An allergy is simply an excessive immune reaction to a substance that is otherwise not harmful to the body (as opposed to a toxin). Allergens may be inhaled, ingested or affect the skin and therefore include hayfever, asthma, digestive upset, and eczema reactions. When an allergen is recognized by the immune system an antibody, or immunoglobulin, is made to help the immune system recognize the danger more quickly in the future. There are 5 types of immunoglobulins made by the body.
Symptoms of allergy vary between individuals and allergens but common signs and symptoms of allergies include generalized itching, runny nose and/or sinus congestion, sneezing, digestive disturbances, migraines or other headaches, hyperactivity or restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle aches, and/or dark circles under the eyes (known as “allergic shiners”).
Food sensitivities are reactions to food that may occur outside of the classic immune reaction of an allergy. In these cases individuals notice a negative impact on their health from certain foods but antibodies will not be detectable, as the issue may stem from a non-immune pathway. Lactose intolerance is one example of a food to which some individuals may be sensitive without being allergic. Your ND can work with you to identify, avoid, and successfully treat such reactions.
Food allergy testing looks at two types of immunoglobulins – one for immediate reactions and one for delayed reactions – against 96 of the most commonly consumed foods. An additional test looks at 96 other foods including many herbs and spices. These tests require a blood draw that is sent to a lab for processing.
Scratch testing on the skin can be done to assess a response against various pollens from grasses, weeds, ragweeds, and trees, as well as cat and dog dander, dust mites, and moulds. Testing takes place at Sage Clinic in a 30 minute appointment, although the patient is required to remain at the clinic for an additional 15 minutes to ensure that there is no delayed reaction.
Any allergy assessment requires avoidance of allergy and some other medications for a period of time prior to testing. Discuss any medications you may be currently taking with your ND.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of techniques for restoring healthy physiology in their patients.
Food allergies and sensitivities may be treated with various nutritional supplements, herbal formulations, dietary counselling, and/or homeopathics may be used based on the needs of the patient and the symptoms that they express.
Environmental allergies to pollens, cats, dogs, dust mites, and moulds can be treated with SubLingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). This is similar to “allergy shots” in which a minute dose of the offending agent(s) is delivered to the body to allow the immune system to recalibrate to a level in which an allergic response is not mounted. However, SLIT is taken orally 2-4x/day which allows for a more continuous exposure of the allergens to the immune system for better results. And SLIT doesn’t involve weekly appointments or injections making it a better choice for children and those with busy schedules. The treatment vials are covered by most insurance plans. Patients using SLIT can expect to be desensitized (free of symptoms!) within 2-5 years of continuous use of the treatment vials.
For allergens not covered by SLIT (ie. birds, horses, chemicals, foods), or for those patients with a vast range of allergic reactions, a more generalized immune rebalancing program is available. Injections that moderate the immune response are given 1-2x/week over a period of 3 months. One session may be adequate for some patients with others requiring a repeat treatment the following year.