Eczema, allergies & asthma are a triad, meaning people who have one are more likely to have or develop the others. We know that all three are an over-reaction of the immune system. But at what point did something go wrong that the immune system was thrown off? Usually the answer lies within the digestive tract at an early age.
The digestive tract is aligned with a thin mucosal barrier that is loaded with immune cells. When food is digested our immune system looks at that food (particularly the protein structures within that food) and responds with, “Is this my tissue? Is it foreign? And is it harmful?” A healthy response to food is for our body to say, “Yes, it is foreign, but not harmful and therefore I am not going to react.” This is not the case with people who fall into the triad and have an inflammatory response to something benign like food.
So what went wrong and when? The first year of life is crucial in the development of the immune system. When a baby is born vaginally their guts become populated with good bacteria. When a baby is breastfed they are more likely to develop an immune system that doesn’t overreact. Recent research found children who were exposed to 3 or more antibiotics in the first year of life were more likely to develop asthma because their normal gut flora was wiped out. When foods are introduced too early children develop allergies and also when foods are introduced after 2 years old a child is more likely to develop an allergic reaction. There is a lot of discussion and research looking into the effects of GMO foods causing damage to the lining of the digestive tract resulting in what is known as “leaky gut”, which means undigested food is able to cross the mucosal barrier resulting in an immune reaction.
What I am getting at is the digestive tract plays an important role in the immune response, starting at an early age and most importantly within the first year of life. Which means that if I am going to truly treat someone (not just provide symptom relief) for allergies, eczema or asthma I have to address the digestive tract as part of their treatment plan. This means eliminating the offenders for a period of time.
Finding the offending foods can be difficult, but the best place to start is with an elimination diet and to remove GMO foods. Unfortunately today, with GMO foods in so many products, this requires a lot of commitment, but in the end it is so worth it. Some people prefer to do food allergy testing that includes IgE antibodies and IgG antibody testing. These tests are not 100%, but may be helpful in determining the foods that are triggering a response. After the foods have been removed from the diet the goal is to repair the digestive tract by rebuilding healthy cells and repopulating the gut with good bacteria. Over time once the digestive tract has healed the offending foods may be reintroduced slowly.
Of course there are other factors and triggers to consider too. We now know that children who live in too clean of an environment are more likely to develop allergies. So contrary to popular belief throw away the antibacterial cleaning products and hand sanitizers.
And of course there are environmental factors that exacerbate these conditions such as smoke (e.g. cigarette or cane burning), pollen, termite dust, cockroach droppings, mold, vog and dander which need to be addressed in the home. You may be surprised how much mold can build up behind furniture so every now and again, especially those in the Haiku region, pull out the furniture and give it a good clean.
Image Credit: Gaia Photography