I have severe allergies and asthma and they seem to get worse in the fall. I take Advair, Zyrtec and use an albuterol inhaler. Breathing should not be such a chore. How can I get permanently well?” –G.D., Albany, New York
Answer: Asthma attacks are frightening because you never know what will trigger an attack of coughing, wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Naturally, most people associate allergies and asthma as a problem of the lungs, but I think differently.
We know for sure that allergies are a reflection of your immune system going haywire, and your immune cells live primarily in the GI tract — yes, the gut — so breathing problems could begin there, and many researchers agree with me. A diet void of fiber and nutrition, consisting mainly of white flour, sweets, dairy and fried foods will cause the overgrowth of yeast in the gut, called Candida albicans. It takes over, destroying healthy microflora (probiotics) which you need for healthy immune function. As for dairy, it contains “casein,” which has been tied to allergies and asthma, and going off dairy seems to offer relief for many chronic sufferers.
Regulatory T-cells are immune cells which live in your gut and help you. In the face of fast food, casein, Candida and antibiotics, your T-cells’ tolerance goes down and they become annoyed easily. Then, when you exercise, take aspirin (salicylates), inhale a common allergen (like pollen, pollution, dust particles, mold spores or animal dander), or are exposed to irritants (detergents, cleansers, perfumes or chemicals), tiny microscopic hairs along the respiratory tract grab hold of these substances and wash some of them into your GI tract. There, your T-cells, poised like soldiers, go nuts and send out a message to the lungs that says, “Attack! We’re under assault!” The whole cascade of breathing misery begins.
Contrarily, T-cells that live in a healthy gut build up a tolerance and allow common allergens to fly under the radar as no big deal. This is why permanent healing starts with what you eat.
Prescribed medications save lives, but they’re tricky. They should be used as part of your bigger plan. You said you take Advair, a popular combination drug containing a steroid (fluticasone) to reduce inflammation, and a long-acting bronchodilator (salmeterol) to open airways. Albuterol also opens up airways and works quickly. Zyrtec is an antihistamine used to dry you up. Other meds employed include Singular, Clarinex, Flonase, Xopenex and Atrovent.
Consider these options: Quercetin (found in green tea, berries, grapes and apples), which acts like an antihistamine, and reduces inflammation, and NAC (N-acetylcysteine), which helps thin mucous. Also, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin C. Obviously, gut repair is crucial to permanent health, so take “probiotics” which offset intestinal yeast overgrowth and digestive enzymes and/or acids which help you break down foods. You can develop a drug allergy at any time.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.