Updated: May 16
- From the desk of Dr. Brkich
Article Date: June 2020, addendum May 2023
Seasonal allergies to pollens, grasses, and trees are common at this time of year, as so many sufferers know so well.
Seasonal allergies can cause debilitating symptoms. One particularly high pollen spring M. F. was having such severe reactions to the high pollen that he was unable to drive. He literally could not see while driving. M. F. suffered from inflammatory bowel disease and gout for most of his adult life. He wanted treatment for his inflammatory bowel disease and maybe gout, but he was definitely not interested in treating his pollen allergy. Not because he didn’t want relief, but because he didn't think there was anything that could be done for seasonal allergies. He held the common belief that if you have an allergy to something, you are stuck with it, and there is nothing that can be done except to avoid the offending allergen.
To treat his inflammatory bowel disease we ordered a series of specialized tests to see if we could pinpoint the cause of M. F.’s inflammatory diathesis. Based on his results we began a treatment protocol aimed at correcting his electrolyte imbalance, impaired digestion, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. A pollen allergy wasn’t on his mind until his inflammatory bowel disease was addressed first. His inflammatory bowel disease was a much bigger concern for him than a pollen allergy that he knew would go away when the pollen went away. His inflammatory bowel disease resulted in numerous hospitalizations and surgeries and profoundly affected his quality of life. Inability to drive was minor compared to constantly battling severe diarrhea, excruciating abdominal pain and numerous trips to the hospital for intravenous feeding because he could not hold anything down during flareups of his disease. Years of corticosteroid anti-inflammatories made his bones thin and brittle, resulting in several surgeries from accidental falls.
Can you guess what happened when M. F. began his inflammatory bowel disease treatment protocol? His allergy symptoms disappeared. He could drive again despite the pollen. This came as a surprise because we did not even begin to treat his allergies.
This should not have been a surprise based on what we know about allergies today. Allergies are a symptom, not a disease. Allergies always have an underlying root cause. In M. F.’s case the cause of his pollen allergy was to be found in the gastrointestinal dysfunction that caused his inflammatory bowel disease and gout. In other words, the cause of his allergies was the same as the cause of his inflammatory bowel disease and gout.
This case is a textbook example of how an inflammatory process originating in the intestinal tract can cause symptoms seemingly unrelated to the inflammation there. We see over and over again how rebalancing gastrointestinal dysfunction and repairing a damaged gut lining results in the disappearance of seemingly unrelated symptoms elsewhere in the body.
So, what should you do if you suffer from allergies? Allergies are a warning sign. If you have allergies you must look for the underlying cause if you want lasting relief. The underlying cause can be different from person to person, but there is always an underlying cause for every person.
Allergy relieving prescription medications and natural remedies have their place in managing allergy symptoms. However, managing symptoms is not the same as treating the underlying cause. When you treat the underlying cause, the symptoms will usually go away on their own, often for good.
What happens if you don’t treat the cause? Without intervention the underlying condition will progressively worsen over time. You may be told that your symptoms are due to aging and are a natural process of getting older. This is not necessarily true. Getting older is, of course, something we cannot control. But getting sick or disabled by degenerative diseases as we get older is discretionary and avoidable if, and only if, we pay attention to our symptoms and search out their cause. Searching for the cause is the only way to stop the progression of inflammatory diseases such as seasonal allergies, food allergies, food sensitivities/intolerances, chemical sensitivities, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, kidney disease, hepatic steatosis or fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, Alzheimers, and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, autoimmune thyroid diseases (Graves disease, Hashimoto’s), non celiac gluten sensitivity, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many others.
Addendum to the July 2020 allergies article
Since our allergies article was posted in July, 2020 there has been a multitude of scientific studies on the role of the microbiome in health and disease. Mounting evidence is emerging that loss of microbial diversity in the human microbiome appears to be the most common denominator associated with many, if not all, of the common diseases that people suffer from these days. The loss of microbial diversity in the intestinal tract, especially the loss of essential keystone strains of protective beneficial bacteria, is gaining acceptance as the underlying driving force of dysfunction, illness, and disease in the human body. M.F.’s case was not unique. An emerging hypothesis is that there is no acquired health condition or disease known to medicine that isn’t, in some way or another, related to, or fueled by some sort of imbalance in the gut.
Our understanding of health and disease keeps changing as new evidence emerges from the thousands of studies on the gut microbiome in the recent past. Yet, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, the more things change the more they stay the same. The science is confirming what has already been known for centuries. Hippocrates said almost 3 thousand years ago that all disease begins in the gut.
It should not come as a surprise that allergies (including sensitivities, and intolerances) are gaining wider acceptance as symptoms of gut dysfunction. The new research is much welcomed and inspiring reaffirmation for those practitioners of natural medicine whose observations led them to believe that Hippocrates was right all along. Unfortunately, it takes decades before current research becomes standard of care in conventional practice.