By Tom Hines (see bio below)
Two things that asthma and eczema have in common are inflammation, and an overactive immune system. One could argue that if the immune system was under control, then so would the inflammation.
We hear a lot about gluten, soy, corn, and dairy. Although these certainly are the big offenders, it’s a mistake to think that soy, for example, is a cause of eczema. It’s more accurate to say that for a particular person, soy activates the immune system. So what’s worse for your particular child… soy or carrots? It’s a trick question. More children might react to soy, but your child might do just fine with soy and react to carrots instead.
It’s important to understand that we can be sensitive to, intolerant to, or allergic to absolutely anything our body comes into contact with. Anything we eat, drink, breath, or put on our skin… any of it. You know that little old lady who’s pulled to the side at airport security for extra checks? What are the chances she’s carrying a bomb, or plans to take over the plane with a katana sword she has disguised as a cane? Not likely, but it’s possible. And that’s how we need to think about everything when we’re dealing with an overactive immune system.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re all a lot alike, so it makes sense to start with the usual suspects. No one seems to digest gluten well, and many react to it. However, despite our similarities, we are also extremely unique. My friend’s son is highly sensitive to onions, for him, onions = eczema… for me, onions = delicious.
Anytime a substance from the outside world enters our blood, our immune system is activated… sort of on high alert status, to check and see if it’s harmful. Our immune systems don’t belong to any unions and they don’t read the same manuals. They act on an innate intelligence that is both common to the species, and unique to the individual. In addition to that, food is incredibly complex. Look at a simple orange, beside vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, it has over 60 different flavonoids, and more than 170 phytonutrients. If your unique immune system decides that some part of that orange is harmful, it will do it’s job by defending your body.
Now let’s add-on thousands of food additives, pesticides, herbicides, household chemicals, environmental chemicals, pharmaceuticals, air pollutants, water pollutants, and GMO foods. It’s safe to say that our kid’s immune systems have been exposed to more new substances than all of our ancestors combined.
What can we do?
Just being aware that our bodies can react to virtually anything it comes in contact with is the first step. Second, accept the fact that despite the modern, regulated, “safer” world we live in, it’s not the world we’ve been evolving, for the last 2 million years, to thrive in.
Read labels; food labels, shampoo labels, cleaner labels, labels ..labels ..labels. Get to know the things you are exposing yourself and your family to. It’s mind boggling how much crap they can shove in some products. The good news, there has never been so many healthy alternatives as there are today. Sure, you could be sensitive to the more natural products too, but I’d rather deal with 5 ingredients that have been used for at least 50 years, than 50 ingredients that have been only used for 5 years.
The average person consumes around 1,500 pounds of food each year, so we better take a closer look at our diets. To find the foods you’re sensitive to, you basically have 2 options; take a food sensitivity test, like the Alcat test or eliminate food and food groups from your diet for a period of time, commonly called an Elimination Diet.
The usual suspects are a great place to start when you’re trying the elimination approach (gluten, soy, corn, dairy, sugar, nuts, fish, shellfish). Food coloring is also a very common sensitivity, especially among children. Studies from back in 1967 and 1976 found a link between yellow #5 and #6 with asthma. Generally, during the elimination period, foods need to be avoided for about 4 weeks, but positive results are often seen in just a few days, once you find the right combination of foods.
Make sure you talk to your healthcare professional before starting an elimination diet, take detailed notes, and don’t assume just because a food is “healthy”, that you can’t be sensitive to it.
Ever see footage of Bikini Atoll from the 1940’s when the government was testing the A-Bomb? Soldiers were scrubbing down the ships shortly after the blast with soap, water, and lye. I can just picture their supervisors saying…”don’t worry boys, it’s totally safe”. That’s how I see red #40 and GMO corn… “don’t worry boys, it’s totally safe”. The fact is…science knows very little about what these things do to us collectively, and therefore, tell us nothing about how they impact us as individuals… that’s on us.