Allergies: The Threshold of Reactivity

 Tim O'Shea, DC

 Popular belief or conventional wisdom is often wrong. In America, conventional wisdom that has mass acceptance is often contrived: somebody paid for it.

 Some examples:

  • Pharmaceuticals restore health.
  • Vaccination brings immunity.
  • When children are sick, they immediately require antibiotics.
  • Hospitals are safe and clean.
  • Aspirin prevents heart attacks.
  • Back and neck pain are the only reasons for spinal adjustment.
  • Allergy medicine will cure allergies.

These statements are myths, yet fortunes have been spent to slam and re-slam them into the minds of the public. Each can easily be proven false with just a little research, provided one is willing to go where the data leads. In this article we will only look at the last, and perhaps the most important, of these carefully crafted bits of conventional wisdom.


Your friend looks at your bloodshot eyes, hears your stuffed-up voice, and accepts the explanation, "It's my allergies," as though the symptoms he observes were the disease itself. This word game is no accident. We are conditioned by a thousand commercials a day to equate all diseases with their symptoms. Headache, backache, arthritis, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), high blood pressure, on and on... these are not diseases themselves, but rather the signs of disease. The illusion is that by covering up the signs, we have now cured the disease. The illusion is that by naming the signs, we have identified the disease. Nothing could be further from the truth.

TV? Tylenol, Advil, whatever, that will do what? That's right: take the pain away. But wait, the pain wasn't the cause of the problem. The headache was a sign of something else. The pain can come from many sources: neck spasm, intoxication, emotional stress, sinus allergies, trauma, spinal misalignment, drugs, overwork, or hunger. The pill didn't solve or cure anything. As soon as it wears off, guess what? Right, the pain returns. So what are we taught to do then? Right, take more pills. It's the same with allergies. Allergies are not watery eyes and stuffed-up noses, but reactions to irritants. Something foreign is triggering the body's cleansing responses. It's like walking behind a smoky bus when it starts up. You breathe in the fumes and start coughing and choking; your eyes water. That's an allergic response. Humans are allergic to bus exhaust. Eyes water to cleanse the eyes, and the coughing reflex kicks in to forcibly expel the toxic fumes before they get inhaled. It happens in an instant. Tolerance is a big problem. That means when we get used to an irritant, the body gives up on trying to expel it. Consider your average bus mechanic. After a few weeks or months of breathing those fumes every day, the body doesn't try so hard. The sensitive mucous membranes in the mouth and nose toughen up a little, and the mechanic learns to "take it." He's becoming less sensitized to the poisonous carbon monoxide. That doesn't mean it won't kill him; it just means his body's getting accustomed to that degree of being poisoned. The irritant is no longer triggering the strong cleansing response that it used to.

We've all heard of antihistamines, pills and sprays that unclog stuffed noses. They work by blocking histamines. Histamines are produced by our white cells to trigger protective mechanisms, like blocking the nose, making the eyes water, and shutting down digestion. Allergy medicine is generally an antihistamine, which unnaturally interferes with the body's normal attempts to protect itself. The mouth, nose, and eyes are the first line of defense. When antihistamines block normal clearing responses, the irritant or allergen is permitted to enter further into the body than it would normally have traveled. This is a side effect of antihistamines. You may thank God that you can breathe again, but for any drug, there is always a downside. The problem wasn't the stuffy nose or the watering eyes, but the allergen. Antihistamines don't touch the underlying cause, they just suspend the body's ability to respond.

Isn't this obvious? It's like you're driving down the road and suddenly you hear a horrendous knocking noise coming from the engine. So you turn up the radio full blast to cover up the noise. Pretty silly, but that's precisely what we're doing with allergy medication.

The focus of allergy treatment should be to eliminate the underlying stimulus of the sinus blockage and the watery nose and eyes. Is the causative factor cat hair, dust, pollen, shellfish, or wool? No. Normal people can be around all of these and not react. Genetics? If something is unexplainable, medicine blames it on something unprovable and unknowable: gene sequencing. That way we can avoid pronouncing those three frightful words that separate the career researcher from the true scientist: "I don't know." As long as we don't know, the best we can do is keep on buying and selling antihistamines and their derivatives. As a $10 billion dollar a year industry, why would anyone want to question it? Doctors sell drugs; that's why we go to them. If you want health, well, that's a different topic altogether. You're on your own for that.

There's another possibility here, another solution that thousands of people have discovered within the past five years. A whole new paradigm must be considered to explain the consistent success all these patients are having in resolving their chronic allergies. This point of view may be called the "threshold of reactivity," and it's really quite simple.

Here's the key idea. What do 99 percent of allergic Americans have in common? Undigested food. Too simple? Simplicity is the hallmark of the classic solution. Undigested food accumulates in the digestive tract, in the blood, in the tissues, organs and joints. It remains for months or years to be dislodged by any of the body's methods. And the last and most persistent of these methods is the "inflammatory response" -- the body's attempt to attack and expel the intruder.

Chronic buildup of undigested food signals two main deficiencies within the body: enzymes and flora.

First, let's talk about enzymes. Enzymes are what have been removed from food to make it last as long as possible on the shelves of American supermarkets. Enzymes are necessary for breakdown and digestion of food. Without them, the body makes a valiant effort to employ its own digestive enzymes to do the job. The problem is, so many of the soft foods we eat today are brand new to the human species within the past 75 years. New chemicals and preservatives have been introduced in our food supply for flavoring and preserving. The rancid fats of chips and fries are too weird. Our bodies can't break them down. After a certain amount of effort, the body gives up. At that point, much goes in, but little goes out. That's the main reason older people, and many young people, have difficulty eliminating.

Pasteurized milk no longer contains enzymes. Neither does canned food. Dairy products, salad dressings, soft drinks, ice cream, cheese, pastries, deep fried food and salty snacks contain no enzymes. So what, you ask? John Wayne and Elvis, that's what. On autopsy, according to the county coroner's reports, those two gentlemen had 44 and 20 pounds of undigested food in their respective colons at the time of death. According to the FDA, the average American has between 4 and 22 pounds of undigested food in the colon at any given time. Rotting food in the digestive tract sets up a "leaky gut syndrome." That means that large molecules of fat, protein, and carbohydrate are absorbed intact through the gut into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, these foreign molecules can lodge in any joint, tissue, or organ. As such, they can be the cause of practically any disease condition you can name. Perfect as the explanation for an allergic reaction. It's allergic, all right: allergic to all the food we're taking in and never digesting.

Then there's flora. Flora is good bacteria. The normal colon should contain three pounds of good bacteria at all times. They are also called probiotics, and include species like Lactobacillus, L. Salivarius, Acidophilus, and many others. Their job is the final phase of digestion; without them, food rots in the colon. Rotting food becomes cemented within the inner folds of the colon's lining, preventing normal function and eventually blocking proper elimination. Rotting food leaks back into the bloodstream, going anywhere it can in the body.

World authority in probiotics, the late Dr. Khem Shahani, described flora as the second immune system. He was referring to the ability of the flora to remove a toxic stimulus or allergen (undigested food) from the body. Understanding this simple concept is the key to grasping the essential dynamic between a healthy colon and the end of allergies. With rare exception, allergies simply cannot coexist in a body that has a healthy colon.

Why do most Americans have suppressed flora? That's easy. Probiotic flora, the good bacteria, are fragile life forms existing in the normal body in a dynamic balance along with pathological (bad) bacteria, fungi, and viral forms. These good bacteria get killed off by:

  • antibiotics we take;
  • antibiotics in the meat we eat;
  • antacids, like Zantac, Tagamet, etc.
  • NSAIDs, like Advil, Tylenol, Excedrin, Motrin, etc.
  • other prescription and over-the-counter medications;
  • white sugar;
  • carbonated drinks; and
  • antihistamines

Many holistic nutritionists estimate that 80 percent of American women, and a significant proportion of men, have systemic Candida albicans. Candida is a yeast infection throughout the body; its existence was denied by most American medical doctors as recently as 10 years ago. As the normal flora become killed off, bad bacteria begin to multiply. Without enough good bacteria, there is nothing to check them. Fungal and yeast growths are allowed to increase for the same reason. Doctors call this phenomenon opportunistic infection. Such chronic, low-grade infections are in epidemic proportions in America today.

OK, back to the threshold of reactivity. You know the background now, so here it is: since the undigested food has no outlet or way to be broken down, it builds up within the body over months and years. Let's call the point at which a person actually breaks out with symptoms of allergy (hives, rash, runny nose, stuffed sinuses, etc.) the threshold. Below the threshold, the person won't have symptoms. Stay with me now for the punchline. Since indulgent Americans are packing away all this stored debris, they are pushing their bodies steadily closer and closer to toxic capacity. They are so close to the threshold at all times, because of their indigestible diet, that contact with cat hair, dust, pollen, phases of the moon, or whatever they were supposedly "allergic" to is enough to raise them that last little bit above the threshold. And voila, symptoms occur.

So then doctors prescribe antihistamine "allergy medication" which prevents the body from offering its normal response to chronic poisoning from all the undigested, weird foods it's still taking in. And as soon as the medication wears off, the symptoms return. This is why allergy medication never cures allergies. People who take allergy medication continue to "have allergies" year after year. Many of them actually develop further allergy to the medication itself.

How can it be this simple? Why doesn't everybody know this? Thousands do, but the reason this information is not mainstream starts with an M. The allergy industry is big business. Changing one's diet is not. It goes back to the idea of conventional wisdom. Let's say your programming does not allow you to believe anything I've said up to this point, and for various reasons it simply makes no sense to you as far as your allergies go. Fine. Ask yourself this: Do I really want to get rid of these allergies, or am I going to continue taking these medications every year, with very little results? If you can admit to yourself that you're really sick of your allergies and would like to try an experiment that does not depend on drugs, try the 60-day test. For the next 60 days, consume:

  • no drugs
  • no dairy products
  • no white sugar
  • Lest this sound too easy, buy no drugs; I mean no medications of any kind, prescription or over the counter, unless you're on some life-sustaining drug therapy program.
  • No dairy means no milk, no cheese, no butter, no alfredo sauce, no mayonnaise, no yogurt, no ice cream, and no dairy-based salad dressings for 60 days.
  • No white sugar means no soft drinks, no donuts, no cookies, and no ice cream for 60 days.

The 60-day test may not be fun, but how do you like your allergies? The success rate of such a program is in the 90 percent range. Thousands have done it. The reason it's not millions is simple: this program requires taking a step in the dangerous direction known as "I can be responsible for my own health." Once you see where that's headed, there's no turning back!

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