Analysing Allergies and how to treat them

When I was growing up I wasn’t that healthy. I often had weekly migraines and got more than my fair share of ear infections and sinus problems. I got taken to all sorts of consultants. I had my adenoids and tonsils removed. I remember this well because Ringo Starr was down the corridor having the same thing done.

One of my strongest memories at boarding school was the excruciating pain of my regular migraines, and trying not to cry in the dormitory. The pain was too much to bear and my migraines crescendoed in violent vomiting.

All this went on until my late teens, by which time I had also acquired a face like a lunar landscape from acne. At one point the tissue inside my nose had become so inflamed that I couldn’t breath through my nose and had an operation where they burn the tissue away. The day after I was as high as a kite, breathing in all this extra oxygen. No one mentioned the possibility of allergy.

I loved milk and cheese. My boarding school was attached to a dairy farm and we used to guzzle the stuff and have milk drinking competitions. This was in the days of the ‘pint a day’ ads. Macaroni cheese, cheese fondues, cheese on toast – these were my favourite things.

Then, at the age of 19 I met the Wrights (who set up Green Farm, now Higher Nature) and tried their weird dairy-free diet. Guess what? The migraines stopped, my skin cleared up and my sinus problems virtually went away. I had what is called allergic rhinitis, but it had taken more than 20 years to be diagnosed as such.

My case is minor. There are many people who suffer for decades with much more serious conditions only to discover, sometimes too late, that they were allergic to a common food. I’ve had patients with rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, terrible IBS, migraines, asthmas, eczema, chronic fatigue who have had complete relief when they eliminated their trigger foods. Liz, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic and spent five years on heavy duty tranquillisers, is no longer schizophrenic as a result of eliminating her allergens.

I learnt that, whenever I have dairy products (sometimes I can get away with pure fat butter) I can feel the blood vessels in my nose start to pulse, then I’m producing more mucus, then a dull headache appears, which can develop into a full-blown migraine. I later had an allergy blood test measuring both IgE and IgG antibodies and, sure enough, I react to dairy products by both measures. The testing process is the same, involving something called an ELISA test.

Antibodies are produced by the immune system and can be tailor-made to recognise a particular type of protein, for example milk or wheat protein. The convention is that food allergies are caused by IgE antibodies, with the exception of coeliacs disease, which is caused by a type of IgA antibody. But growing evidence is showing that IgG antibodies are also involved.

About ten years ago, when the operation had been more or less perfected, I had a procedure to open up the rather deviated channels into my sinuses, and the tiny drainage holes. I was told ‘you’ll never have another sinus infection in your life’. That wasn’t true although the operation did make a significant difference.

Over the years my sinuses have been a real Achilles heal. A few years ago, after an extensive trip off the beaten track in the mountains, desert and jungle of Ethiopia with my daughter, my sinus problems were back. I tried everything I knew but I was still suffering. So I did a YorkTest Food Scan test – a blood test that measures levels of IgG antibodies to foods. I had become sensitive to a whole lot of new foods, including yeast and eggs which we had eaten almost every day in Ethiopia. (Fortunately, this kind of allergy needn’t last for life – if you avoid the food strictly for 3-4 months...

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