When we were newly married, my husband invited a friend to dinner. I scoured my new cookbooks and, as it was summer, decided on an exotic salad. I bought lots of colourful things from the market, and went home to wash and chop and prepare an elegant meal. Within moments of touching a long red pepper, my hands and my face were burning and enormously swollen, and I was desperately plunging them in cold water when my husband arrived with our visitor! They rushed me to hospital, where I was diagnosed with allergy.
The following Spring, whilst shopping in my office lunch-break, I felt an odd sensation in my legs. As I tried to walk on, they felt strange – heavy and dragging. My head felt weird as well, as if full of fog. Fighting to keep calm, I went back to work – but my fingers wouldn’t type. I panicked. A friend took me home in a taxi then called my husband and the doctor. I was sent immediately to the London Hospital for Nervous Diseases, and prodded and poked by a consultant with a retinue of students – but no explanation for my symptoms was found! I was sent home, feeling ill and very frightened. What was wrong with me? Would it get even worse?
I went to the country to be looked after by my parents, but days became weeks and nothing changed. The aching was intense. My mother massaged my arms and legs, which was comforting but did not really help. Weeks turned into months until, at the end of July, I suddenly realised that I was feeling better. The aches subsided, my arms and legs felt normal and my head was clear. The relief was tremendous, even though we had no explanation.
A year later……
I put the whole thing behind me and got on with life – until the following March, when it happened again.
It didn’t take too much detection to realise that, because the symptoms had returned at the same time of year, there was probably some sort of allergy involved – perhaps to pollen or budding trees. The doctor prescribed antihistamines which helped although they made me feel drowsy, and I took them for the next four months until, once again, the symptoms went away. It happened like this every year for the next thirteen years; I called it my Spring-time allergy, although it lasted well into Summer. It was not at all like hayfever; in fact, it seemed to affect every part of me except my nose!
An introduction to supplements
I came across a book called ‘Let’s Get Well’ by Adelle Davis, an American nutritionist, from which I discovered that high levels of Vitamins C and B5 could work better than antihistamines, and without causing drowsiness. I kept these two supplements by me and took them every year as soon as I felt the symptoms begin to return. They worked incredibly well. Eventually, as I learned more about nutritional therapy and how to strengthen my immune system, I found one year – unbelievably – that the symptoms did not return.
Constant health problems
These two experiences were just part of what I suffered during many years of constant health problems, and I went on to develop an increasing number of allergies. For instance, I had a horrendous reaction to dental anaesthetic so for sixteen years had all my dentistry without it. One of the worst episodes of ill-health kept me virtually bed-bound for a whole year, with symptoms of fatigue, aching muscles and weakness – no joke with three small children! After a year, we discovered that this whole episode had been caused by an allergic reaction to North Sea gas which had just been piped into our house. By replacing gas with electricity for all our appliances, the difference to my health was amazing – until I entered a building with North Sea gas and it would knock me off for my feet for a week. I even developed an allergy to potatoes! I had avoided them for a while in an attempt to lose some weight, but one day on a journey I had some chips and immediately developed a raging headache with tremendously black depression. It ruined a special weekend away.
So what is allergy? It’s an abnormal reaction to a normally harmless substance which might be inhaled, swallowed, injected or touched. I had all of those! There are degrees of severity, the worst being anaphylactic shock when immediate emergency medical treatment is required. Less severe reactions lead to less life-threatening but nonetheless unpleasant symptoms, including hayfever, asthma, migraine, sinusitis, eczema, hives, irritable bowel, swelling, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and inflammation of joints or muscles.
Many food allergies are due to leaky intestines which allow minute particles of undigested food to invade the bloodstream causing the immune system to react, so that inefficient digestion plays a major part. Common food allergens include dairy produce and wheat, but it is possible to become hypersensitive to almost any food. Food sensitivities are often a cause of obstinate overweight because fluids are retained to dilute the culprit food and lessen its impact. Many people have a hidden sensitivity without the first idea that it’s the cause of their feeling unwell or being unable to lose weight. Hypersensitivity to environmental substances – pollen, dust, gas, animals, chemicals, perfume – usually happens when the immune system is already over-loaded. It then shoots off wildly in all directions, inappropriately making antibodies to all sorts of substances.
What can be done?
Obviously, it helps to pinpoint the culprits if possible, and then avoid them in order to remove those loads from the immune system. Suspect a food allergy if you eat something very frequently, because allergy leads to addiction. It is important then to take nutritional steps to heal the “leaky gut” and improve digestion. Nutritional advice can be tailor-made to suit your own specific requirements so that steps can be taken to strengthen your immune system by eating healthily and taking appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals which can be monitored as you progress. In due course, it is often possible to overcome allergies, so that culprit foods can be reintroduced and household pets can once more be enjoyed.
Respect your body
For me, it was a tremendous joy one day to install gas log fires into our home! I barely remember my allergies now. I confess to avoiding chilli peppers and I don’t bother with potatoes, but I have no Spring-time problems. To gain this freedom, I had to stop putting rubbish into my body and learn to treat it with the respect it deserves – and I had to discover how to deal with an overgrowth of yeast – Candida albicans. You can read about this in my article “Candida – the enemy within!“.
Erica White Dip.ION MBANT
Nutritional Director of Nutritionhelp Ltd
Author of several books:available from Nutritionhelp or Amazon