Why allergies increase as you age and what you can do about them.
Aging begins when your body starts to break down. This can happen at any age. If you've been a junk-food junkie, you may have a deteriorating digestive system in your 20s or 30s. You need a healthy diet, along with good digestion, to stay young and vital.
Every cell in your body depends on getting enough of certain nutrients. Your digestive system controls the health of your cells and how well your body functions. I've said it many times before: You are not what you eat. You are what you eat, digest, and absorb. You can't digest and absorb nutrients with poor digestion.
If you have digestive problems, you may be constipated or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Or you could have allergies. That's right. Allergies are often a sign of a compromised digestive system, which is why they often increase over time. But allergies don't just make you feel miserable. They can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, depression, weight gain, and asthma ... to name just a few.
I've noticed a connection between food and airborne allergies. People with severe allergies to molds and pollens usually have food allergies as well--even when they're not aware of them. When their food-allergy symptoms improve, their reactions to airborne substances do, also. So don't dismiss your allergic reactions as being a minor discomfort.
Improve your digestion and make sure your allergies don't progress to unnecessary or premature illnesses. Spring is an ideal time to cleanse and repair your digestive tract. Take action now.
You may have taken one or all of the
steps below in the past. But you'll have a difficult time reducing your allergic symptoms unless you do all of them at once. So, read on and slowly begin a comprehensive anti-allergy program. You'll feel better and slow down your aging process at the same time.
Two ways you damage your digestion
Eating a lot of sugar contributes to inflammation throughout your digestive tract. It also feeds bad bacteria, such as Candida albicans. The result is often a condition called intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut syndrome." During the holiday season, we tend to eat more sugar. Time to stop now.
Eating the same foods over and over can deplete your digestive enzymes. Then, the foods you eat don't get broken down into small enough particles to get into your cells. These particles can irritate and damage your intestines. It's easy to get into an eating rut, especially if you crave certain foods. Often, these are precisely the foods you need to avoid.
A food allergy triggers an immune response every time you eat a particular food. Most of us only have food sensitivities. After you repair your digestive tract, you may be able to eat foods that caused your sensitivity--just not in huge quantities. But first, let's repair your digestion and reduce your allergies.
Begin with the foods you eat
How many times have you heard someone say, "I used to be able to eat that, but now it just doesn't agree with me"? Chances are this is because your digestion isn't as good as it used to be. To reduce your allergic reactions, you first need to avoid eating irritating foods.
The most common food allergies are to wheat, cow's milk, sugar, corn, eggs, and peanuts. Of course, this includes all products made with these ingredients.
It's tricky. If you're sensitive to corn, you need to avoid all foods with cornstarch or high fructose corn syrup. Time to read labels carefully! Completely avoid the food or foods you think may be causing some of your symptoms for four weeks.
You may be sensitive to several foods. Begin by choosing just one or two that you eat frequently. It doesn't have to be one of the seven listed above. Citrus, NutraSweet, and nuts can also trigger allergic responses. I once saw a young boy who had a complete personality shift and became hyperactive whenever he ate bananas!
Need more help? The best book on the subject I've ever seen is Food Allergy Survival Guide (Melina, Stepaniak, and Aronson, Healthy Living Publications, 2004). It's packed with all the needed information to understand both food allergies and sensitivities, and recipes to help you avoid these foods. If you have food sensitivities or allergies, you need this book.
Give yourself a gentle spring cleansing
Next month, I'll talk about a deep detoxification program. For now, add a mild detoxification program to your elimination diet. Spring is an ideal time to move from the heavy foods of winter into more greens and other vegetables filled with repairing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It's time to get your body ready for the warmer months ahead by eating lighter, alkalinizing foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Begin by chewing your food well. Chewing breaks food down into tiny pieces that are easier to digest. When food particles are large, your immune system attacks them as if they were deadly viruses, taxing your immune system. Save your immune system to fight bacteria and viruses.
Help flush out toxins by drinking pure, filtered water throughout the day. Exercise daily, even if only for 15 minutes. A brisk walk helps increase your circulation, which increases your excretion of toxins.
Give yourself a dry brush (or dry loofa sponge) massage before you shower. This also increases elimination and circulation. And it feels good.
Drink a liver/gallbladder flush. The formula I use tastes better than you'd think and is an excellent liver cleanser. Take an organic lemon. Chop it into pieces (rind, seeds, etc.) and blend it for one minute or more with one-and-a-half cups of water and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. The drink will be frothy and not too acidic. You can drink this daily for up to two weeks.
Eat a detox diet. Avoid foods that add to your toxic load, such as deep fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, luncheon meats, and chemicals found in prepared foods. Whenever possible, eat organic foods. Limit your fats to a little olive oil and raw nuts. Eat the best quality foods you can find. For detailed information on a variety of detox diets, you'll want to read Dr. Elson Haas's new book, The New Detox Diet (Celestial Arts, 2004). It's packed with ideas for everyone from the novice to the more experienced and includes plenty of recipes as well.
Repair your intestines
Irritated intestines can lead to intestinal permeability (i.e., "leaky gut syndrome"), a condition where the openings in the intestinal lining get larger. This allows particles of food and bacteria to get into your body instead of being eliminated.
To stop this vicious cycle, you need to digest your foods better, add more friendly bacteria (probiotics), and soothe your intestinal linings.
There are three supplements vital in helping you repair your digestive tract: probiotics, enzymes, and glutamine.
Of all the probiotics on the market, my three favorites are explained in detail in the October 2004 issue, available free to all subscribers online (www.womenshealthletter.com). Your user name and password are on page 7. Be sure you get a strong probiotic that will survive stomach acids. Many don't. I like Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics 12 Plus, Natren's Healthy Trinity (both in health food stores), and Women's Preferred Advanced Probiotic Formula (800-728-2288).
Digestive enzymes are helpful if your body is no longer making enough of them. As we age, enzyme production is reduced. It's often helpful to take enzymes after meals for three or four months. Don't become dependent on them. But if you're not digesting your food well, they could help you over this bump in your road to revitalization.
Glutamine is an amino acid that helps repair your intestinal lining. Take 250-500 mg three times a day for three months. Or eat foods that are high in glutamine, such as green vegetables and legumes.
It's no coincidence that allergies increase as we get older. While there's no way of stopping the aging process, we can slow it down and be healthier longer. The idea is not to avoid wrinkles, but degenerative diseases with uncomfortable symptoms. You can do this by cleansing your body every spring.
Turn Back Your Clock
To reduce allergic symptoms and restore your immunity and digestion:
* Avoid foods to which you are sensitive
* Give your body a spring cleansing
* Repair your intestines