How to prevent asthma and other allergies and sensitivities and how to treat them if you have them
Much public information is wrong. Margaret Moss elaborates.
Much public health information is wrong. Yes, there are some good pieces of advice. Yes, do exercise, but not on a polluted main road. One disastrous piece of advice has been for women and children to avoid allergenic foods like peanuts. How can a baby’s immune system be programmed to accept peanuts as normal, if its mother avoided them throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Allergic reactions are adverse reactions to substances that do not bother most other people. However, most doctors consider allergy to mean only adverse reactions which are known to have an immunological mechanism. To avoid confusion, I prefer to talk about being sensitive to substances, unless I know the immune system is involved. Some people talk of intolerances, but this term has been taken over by those who blame reactions on an antibody called IgG. This is a normal part of the immune system, not an indicator of foods to avoid. If you produce a lot of IgG to foods, it means that your digestive enzymes are inadequate, or your gut wall is too leaky, and food fragments are finding their way through the gut wall into the bloodstream. The immune system then responds correctly by making IgG, to process the fragments.
What are we doing wrong?
Allergies and asthma have become so common. What are we doing wrong? It can’t be that the population has developed bad genes, as that would have taken too long.
Chemicals from traffic, factories, power stations, and cement plants increase the release of inflammatory substances into the blood. We have chemically polluted homes, schools and workplaces. Childhood asthma deaths peak in August, when certain moulds are common. Showers encourage mould growth. Coal smoke is implicated. Rural villages often still have coal fires. Countryside near towns may not be healthy for walking, if polluted by factories nearby. Passive and active smoking, pesticides, “air fresheners”, and food additives, even natural colourings, can cause asthma. Sulphite, in drinks, sauerkraut, dried potato, corn syrup, Epipens and parenteral medicines, can trigger asthma. Food allergens vary from country to country, for example milk in the West, and swifts’ nest soup in China. Cockroaches and pets can trigger asthma, as can viruses. Boric acid can be used to kill cockroaches, if there is no crawling baby or pet to be harmed by it. Paracetamol used in pregnancy and given to children increases the asthma risk. Trans fats in hydrogenated oil increase inflammation. Asthma deaths in the elderly peak in the UK winter, perhaps because of viruses, or drugs used to treat them. Exercise protects, but chlorinated swimming pools are risky.
Leukotrienes are inflammatory chemicals made from the fat, arachidonic acid, obtained from vegetable oils and meat, and which inflame the airways in asthma. They increase production of mucus. Anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen increase leukotriene production. Omega three fats from fish replace arachidonic acid in cell membranes, reducing the production of leukotrienes. Western diets usually have too little fish and too much vegetable oil.
We need to start prevention before the baby is conceived
We need to start prevention before the baby is conceived. Are both would-be parents really healthy? If the mother has been using the contraceptive pill, she should use a barrier method for six months, to allow her body to recover. Antibiotics often kill good bacteria, and should be used only if we really need them. If the mother has taken antibiotics, she should take a one-month course of reputable probiotic capsules to restore her good gut bacteria. The father needs zinc for sperm. The mother needs zinc, to read the genetic blueprint for the foetus. Magnesium prevents blood pressure from rising too high in pregnancy. B vitamins, zinc and magnesium protect against morning sickness. Folic acid and vitamin B12 protect against spina bifida. Low vitamin D in pregnancy can predispose to asthma. Caesarean sections delay the colonisation of the baby’s gut by good bacteria, and increase the risk of asthma. They should only be carried out when necessary.
Ideally the baby should be exclusively breastfed for six months
Ideally the new baby should be exclusively breastfed for six months, and partially breastfed for six more months. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the mother needs to have a broad diet, only excluding what she herself cannot tolerate, or foods that clearly upset the baby. Breast milk contains traces of the mother’s foods. This teaches the baby’s immune system that these foods are acceptable. The baby learns what is normal, so that it does not react against these foods later. Pets should not be avoided unless a family member needs to do so. Breast milk protects the baby from infection, and builds up a healthy population of good bacteria in the gut. These good bacteria protect against infection and the development of allergy. Parasites do this as well, and African children tend to have less allergies than Western children. The mother should later introduce her own diet to the baby, liquidised, as the baby has been prepared for this food.
Some viruses move the infant towards anti-allergy mode. It may be useful to catch such viruses at this time.
We should look at individual needs
We should consider individual needs, looking for signs of deficiency and excess, improving diet and carefully balancing supplements.
Fish oil, and special fats in butter and coconut help the integrity of the gut wall, reducing leakiness.
Molybdenum and vitamins B2, B5 and B12 detoxify sulphites. Sulphate production is increased by these nutrients, vitamin B6, omega 3 fats, magnesium and zinc. Sulphate detoxifies paracetamol, some chemicals from foods and the environment, and some made in the body, like histamine. Sulphate is needed to make stomach acid and digestive enzymes and reduce gut leakiness. Epsom salt baths provide magnesium and sulphate, which are absorbed through the skin. Radish, spinach and orange prevent sulphate from working well. Boron causes excretion of vitamin B2, which can lead to poor sulphate production. It should not be in nutritional supplements.
Magnesium is a bronchodilator that is found in vegetables, nuts, seeds and bananas. It can be used in emergency, but is better used for prevention. Methylation is a process that acts against histamine. It requires magnesium and folic acid to work. Vitamin B5 is needed to make cortisol, which is anti-inflammatory. Vitamin C acts against histamine, decreases bronchial responsiveness, and is an antioxidant. Manganese, copper and zinc are in an antioxidant enzyme. Copper is also in an enzyme that reduces histamine levels. The intake of copper, vitamin A and selenium should be adequate, but not excessive. Vitamin D may protect against respiratory infections and asthma, and reduce their intensity. We should encourage moderate sun exposure and the inclusion of enough fat in the diet, so that vitamin D may be made. Antioxidants like natural E vitamins and natural carotenoids inhibit the production of inflammatory leukotrienes.
Ordinary coughs and whooping cough can be wrongly diagnosed as asthma, and a child put needlessly on inhalers for life. We can treat ordinary coughs with low dose oral Epsom salts, by chewing magnesium and L-lysine, and using vitamin E drops or chewing vitamin E capsules. It is enough to use an eighth of a flat teaspoon of Epsom salts BP four times a day.
There needs to be enough B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, calcium and biotin for the conversion of plant fats into anti-inflammatory chemicals. B vitamins, magnesium and zinc are needed to convert cysteine to taurine, which protects against swimming pool water.
Individuals may benefit from avoiding milk because of allergy, because of difficulty breaking milk sugar into simple sugars, because of its high calcium:magnesium ratio, because milk sugar feeds fungi in the gut, because milk sugar increases the need for vitamin B2, or because beta casomorphine from milk protein acts rather like opium.
Simple measures can limit exposure to toxins. Ventilate the house from the back to avoid pollution, and if possible, avoid a corner house, which is polluted by two roads. Re-circulate air in the car, rather than taking in air from the exhaust of the car in front. Walk along paths or back streets. Play in the park, not by the road. Use soda crystals and sodium bicarbonate for cleaning, rather than toxic modern chemicals.
We can reverse the increase of allergy
We can reverse the increase of allergy, by reducing caesareans, encouraging breastfeeding and the consumption of a variety of foods in pregnancy and lactation, by cleaning up pollution, by moderate sun exposure, and by improving nutrition.
Margaret Moss MA UCTD DipION CBiol MSB
First published in 2009