Nutritional therapy can be used to attack allergies in two ways. First, by eliminating the foods that may trigger allergic reactions and second, by “calming” the body’s response to allergens.
The “elimination diet” can help to identify food allergies, if any. The idea is simple: Eat only a few different foods for three or four days. If there are no allergic reactions, introduce more foods into the diet, one by one, until the offending food or foods are identified.
The process can be tedious and it can lead to confusing results. For example, if adding cake back to the diet causes an allergic reaction, you can’t be sure which ingredient in the cake is to blame. Still, this is a basic and often effective process for identif~ring food allergens.
Vitamins and minerals that help control allergies. A number of vitamins, minerals and other substances have been found to be helpful in quelling immune reactions:
- Niacin. Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacin may inhibit the release of histamines, which play a major role in the allergic response. When people with hay fever were given injections of a form of niacin called nicotinamide, their symptoms improved. Food sources include almonds, barley and prunes.
- Pantothenic acid. When more than 100 patients with allergic rhinitis (“runny nose”) were given 250 mg of pantothenic acid twice a day, their symptoms were rapidly relieved. Pantothenic acid can be found in liver, eggs and avocado.
- Vitamin C. A study of 437 healthy people found that low levels of vitamin C in the blood are linked to high levels of histamines. (Histamines are produced as part of the allergic reaction ) When 11 volunteers were given 1 gram of vitamin C a day for three days, their histamine levels fell. This finding suggests that vitamin C might block or reduce allergic reactions. Food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, asparagus and turnip greens. In a test of the vitamin C/histamine connection, 16 people with allergic rhinitis were given 2 grams of vitamin C and a placebo, in either order. Neither the volunteers nor the doctors knew who was taking what or when. The subjects then inhaled histamine. When they had taken only the placebo, the histamine weakened their ability to breathe (maximal expiratory flow). But if they had just been given the vitamin C, there was no such trouble.
- Vitamin E. To see if vitamin E could reduce the swelling associated with allergies, volunteers agreed to have histamines injected into their skin. Some were pretreated with vitamin E for five to seven days, some were not. The ones who had received the vitamin suffered much less swelling of the skin at the site of the injection than did the others.
- Calcium. Although normally associated with bones and blood pressure, the mineral calcium also plays a role in the allergic response. In one study, 25 people with allergic rhinitis were given intravenous (P1) infusions of calcium and a placebo, in either order. Neither the doctors nor the volunteers knew who was receiving the mineral or the placebo at any time during the study.
The volunteers were then exposed to inhaled allergens. It took 170 percent as much of the offending substance to trigger an allergic reaction in the sufferers who had received the calcium as compared to the placebo. In other words, calcium reduced the susceptibility to allergies by “raising the thresh old” or response.
Other substances have been found to be helpful in reducing the symptoms of allergies, including the minerals molybdenum and zinc and the biofiavonoids catechin and quercetin. When selecting a nutritional healer, remember that there is no widely recognized school of nutritional therapy and no standards or agreed upon training for nutritional healers.