The allergic response to conditions such as hay fever could make us age faster, says Jayney Goddard
Far from seasonal allergies being an annoyance, they can actually make us biologically older by speeding up the rate at which we age.
I now find that I’m seeing ever greater numbers of patients who are really suffering when they hadn’t previously done so. Allergies used to develop in early childhood, but now we are seeing seasonal allergies appearing for the first time well into adulthood. A number of factors are responsible, including nutritional issues, unmanaged stress, and environmental pollution. Of all of these, environmental toxicity is likely to be the worst culprit.
We’re consistently being exposed to unprecedented numbers and types of environmental pollutants, and 40 percent of deaths worldwide are thought to be caused by pollutants in water, air and soil.
In the UK, 40,000 people die every year as a direct result of pollution – and the UK is a relatively ‘clean’ country with fairly strict controls over emissions and other environmental contamination.
When we try to root out the underlying causes of this current allergy explosion, we also have to consider the effects of the enormous numbers of toxins that are used in conventional food production. Unless we opt for organic produce, the foods that we eat are exposed to fungicides, pesticides and insecticides. All these come under the class of chemicals known as biocides, and these are designed to kill. After all, the word ‘biocide’ can be broken down into its roots; ‘bio’ – life and ‘cide’ – killing.
Last but not least, we’ve also got to add the toxic burden of the chemicals we use on a regular basis to clean our homes, and ourselves, and we also have to factor in the chemicals in our cosmetics.
All these toxins, whether we breathe, ingest, bathe in them, or put them on our skin, provoke an ‘up-regulation’ of our immune response, putting our immune systems into a constant state of red-alert. This can cause us to be excessively reactive or sensitive to allergens, so that we overrespond to other elements such as pollens, dust and more.
So, given that this column is about holistic anti-ageing, you’re probably wondering what hayfever, allergies and environmental pollution have to do with the ageing process? Well, it turns out rather a lot in fact. There are many factors which are involved. These include wear and tear, oxidative stress, psychological stress and inadequate nutrition. In developed countries, we often take in an excess of calories through very nutrient-poor food, some of which is downright dangerous, for example trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup (now deceitfully re-branded as the benignsounding ‘natural corn sugar), processed meats, refined carbohydrates and more. All of these lead to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to stressors and is usually helpful and protective. However, when it gets out of control, it causes devastating problems – chronic inflammation underlies every degenerative disease. These include arthritis, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, many cancers and even the neurological diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We wrongly believe that these are a ‘normal’ part of the ageing process, but the truth is that they are preventable, and some can be halted and even fully cured in many cases. Inflammation also lies at the heart of the allergic response. In hayfever or seasonal rhinitis, every time that an allergic response is provoked by an allergen, precious resources are diverted away from our immune system – meaning that it can’t do its normal day to day job of keeping us well – and this increases the degenerative, and thus ageing, effects of stressors.
Conventional or pharmaceutical medicine really has no treatments for allergies other than the ‘sticking plaster’ approach of using antihistamines which, at best, provide temporary relief. Complementary medicine offers solutions which are extremely helpful as they work preventatively – by addressing the underlying reason why a person is developing such an overreactivity to allergens. Several branches of complementary medicine are outstandingly effective in this arena; homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, and even several disciplines that are designed to treat allergies specifically. Each of these approaches aims to understand why the body is producing a set of symptoms and then provides whatever is necessary for the body to heal itself.
In acupuncture, the practitioner will ascertain which energetic pathways – known as ‘meridians’ – in the body are blocked and they will insert needles, or apply pressure to that specific area to unblock the energetic flow, thus enabling the body to work correctly and to heal itself. Acupuncture is rapid, gentle and effective.
In homeopathy, the homeopath can work in two ways. First of all, he or she can prescribe homeopathic medicines which immediately address the distressing symptoms of allergies, fast and effectively. This is called ‘acute prescribing’ and the medicine given will usually be a highly diluted mixture of the allergens that the person is reacting to and, at this time of year, pollens and grasses are the usual culprits. In the second way of working, the homeopath makes a highly detailed, in-depth analysis of the patient’s symptoms, lifestyle, medical history and more, so that the person’s ‘constitutional’ remedy can be prescribed. This is also a highly diluted medicine but it differs from an ‘acute prescription’ as it is totally individualised and addresses all the person’s symptoms, holistically. The homeopath helps the person to become more balanced and healthy overall and better equipped to deal with stressors – including allergens. This is the essence of preventative medicine – the creation of a state of physical, mental, and emotional resilience – so that you remain healthy regardless of external factors which might undermine a person in a weakened state.
To find qualified, professional practitioners, or to find a selection of the best training schools that teach these approaches visit The Complementary Medical Association website: The-CMA.org.uk You can find more ways of combatting inflammation, allergies and anti-ageing tips in Jayney’s new book Rewind Your Body Clock: The Complete Natural Guide to a Happier, Healthier, Younger You (£14.99, Watkins).
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