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Many experts are already pointing to 2014 as clouding up to be one of the worst allergy seasons on record. It will certainly be among the longest, starting weeks earlier than in the past and estimated to extend through October. Fueling this “pollen vortex,” as some reporters are calling it, are higher-than-normal carbon dioxide levels in the air, which trigger more pollen production – maybe as much as five times more pollen than usual. A lack of rainfall to wash it away and increasing drought conditions around the country worsen the situation.
“Not only is the pollen more prolific but it seems to be more powerful, supercharged,” says Dr. Clifford Bassett, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center.
As I discussed last week, airborne allergies are just part of the rising epidemic in allergies in this country. Allergies triggered by food, as well as by the environment, have been sharply on the rise in recent years. Scientists call it the atopic march, the progression and intensification of allergic disease. In this forward advance, food allergies are of special note. They represent the most common cause of anaphylaxis (hypersensitivity to a foreign protein or a drug), says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to this potentially fatal form of severe allergic reaction.
Though immunologists claim that this form of allergic reaction is a result of an immune system abnormality, the doctor who first identified and named the condition came to a different conclusion. Dr. Charles Richet’s research at the turn of the 20th century concluded it was a side effect of vaccination – the introduction of substances directly into the blood, bypassing the modifying effects of the digestive system. Heather Fraser, alternative medicine expert and author of “The History of the Peanut Allergy Epidemic,” recounts how the rise of this form of disease management treatment took place during the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying massive influx of immigrants. It spawned a relatively new and emerging pharmaceutical industry. Soon, compulsory vaccination for military and civilian populations was supporting this industry’s growth. And a new phrase was formed: serum sickness. By 1906, this sickness was being characterized as the first man-made allergic reaction.
The guilty party was apparently not the medicine but the vehicle or agent used to carry it through the bloodstream. An early ingredient used was vegetable oil. In the 1930s, what is being labeled as the first outbreak of food anaphylaxis in history was identified and associated with another commonly used oil in vaccinations – cottonseed oil. The prevalence of this allergic reaction slowly declined beginning in the 1940s, a decline that perhaps can be attributed to a change in vaccine ingredients, replacing cottonseed oil.
Though its link is well-documented, cottonseed oil remains one of the most produced oils, behind corn oil and soybean oil. As a letter from a reader of last week’s column points out, for some, it may be not the peanuts themselves that are causing the problem but the way they are processed. Cottonseed oil is commonly used in cooking and food preparation.
“‘Metabolized’ means that the body can break down and eliminate the waste vaccine,” Fraser writes in a piece on her website. “This ability to detoxify varies between individuals and is today an enormous challenge for western children increasingly weakened by digestive imbalance.”
As another example of how this works, it has been discovered that babies born via cesarean section have higher incidences of environmental and food allergies compared with those born naturally. It is hypothesized that this is because they’re not exposed to certain bacteria found in the birth canal.
“This further advances the hygiene hypothesis that early childhood exposure to microorganisms affects the immune system’s development and onset of allergies,” says Christine Cole Johnson, chairwoman of Henry Ford Hospital’s department of public health sciences and an author of a recent study presented to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “We believe a baby’s exposure to bacteria in the birth canal is a major influencer on their immune system.”
As I mentioned last week, our immune system has evolved to expect parasites and to produce friendly microbes (bacteria), or what are known as suppressor cells, to combat disease. In a world with no parasites, the system becomes unbalanced. The natural regulators of our immune systems have been bypassed or compromised, weakening the effort by our bodies to combat disease.
Business, on the other hand, has not been compromised in its ability to benefit from the epidemic. In fact, business is booming. Sales by companies that make allergy medication – such as over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and other pollen-combating tools – are projected to top $14.7 billion by 2015, says a report by Global Industry Analysts.
As we as consumers become more and more afraid of disease, we also seem to become more tolerant of the side effects of treatment. We often feel we have little choice but to continue to embrace these over-the-counter remedies, though we are constantly told that no medication is suitable for everyone and to watch out for the side effects. Still, there are some alternative treatments that can be viewed as complementary to orthodox medical treatment. This is not to say that if you are sick or have acute symptoms, you should not seek medical help.
- Raw honey has long been said to have benefits by some allergy sufferers. Why not support your local beekeeper?
- The use of a natural nasal wash or forms of irrigation can provide some relief in clearing the nose of mucous. Aromatherapy is another complementary treatment that some people find has value.
- Acupuncture has been shown to reduce symptoms in some sufferers. It is said to help balance the body’s energy.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.