After waking up this morning congested, head stuffy, and my eyes wanting to stay shut for days, it only made sense to talk about inflammation. I laid in bed with the familiar sinus pressure I had not felt in some time. For those of you, like myself that suffer from allergies, you likely know exactly what I’m talking about. Pressure in my cheeks, just next to my nose, traveling right under my eyes!
I have suffered with allergies the majority of my life. Born with the beautiful triad, eczema, asthma and allergies (hence the sarcasm). 😉 For years I chose to deal with it the best I could, taking my inhaler for any and all exercise, on humid days and whenever I was sick. Sickness during winter became the norm. I had eczema on my ankle so bad it bled, leading me to seek out the best moisturizers on the market. Shortly after having my first child, we both got really sick. She recovered well, I did not.
The beginning of the end.
I remember one day clearly, I had been sick for 10 weeks. I know tell me about it. I was counting them because I thought I was losing my mind. It was all upper respiratory. I couldn’t breathe. My face and my head hurt. I was driving to drop her off at day care and then head to work. I was almost there when I simply gave in. I couldn’t do it any more. You know those moments when you are just completely exhausted, you barely can move your body, and you are just so drained from feeling sick… that was me. In a split moment, I called the doctors and was in route to be seen.
Needless to say after two rounds of antibiotics, nasal spray, an antihistamine and an allergy medication, I was feeling better. This was the start of my journey to getting rid of these allergies once and for all! My provider had recommended I stay on the allergy medication year round because of how sick I had been getting. So, that is in fact what I did and it worked!
If it’s not broken—why fix it?
Taking the allergy medication absolutely did work… for some time. But gradually I started to have flare ups again. You see, I didn’t change anything else. The allergy medication was serving as a bandaid and it needed to be changed. I have always eaten healthy, whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, you get the idea. I was physically fit. I worked out every day. I was doing everything right… It was here I started to think about the the route cause of allergies… inflammation.
The basics of inflammation.
Let’s start at the beginning.
When your body is exposed to anything it doesn’t like or anything that is not supposed to be in or on it, it tries to get rid of what it doesn’t like. This is your bodies natural protection. The brain sends special fighters to the place where the substance (chemical, food, bacteria) is and it tried to get rid of it. Your body is so awesome, that it knows it has to send the army to fight it off quickly. It opened up your vessels (arteries), making them bigger, to get the army there as fast as it can. This is why when you have a cut or an infection on the surface of your body, you see redness. This redness is inflammation! Yeah! An ah-ha moment!! As the army shows up it releases its’ weapons, sticky, mucousy fluid, to mobilize, eat and get rid of the invaders (this is the phlegm, stuffiness, etc.) I know gross… but.. it’s the truth. I actually think it’s kinda fascinating!
Here is where the problem lies.
With allergies and reactions to the foods we consume, inhaled chemicals (household cleaners for example) or products one might put on their skin, the body responds the same way as the cut on your skin but inside your body where we can’t see it. For those who suffer, we can most definitely feel it! What would happen if you continued to cut your skin and it continued to become inflamed? Ok… maybe a bad example but you get the idea. You have continued swelling and quite honestly would be in a lot of pain and discomfort. Sounds kinda familiar.
Hopefully this has made sense up until this point. It is important to remember that when your body is “fighting”, your immune system is weakened and your body is under a state of stress– a vicious cycle. For those with uncontrolled allergies, the body remains in this state!
How does what I eat cause worsening of my eczema, asthma & allergies?
Over the last year and a half I have been studying and eating by the elimination/autoimmune diet. I was determined to get to route cause if my allergies and get off the Claritin all together (something I was honestly petrified of). What I found was my healthy diet was actually HURTING me!
The problem with my healthy diet was, I was consuming all of the items that was putting my body on high alert. Gluten, corn, dairy, soy and sugar. This is without mentioning the cleaning products that were in our home! (Bury my head now – I was doing it all wrong). When your body is in a high alert state from inflammation, if it is exposed to any additional item it will potential react to, the response is magnified, causing a larger amount of inflammation.
First things first.
Getting rid of gluten. Wow! That was hard! Do you know gluten is in EVERYTHING!!! From salad dressing to soy sauce, never mind my granola I LOVED so much! I did this for a few weeks and then worked to remove the next item…sugar! I wasn’t so happy about this one either! Removing sugar even included all the “healthy” sugars I thought I was eating, honey, agava, etc. My favorite ice cream was out the window. I continued this pattern with each possible allergen until I had done the best I could to get ride of them. The most interesting change we made was changing to grass fed meat/animal products. I was well aware how animals were fed, but had not placed into this context for our family. What this meant for me and the meats we were eating was, even though we were choosing “antibiotic free”, the means we were consuming had been fed grain, corn etc. eventually transferring these products to me when I consumed them! Even my morning protein shake had to be changed!! As a busy mom, I didn’t think I had time for this, but I didn’t have time to feel crappy all the time either.
Next up. Removing household chemicals + toxins.
Here, I really didn’t know where to start. To begin, I live in an 1764 Farm House. Old post and beam = constant cleaning and maintenance. What worked best for me was to jump in head first. I purchase a Get Clean Starter Kit consisting of all green/toxin free products and started ridding our home of everything that was “normal” to me. I can’t lie, I kept a few of my chemical laden products around just in case the products I had purchased didn’t work— thankfully they were short lived. We were able to transfer over without any problems and haven’t looked back.
After a couple weeks in my new eating plan and a chemical free home, I was getting closer to my goal. With the purchase of an Alfalfa supplement (known to work against inflammation/allergies) I finally felt comfortable coming off my Claritin.
The first day I was perfectly fine. The second day the same. The third day still ok. For a few weeks, each morning I was apprehensive, waiting to have even the slightest bit of congestion. It never came!!
Over time I have been able to introduce items back into my world. I have found I am ok with small amount of dairy and soy. Sugar is a big NO-NO. So is gluten. I’m very cautious and aware how they make me feel. I can often tell if made poor choices the day before. So this morning as I woke up, I reflected on my choices. I had taken the kids out with my mom to get dinner at a Mexican restaurant. As the kids played, my mom and I enjoyed conversation and a sangria. I remember thinking, “I’m going to pay for this in the morning”. It was coconut and lime—it tasted delicious, to good. Full of all the sugar I wasn’t supposed to be enjoying. Better choice next time.
Would you like more information on how to get started? Ideas about what might work best for you? Send me a message and I would be happy to work with you.
As always, if you are under the supervision of a medical profession, seek guidance and approval prior to taking any nutritional supplements and/or making changes to your prescribed diet.