New year well-being for allergy sufferers

Nutritionist Micki Rose advises on how to stay well throughout 2013 if you have a chronic condition, allergy or sensitivity.

A body MOT at this time of year is a must for most people, especially if the sherry’s been out and the couch has been sat on for hours on end! For those of us who suffer with chronic health problems such as allergy, ME or candida, though, it’s even more important to think about how to improve our general health. Day-to-day focus on managing a complex health condition means that many of us forget the more obvious steps we can take to achieve the best body and mind health we possibly can.

Here are my top wellbeing tips for this new year. Follow them and they will pay dividends long-term - a healthy body is most often a less reactive one!

  1. Eat A Colourful, Seasonal, Organic Diet. Obviously this needs to fit in with your dietary requirements, but by doing this, you’ll ensure you eat good nutritious food packed with phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids at the very time of year you’re designed to eat it so your body knows what to do with it. Importantly, this diet will be minus the immune-confusing, hormone-altering pesticides and other agrochemicals in non-organic food.  Make veg half of every plate of food you eat and aim for at least three different colours, not including white or brown, to get close to the levels of antioxidants needed for true health. We should be working towards 10 a day never mind 5 a day!
  1. Detoxify Your Environment. Practically every product we use has chemicals in it that have been linked to cancer or other health issues in some way or another so swop your toiletries and home cleaning products to non-toxic versions. Move any digital clocks, radios, DECT phones or other electrical stuff off your bedside table and keep cordless phone stations and Wifi routers in a room you don’t use often. Opt for DLAN rather than Wifi and use landlines and cabled connections whenever you can. Avoid adding chemicals into your home with plant or flea sprays, air fresheners and artificial aromatherapy candles.
  1. Be Positive. A positive mental attitude makes us healthier. Laugh more and learn not to give yourself such a hard time with that inner voice. Try to stop yourself whenever you think something negative about yourself or others; turn it around and look for the positive. Don’t watch or listen to the news too often, avoid dramas, depressing soaps and negative newspapers and books. Choose comedies, inspiring biographies, feel-good movies and re-runs of your favourite shows.
  1. Have Regular Hypnotherapy or Reiki. Visualise yourself well and happy, keep your energy channels clear and re-learn how to relax and let go of stress.
  1. Get Connected. Loneliness is not a good feeling, and neither is it good for your health. Join clubs, see family and friends more, make time to be with people you love, but avoid those who bring you down. Learn a new skill with others – it doesn’t matter if it’s belly-dancing, pot-holing or crochet, do whatever floats your boat. Create your own supportive environment.
  1. Don’t Fret. Control the things you can and stop worrying about the things you can’t; it’s draining. Make a list of the top five things that worry you. Start with the top one and work out what you might be able to do to either change the situation, or your attitude towards it. Project yourself forward to your 100th birthday, look back and think: ‘Did it matter that much?’ Probably not.
  1. Exercise Your Mind and Body. ‘Use it or lose it’ as the saying goes. Get moving, whether it’s wiggling your toes in your chair, a walk to work every day or a full cardio workout. Develop a mix of activities to keep yourself interested – meditation or yoga for your subconscious, weights and walking for your bones, muscles and fitness, and reading or puzzles for your brain. Keep interested in things; question and challenge what’s going on around you. Do this to feel forever young.
  1. Filter Your Water. What you drink is as important as what you eat. Install a reverse osmosis water filter under your sink with a separate tap for drinking and cooking water. Add a whole-house dechlorinator for household water so you’re avoiding showering and bathing in chemicals.
  1. Take the Right Supplements. If you’re not sure your diet or lifestyle is the best it can be, take insurance-dose supplements for wellbeing. Choose a broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral such as AOR’s Multi Basics 3 or Nutrigold’s British Multi, a balance of the omega fats (flaxseed, olive oil, evening primrose or borage oil and fish oils) and a regular probiotic with at least 2 billion live cells of acidophilus and bifido bacteria.
  1. Commune With Nature. Get outside as often as you can into green space or near the sea. If you’re stuck indoors much of the day, sit near an open window overlooking your garden or window box, place plenty of plants around you and even add a nature-scene screensaver to your computer if you’re in an office so you have something calming and pleasant to look at in between jobs. Boost your Vitamin D levels in the sunshine, but avoid slathering yourself in toxic sunscreens – choose a non-chemical version instead from Weleda or Green People.

Allergy Essentials

As well as the general wellbeing steps, what are the most important things to do if you suffer from allergy, or any other chronic health problem? Here are my top five:

  • You Are What You Absorb. You could eat the best diet and take the most effective supplements in the world, but what if you’re not actually absorbing them? See a nutritionist or get a test to check your acid and enzyme production, or simply try taking extra in supplement form with each meal – Biocare do some good ones - although don’t do this if you have a confirmed hiatus hernia. Most allergy, candida and ME sufferers need more, in my experience. Think about it: if you don’t have enough stomach acid, you can’t break down food very well, nor can you kill any baddies such as yeasts coming through the mouth. Invariably, if acid production is low, so are digestive enzyme levels. If you don’t break down food well, you get partially-digested proteins in the gut which could ferment leading to bloating and wind, or can irritate the gut wall and cause leaky gut. Or, the proteins can go through an already-leaky gut triggering an allergic reaction. The proteins are like party-food for yeasts and bacteria too and will make you feel a whole lot worse generally. A no-brainer, really.
  • Go, Go, Go
    It is vital you ensure your bowel is working optimally. Most chronic problems start with a toxic body. If you’re not going daily at least once with easy, formed movements, you need to take steps to improve things. Try adding a tablespoon of linseeds and more water to your daily diet, but if that doesn’t help enough, see someone – don’t let it fester, literally.
  • Avoid Adrenal Lows
    Your adrenal glands sit near the top of your kidneys and have several jobs to do, not least to produce your natural steroid hormone, cortisol. The adrenals are on the go constantly producing adrenaline and cortisol every time you add a stress to your body such as worry, exercising too hard or too often, consuming sugar, fizzy drinks, alcohol, nicotine, white food like pasta, bread or rice, and every time you have an allergic reaction. Eventually they’re going to get very tired. For allergy and fatigue sufferers this is crucial knowledge. If you have a severe allergic reaction, what is the drug of choice? A steroid. How much better to be able to make enough of your own? If you’re not, your allergic reactions can become more frequent and severe. Get your adrenals tested with a four-saliva sample assay and increase your adrenal function if your output is too low.  
  • Boost Liver Function
    As with a toxic bowel, sluggish liver function is often a key problem in those suffering chronic health conditions so ensuring optimum function is vital. Doctors may have tested your liver function ie. your production of liver enzymes and found no problems, but that is only part of the story. How is your liver actually detoxing? It may be that your sulphation pathways are not up to the job, for example, and this can be an inherited trait or simply a lack of the specific nutrients needed. Clues can be feeling generally ‘poisoned’, a low tolerance of alcohol and allergic reactions to drugs. It’s always a good idea to get this tested and support the liver’s attempts to help you get well.

  • Reheal Your Broken Barriers
    We simply wouldn't be having reactions if allergens weren't able to get through the very body barriers meant to be keeping them out. You can test for leaky gut, of course, but my view is that anyone with a reaction to something has developed leakiness and it is just a question of where and how far has it got. It starts with increased permeability in the gut but can progress to affect other barriers, most notably the blood-brain (think: migraine, depression, neurological problems) and skin (as in eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis) but could also be sinuses, lungs or a host of other barriers. You need first to remove whatever is causing the leakiness – gluten and grains are well-known key barrier damagers for a start – and then treat to repair the damage. Learn more about barrier breakdown here and follow the advice to eliminate as many 'breakers' as possible and stop the process.

Follow the Right Diet

  • Eat fresh, seasonal, local, organic food.  You probably can’t do it totally, but follow the 80/20 rule. Get it right most of the time and the slips won’t matter as much.
  • Avoid processed and ready-made foods. This includes ready meals, sausages, cooked meat as well as ready-washed salad leaves unless organic and prepared vegetables which will have oxidised and lost their goodness. An exception might be good quality tinned fish and ready-made muesli. If you don’t recognise it as the whole food, limit it.
  • Cook quickly at the lowest heat setting you can. This will ensure you retain as many nutrients as possible. Steaming is the best cooking method. Never chargrill or blacken anything. A quick stir-fry using a little stock, olive oil or lemon juice and water is fine.
  • Use the right cooking utensils and pans. Avoid plastic utensils and opt for stainless steel instead. Don’t use non-stick pans; use only stainless steel or enamelled pans like Le Creuset. Don’t store foods in their plastic bags or in plastic containers; put them in glass or crock instead.
  • Flavour with herbs and spices. Use garlic, ginger and turmeric especially in your cooking if you can. A clove of garlic and a pinch of turmeric every day will keep your immune system and liver in tip-top condition.  
  • Eat lots of veg. To get the 9-10 portions a day, the easiest is to eat lots of juices, soups, salads and steamed veg with meals. Don’t peel veg if organic; use a brush to scrub them clean.
  • Choose berries. Fruits are not as good for you in health terms as vegetables, but berries are the exception. If you have a choice of fruit, choose grapes, blackberries, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries and raspberries for the most health benefit.
  • Don’t forget grains and pulses. Try non-gluten high-protein grains such as brown basmati and short-grain rice, quinoa, millet and wild rice. Add pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, split peas and beans such as kidney, cannellini and black eye into curries, soups, stir-fries, dips and casseroles.
  • Eat plenty and regularly. Graze through the day to keep blood sugar stable and energy high; aim for every three hours.
  • Pick perfect proteins. Choose organic, high quality and sustainable proteins. Go for 100% meats such as chicken, turkey, lamb, steak or game rather than sausages, burgers, pies and pre-formed meats. Aim to eat fish three times a week, fresh preferably or frozen, not salted, cured or smoked. Choose salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, herring, seabass, bream and halibut most often. Choose the best quality and most sustainably fished varieties you can find – deep sea fish is often a better bet, although organic famed salmon and cod are good choices. If you can’t eat fish, use a tablespoon of fresh ground mixed seeds in your breakfast cereal daily instead – use a coffee-grinder. Three to five free range eggs a week is a good amount of an excellent protein. Don’t worry about eggs and cholesterol; it’s a myth. Avoid cow’s milk dairy products and opt for soya, rice or oat milk and yogurts instead. Tofu and tempeh are other great veggie sources of high quality protein – use them in stirfries and dips, and miso soup is a god-send pick-me-up when you need one.
  • Don’t be scared of fat. You need fat to survive so don’t go too low, just choose wisely. Use olive oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil on salads and avoid trans-fat heavy margarines and anything that has the words ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially-hydrogenated’ on the label. Include plenty of nuts and/or seeds if you can, they won’t make you put on weight even though they’re a great source of essential fats. Sprinkle them on porridge, salads and soups and try them unroasted and unsalted as snacks.

Wellbeing Menu

  • Oat or Rice Porridge made with soya or rice milk, vanilla essence and grapes, banana or other fruit for breakfast
  • A mid-morning snack of rice, oat or corn cakes with a dip such as hummus, mashed cannellini beans or avocado
  • Lunch of vegetable soup thickened with lentils or with brown rice and/or chickpeas added, plus a large salad with plenty of different colours
  • A mid afternoon snack of crudités or rice/oatcakes with dip, or a handful of nuts/seeds and a couple of pieces of fruit. The odd square of 70% dark chocolate now and then is a nice treat for a sugar craving
  • Tea of curry, risotto, stir-fry, casserole, tortilla or meat and fish with plenty of steamed veg and/or rice followed by a fruit dish
  • Before-bed snack of oatcake, no sugar or salt nut or seed butter and mashed banana, especially if you wake between 3-5am normally
  • For drinks, choose green, white, black or herb teas, plenty of water, the odd hot or cold soya or rice latte and a few glasses of red wine a week if you fancy it

Check out Micki's extremely helpful and informative sites at Pure Health Clinic and Truly Gluten Free.

First published January 2010; revised January 2013

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