allergy/c/3989/163611/adhd-allergy-link/
Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Volume 111, Issue 2, Pgs 102-106, August 2013