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Jun 8, 2017

Is it a Cold or an allergy?

Is it a cold? Or allergies? If your runny nose and sneezing linger for more than a week or two, there's a good chance it's allergies. If you have allergies, your immune system, your body's defense system against bacteria and viruses, is on overdrive. It's reacting to a normally innocuous substance such as pollen, trees, grasses or ragweed as if it's a foreign invader. Often, it's bugged by more than one thing such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or even food.

In order to defend the body, the immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. These antibodies attach to the body's mast or tissue cells and basophils, or blood cells. When an allergen like pollen encounters its unique IgE, it fits like a key into a lock and releases histamines that result in inflammation and all the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies like a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, itching, rash, swelling, and even asthma.

If your parents are allergy prone, you may be too. Or you can develop them when your resistance is low when you’re under stress. The most common substances that can provoke seasonal allergies in Colorado include: Trees such as Elm, Cottonwood, Cedar, Juniper, Pine and Aspen. other plants such as ragweed, pollen, thistle, dust and sage.

Other substances that can provoke an allergy include: Nickel, cosmetics, lanolin, animal dander, dust mites, some common drugs such as penicillin, aspirin and sulfa drugs, some food additives such as benzoic acid, food colorings and sulfites and chemicals found in soap and laundry detergents.

Many people are allergic to molds. Molds can live throughout the house, under the sink and in the bathroom, basement, refrigerator or any dark and damp place. Mold spores are carried in the wind and predominate in the summer and early fall. Cutting grass, harvesting crops or walking through tall vegetation can provoke a reaction.

Foods can also provoke allergic reactions. Some of the most common allergenic foods include chocolate, dairy products, eggs, shellfish, strawberries, citrus fruits, corn, wheat, peanuts, food additives, preservatives and dyes.

What causes environmental allergies?  Many environmental allergies are caused by food allergies.  When your internal environment such as your digestive tract and immune system is not working very well you develop environmental allergies.

What kind of natural treatments are available for environmental allergies? You can get rid of both food and environmental allergies.  Allergies tend to get worse every year if not treated.  Dr. Wiancek uses homeopathy to desensitize a person from their specific environmental allergies. She also uses natural anti-inflammatory products and Chinese herbs depending upon how severe the reaction. 

What is the difference between a food intolerances and food allergy? A person with a food intolerance is unable to digest and process food correctly, usually due to a lack of a certain enzymes and inflammation in the gut. A food allergy occurs when a person's immune system generates an antibody response to the injected food. Food intolerances can lead to an allergy, if particles of undigested food manage to enter the bloodstream and cause a reaction.

What are the most common symptoms of food allergies?  There are many symptoms related to food allergies these include:

Recurrent colds, sore throats, chronic tonsillitis, ear infections, ringing and buzzing in the ears, chronic nasal congestion, postnasal drip, Meniere's syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, ulcerative colitis, gallbladder disease, irritable bowel disease, migraines and other headaches, hives, canker sores, psoriasis, eczema, acne, asthma, frequent urination, teeth grinding, bedwetting, colic, muscle aches, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, unexplained fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, food cravings, obesity etc.

Most of these disorders have more than one cause, but food allergy is a relatively common and frequently overlooked cause. How a food allergy is best diagnosed? Food allergies are best tested thru a blood test.  The skin scratch test is used mainly for environmental allergies and immediate reactions to food.  Most people have delayed reactions to food which can be a symptom happening up to three days after eating an allergic food. A person can become allergic to almost any type of food and any combination of foods. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is important.

Environmental and food allergies do not go away on there own.  If left untreated allergies tend to get worse every year.  Allergies can be treated successfully by improving your overall immune function, desensitizing a person from environmental allergies, eliminating the allergen, improving digestion and overall intestinal health.

Dr. Wiancek is a naturopathic physician who has been practicing at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Natural Pharmacy in Edwards, Colorado.  She is an author, educator and practitioner specializing in natural medicine. For questions you can e-mail her at or call at 970-926-7606.