Allergies and the Mid-Life Crisis
“I have dieted for years, why can’t I lose weight?” This is among the most common heartfelt cries uttered by my patients, together with complaints of food cravings, fluid retention, bloating (usually getting worse by evening), joint pains, mood swings and depression, ‘Irritable bowel syndrome’ and ‘recurrent cystitis’ or ‘hormonal problems’, these last having been labelled by doctors who are unaware of the correct diagnosis and treatment required.
Many of the chronic health problems occurring in mid-life (thirties onwards) are caused by a combination of food or inhalant allergies, intestinal candida overgrowth (the wrong gut bugs in too great a number) and depression of the immune system which normally combats infections and copes with invaders. Predisposing causes include courses of antibiotics, steroids (hydrocortisone) and hormones, especially HRT and the pill, also stressful junk-food lifestyle, mineral deficiency and the pesticides used by our current agricultural methods.
The process is a vicious circle so that it is hard to know what came first, but once started, the lowered immune system allows further candida overgrowth and the development of food and other allergies. It is the food allergies which lead to weight gain and other symptoms.
It is important to distinguish all this from the problems occurring in mid-life which are treatable by regular medical methods through one’s GP. These include thyroid disease, cancer and heart problems, and real menopausal problems requiring HRT. It is always wise to have a physical examination and basic blood tests before embarking on allergy treatment. Most of my patients are self-referred and have already drawn a blank with their GP and often specialists, too. They are usually considerably overweight, know the calorific value of everything, have a ‘fat wardrobe’ and a ‘thin wardrobe’ and do not feel at all well, with energy loss, anxiety and depression. Their problem usually gets much worse in damp or wet weather, which suggests a combination of candida overgrowth and mould allergy.
I see my role with patients as a teacher as well as a doctor, and in one or two consultations I aim to educate the patient to an approach that will help them to track down their own allergies. I give basic nutritional advice and suggestions on drying out houses as well as diet and immunotherapy.
People commonly think that food allergies only cause acute dramatic reactions, such as breaking out in hives after eating strawberries or collapsing after eating nuts. These are obvious and unpleasant events. There is, however a more common food reaction that is even more insidious and harmful. Because this food reaction, called ‘masked llergy’ or ‘food addiction’, is often delayed, stifled, less dramatic and more subjective; it often goes unrecognised.
In masked reaction, the eating of a problem food causes your symptoms to improve rapidly. You temporarily feel better or get a beneficial response from eating that food. This pick-up may last several hours until you finally begin to return to your chronically sick condition. At this point you will again eat the offending food in order to feel better once more, thus setting up the entire cycle again. When symptoms come back, you fail to realise that you return to the problem food for a boost, or to feel well. You think you eat the food because it tastes good. Your addiction makes it difficult for you to guess that food is causing your symptoms.
You may eat one, or several, foods addictively to maintain yourself in a symptom-free condition, and become ‘hooked’ on a food; bread, coffee, chocolate and dairy products (cheese) are the commonest. Any food eaten more often than once every seventy-two hours can be suspect. If you find you are craving a food, it is highly likely that you are addicted to it. Complete removal of the food, and any others to which you are addicted, or allergic, will cause the craving to stop.
This addictive response to food sensitivities is the most frequent form of food allergy. When a food to which you are allergic is eaten frequently while you are still reacting to the previous ‘dose’ of the same food, it will be hidden and the food will not be suspected as an offender. Usually more than one food is involved. You unconsciously use foods which cause this addictive response, in sufficient amounts and repeated doses to keep you in a stimulated or beneficial phase of the reaction.
For a time you can maintain yourself in an upswing or symptom-free state. As you become more addictive (allergic), larger and more frequent feedings of the problem food(s) are required to keep you well. A point will be reached when the feeding schedule breaks down and you slip into a chronically sick condition.
Initially treatment is based on identifying the offending foods and eliminating them from the diet, however, the commonest culprits (dairy products and wheat) are almost universal, and it is not possible to live without them long-term. Fortunately there are now methods of overcoming the allergic response so that one can eat these foods without problems (immunotherapy).
I always start by asking patients (over the phone before I see them) to keep a food diary, a daily record of what they ate, how they felt and the weather, (for example, if the problem gets worse in damp or wet weather). This will help in identifying problem foods and by the time they reach my consulting room, most patients already have a good idea of the culprits.
To return to the problems caused by overgrowth of candida, (a yeast – the organism that causes thrush) in the intestines; there is normally a balance of organisms in the intestine (gut) – the ‘good guys’ keeping the ‘bad guys’ – including candida, under control. This balance can be upset by antibiotics, hormones and the other items mentioned earlier. These symptoms will improve with measures to reduce the gut candida population and supply suitable nutritional and other supplements to strengthen the struggling immune system.
Useful tips for avoiding candida
These are some of the things you can do to help, and which provide relief from symptoms.
For some weeks avoid the following:
• yeast and cheese (except Edam and Cottage)
• foods containing the above ingredients.
Yeasts feed on these items, and the idea is to starve them of nutrients (foods).
Try the following:
• Use lemon juice (freshly-squeezed, not plastic lemons, which grow mould) instead of vinegar on salads.
• Eat un-yeasted soda bread, for a time (this could be home-made or bought from specialist bakers and Health Food Shops).
• The Hay Diet (food combining) is helpful.
• Take vitamins (especially B and C) and minerals, including magnesium, zinc and (yeast-free) selenium, together with evening primrose oil capsules, and some form of acidophilus powder which restores the ‘good guys’ in the intestine.
• Raw garlic and virgin olive oil have candida-killing effects and should be included in your diet.
If you do not respond to these measures, you may have inhalant allergies. If the symptoms come and go seasonally or are worse in wet or thundery weather, you may have an allergy to air-borne mould, which is breathed in, eaten in the form of mould on foods, and found in the bottom of kettles (use a microwave for tea-making if you suspect this). Alternatively, pollens may be the cause, but the timing is different. Some people are allergic to the chemicals given off by carpets, furnishings, laminated Formica, gas, petrol and industrial chemicals. This requires specialist assessment and advice.
• Dry out damp houses with central or other heating, especially after the summer, as mould grows in the walls and in dark, damp, airless places.
• Combine heat with ventilation. If necessary, get a dehumidifier. Ask a non-allergic friend to remove patches of visible mould (black) using bleach or commercial mould killer. Do this regularly. Make the bedroom mould-free, as you spend more time there.
• Old beds collect mould and consideration should be given to renewing the mattress, especially if worse in the mornings. Pillows and bed clothes should be hoovered in a black plastic bag and washed frequently.
It is important that the following are included in your lifestyle:
• regular exercise
• a healthy diet
• music is very helpful for bad days (I suggest you start with Mozart)
• aromatherapy, meditation and homoeopathy are also helpful.
The Total Load Concept likens the body to a bucket which can hold so much, but if you overload it, there will be trouble. The above measures will reduce the load, with some improvement. Undoubtedly you should seek specialist advice when stuck, or the problems seem multiple. My particular approach is educational, using my specialist knowledge to help the sufferer to make the diagnosis, and to find a satisfactory treatment plan. There is hope. People do lose weight, get better and get their energy back.
Food Combining for Health by Grant and Joice (Hay Diet book) Thorsons, 1984.
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