One day you’ll look back and wish you’d had allergies like me because my immune system makes me super human. They give me the power to eradicate the common cold within hours and I never get ill (oh the irony… I will now won’t I?).
My immune system is on fire – it is churning out everything it doesn’t want and leaving me a force to be reckoned with. My body is a temple. Can’t you tell? Just by looking at me I mean?
So to all you normal people out there who can you eat whatever you want. Just you watch out.
You’re in the presence of a super being 😉
Think about those ready meals and look at the ingredients in the food you’re eating. Have you heard of them all? Would you recognise them all? Got them in your fridge and larder? If you don’t know what stuff is, don’t eat. I discovered some time ago that cutting out highly processed foods made a massive difference to my nodular prurigo, asthma, eczema and allergies. All these man made synthetic ingredients cause inflammation in my body, my system doesn’t know what to do with them, how to process them and many bring no nutritional benefit anyway.
What is normal and who wants to be normal anyway?
What if, those of us with hyper sensitive immune systems and allergies were actually rather lucky.
Thanks to Nicky Granger of Can I eat there – the new eating out app for people with allergies for giving me the bones for this blog post. Her little boy Gabe is a super being too.
Our bodies are doing something pretty clever even if it seems very inconvenient to say the least. The over reactive immune system sees proteins in certain foods as invaders it must fight and fight it does. These foods then become ‘allergens’ which trigger the same and often a worse reaction each time the food enters the body. The immune system never forgets, it learns each time and gets more adept at fighting the harmful substance it has flagged as a danger.
But maybe, just maybe, what is happening to the 1 million people in the UK with life threatening food allergies is a positive thing. For me anyway, most processed food doesn’t agree with me any more, even some freefrom foods. My diet is very natural, very simple and cooked mostly from fresh ingredients. If I didn’t have an allergy to certain foods would I go to all that trouble? No I blooming well wouldn’t. I’m lazy and time poor and would love to eat cooked meat, ready meals, bottled sauces and packets… or would I?
I’m coming to the conclusion that this new life my body has forced me to lead might just have some massive relevance in the future and not too distant future either.
Evolution and the mutation to allow consumption of cow’s milk in humans
I have written a bit about this in a very old blog post called, “Can’t drink milk? You’re normal!” which discusses how we are the only race to choose to drink the milk of another mammal. When you think about that it’s really weird right? You wouldn’t want to drink human breast milk on your muesli would you? So why cow’s milk? Who was the first person to look at a cow’s udders and ponder the merits of trying a bit themselves? A hungry person I would imagine and milk is nutritious for those who can stomach it.
Just so you know, those of you who are able to consume cow’s milk are actually all mutants who have evolved to tolerate and digest milk. Those of you with a dairy intolerance don’t have the enzyme lactase and so can’t digest the lactose in milk. Many eastern countries where dairy is not part of their diet also have a high intolerance to dairy. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden they too have a high incidence of dairy intolerance because historically it wasn’t part of their diet until much later than here in the UK. But there is more than just poor digestion going on with those who have allergies and who needs cow’s milk anyway? I’ll leave it for the cows and all you mutants out there who can guzzle it to your heart’s content. OK I am jealous about the cheese but you can keep the milk.
So we know some of problems are genetic. Our history and the genes of our predecessors help make up our ability to digest certain food types but what about the way live? If you speak English you are far more likely to have eczema, asthma and allergies. It’s not just the language it’s modern life the toll it has on our health.
Is it about hygiene and cleanliness?
A fairly old article in Allergic Living, “Why so many allergies now?” backs up this theory. A study in Germany at about the time the Berlin wall came down examined the prevalence of asthma in modern, healthy Munich and factory filled, polluted Leipzig, two very different cities from opposite sides of the wall. The findings astounded scientists who couldn’t understand why there was far higher incidence of asthma in Munich. There was clearly more to asthma than clean air and hygienic dust free housing.
We wouldn’t want to go back to living in wooden houses with mud floors. As a nation we live longer, live healthier and fuller lives and enjoy a better diet than our ancestors but we pay a price. The price for fewer diseases, better healthcare and more food than we know what to do with means our bodies are reacting in other ways.
Our immune systems have nothing better to do now so when an alien invader enters it can’t wait to leap into action and fight. Far from being under reactive and lazy, those with allergies have super immune systems which go berserk at the slightest crumb of peanut of drop of milk.
What about germs and bugs and worms and infection?
This fascinating article, When scientists experimented on themselves: H Pylori and ulcers discusses the bacteria H Pylori and others too.
It explains that the germ H. pylori has been around in humans for 50,000 years, and probably longer. Roughly 50% of all humans carry it around in their stomachs. Interestingly, the percentage of infected people has been decreasing since the 1950s, with richer countries having much lower rates than the rest of the world. In the US, less than 25% of adults and only about 5 percent of all school children are infected. Marshall says that better hygiene and clean drinking water are responsible for the bacteria’s eviction.
But at the same time as the germ was retreating, other health problems occurred. Since the 1950s, the number of patients with allergies, asthma or autoimmune diseases has sky-rocketed. Children without Helicobacter in their stomachs are more likely to suffer from skin allergies or hay fever. The bacteria also seem to provide a certain protection against coeliac conditions, also known as wheat gluten intolerance. The bacteria might even manipulate our appetite: the New York based doctor Martin Blaser assumes a connection between its eradication and the growing obesity problem worldwide.
Do go and read this article, it makes an interesting read and goes on to explore the experiments the scientists did on themselves, coming to the conclusion that introducing bacteria to new born babies could prevent some of these modern diseases like eczema, asthma and allergies.
What bacteria is living in my stomach?
Now I want to get my gut bacteria analysed to see what’s living in my stomach. Could my health be improved by introducing certain germs? I have looked into hook worm therapy and faecal transplants – not for the faint hearted but both of these treatments can help people with inflammatory conditions such as allergies, eczema, chrohns etc. If you’re interested read “Five potential cures for allergies and eczema”.
The rise in allergies could be caused by any number of things and many studies are getting closer to discovering what we might do to change our lives and prevent further children becoming allergic. The list of potential triggers is huge.
We don’t really know the real reason and maybe we never will. However I suspect that I, being a child of the 70s, am more likely to be just one of those unlucky people with the allergy genes. Allergies aren’t completely new, they have been around since Egyptian times as hieroglyphics have shown but they are on the rise. When I was at school there was only one other child with asthma and none with eczema and allergies. I as special even then but I didn’t know about my super powers then. If you trace my family history there were many ancestors who died from asthma. I wonder what was causing it? There is no way of knowing now but could it possibly have been allergies?
Next time you feel hard done by or frustrated at your bad luck to have allergies, remember your super powers. You could be guarding yourself from future harm by avoiding processed foods but be warned, it can become addictive. I’m working through my cleaning products and shampoos and moisturisers etc. They all have to be healthy and natural for a superhero.
So next time you see me, hail the super being. Peanuts and milk and wheat and soya and nickel… ande, well lots of things are my kryptonite but with my adrenaline to protect me nothing can harm me!
I will end with the reminder that you MUST carry your adrenaline with you at all times. Nag, nag, nag, I know. Even super beings with allergies need adrenaline to stay safe. If you live with someone who has anaphlyaxis please nag them carry their adrenaline and also to watch this video. It needs a few watches to spot the allergens lurking and is very hard hitting. You MUST #TakeTheKit