Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season for Coughs and Colds...

With the arrival of the cold weather we've experienced an influx of people suffering from the common cold. This year, the popular cold to have in Arizona is one that starts with a feeling of stuffiness in the sinus cavities and ears. This quickly progresses into post nasal drip followed by a sore throat and an uncomfortable, hacking cough.

As we have been seeing more and more of this cold at the clinic it seemed appropriate to have a blog posting on the best ways to deal with the common cold. The first thing to remember about the common cold, aka Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), is they are usually caused by a virus. Viruses are different than bacteria, which is why antibiotic therapy often doesn't help to get rid of the symptoms of a cold. Antibiotics work on bacteria- not viruses. It is also important to realize that allergies can sometimes mimic the symptoms of a cold.

Just a few days ago I had a patient who was absolutely sure that she had a cold. She was coughing, her head hurt, and her nose wouldn't stop running. I suggested that it would be a good idea to run a test before starting any treatments. When the results came back at the end of the day, they indicated that she was having a bad allergic reaction, and not suffering from a cold. Once we knew her symptoms were due to allergies, and not a virus, the proper treatment could be given.

Speaking of symptoms, it's important to note that many of the symptoms which make people feel poorly are actually the result of the body's defense mechanisms. For example, inhibiting a fever is thought to counteract the major defense mechanism of the body and prolong the infection. Of course, if a fever reaches a dangerous level, such as 104 degrees or higher, it should be suppressed and a visit to the doctor is recommended.

If you do develop a cold there are several ways that can help speed up recovery:

1. Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking lots of water is important because it inhibits viral infection and it can improve the function of infection fighting cells in the body. Make sure to dilute fruit juices with water, as the sugar in fruit juices can often make the infection worse.

2. Get some rest. Many times the reason that people get sick near the Holidays is because they are stressed out and their immune system suffers. The body heals itself when asleep, so don't forget to take a nap.

3. Avoid those Holiday sweets! Sugar competes with vitamin C for entrance into infection-fighting cells. Decreased vitamin C levels may result in a significant reduction in immune cell function.

4. Vitamin C at a dose of 500-1000mg every two hours has been found to be able to shorten the duration of a cold by as much as a full day. Large doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea, and if this is experienced simply decrease the dosage by half.

5. Zinc lozenges are on of the most popular natural approaches to fighting a cold, and for good reason. Zinc has been shown as a critical nutrient for optimum immune system function, and it also possesses antiviral activity. Lozenges that provide 15-25mg of elemental zinc with glycine as a sweetener can be taken every two waking hours. However, it is inadvisable to continue with this dosage for over a week, as increased zinc levels for an extended period of time can inhibit the immune system.

6. Echinacea is prescribed world wide for treatment of the common cold. It was estimated that German physicians and pharmacists prescribed echinacea for the common cold 2.5 million times in 1994. Echinacea has been shown to cause a significant reduction of cold symptoms. It can be taken as a tea, a tincture, or as a capsule. The best echinacea preparations are made up of both the roots and aerial parts of the plant.

Possibly the best way to fight a cold is not to get one in the first place. This Holiday season make sure to slow down and enjoy the season, your family, and your friends.

Happy Holidays
J. Psenka, NMD

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Childhood Food Allergies and Adult Asthma

A new review article to be published in January 2008 edition of Current Opinions in Pulmonary Medicine describes the relationship between food allergies and the development of asthma. In particular, this article looked at the available data on the incidence of food allergies in children and the development of asthma later in life. The article states that this relationship between food allergies and asthma is strongest in infants. It seems that those infants who have the highest number of food allergies also have the greatest chance of having asthma later in life.

The article goes on to describes the need for early diagnosis and treatment, and also states that standard methods of diagnosing allergies are inadequate. Specifically, the measurement of serum immunoglobulins and the use of the "skin prick" method are mentioned as tests that are in need of improvement. From a treatment perspective, oral immunotherapy is suggested as a promising therapy. The article concludes by stating that in order to promote a higher quality of life and to obtain better control over asthma, steps should be taken to avoid foods in the cases of food allergies. Seems to make sense.

This article does a very good job of stating the importance of recognizing allergy, and specifically food allergies, as a serious health concern. This topic is in need of more discussion as the incidence of allergies of all types has substantially increased over the past decade. We are in effect becoming a hypersensitive society. Allergy control is also an area where conventional medical treatments are lacking, and although the article doesn't come right out and say it, alternative methods of allergy diagnosis and treatment are becoming more and more useful.

All allergies are the result of immune dysfunction. Allergic symptoms, from the excessive mucus production experienced after eating dairy like ice cream, to the complete inability to breath experienced by some after eating nuts or shellfish, are all mediated by the immune system. Therefore, in order to successfully treat allergies attention must be paid to the immune system. One of the best ways to promote a healthy immune system in young children and especially infants is breastfeeding. In addition to providing essential nutrients, breast milk is also rich in substances, such as immunoglobulins, which help children to develop competent immune systems. In fact, in the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on breast feeding states that they have found "strong evidence" that breast milk reduces the incidence and/or severity of diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory infection, ear infections, bacterial infections, bacterial meningitis, and urinary tract infections. Other studies have shown a decrease in non-infectious diseases such as eczema and asthma. This means that in addition to providing protection from infectious disease, breast milk also confers protection from other immune-related diseases.

Another way to decrease the likelihood of food allergies is to use a food introduction schedule. These schedules promote the introduction of foods with the lowest allergic potential first when starting young children on solid foods. Certain food such as corn, wheat, cow's milk, nuts, and soy are all recognized as foods that have a high propensity to cause food allergies. By introducing foods with little allergic potential first, and then gradually adding other foods, the incidence of food allergies can be reduced. This method prevents a child's body from becoming overwhelmed by many new types of foods at once. It also allows time for the body to learn how to handle new substances appropriately, and hopefully, diminished the allergic response.

For those children who may have already developed food allergies it is important to both identify the allergen and to desensitize the child. Identification of food allergies can be accomplished several ways. First, paying attention to how a child responds to certain foods can often help identify a problem. Symptoms such as excessive mucus production, runny noses, chronic ear infections, diarrhea, eczema, and hyperactivity have all been associated with food allergies. If food allergies are suspected then discontinuing the suspected food and then slowly reintroducing in a few weeks can help identify a problem. For example, if after eating dairy products a child chronically develops excessive mucus production or ear infections then it can be a wise idea to avoid dairy for a couple of weeks and then to observe whether or not the condition changes. If the child's mucus production subsides, and then begins again when dairy is re-introduced, it can be a strong indication of a food allergy.

Food allergies can also be identified by the "skin prick" method mentioned in the aforementioned article. This technique involves injecting a small amount of a suspected allergic substance under the skin and then observing the ensuing reaction. If the area turns red and angry-looking then an allergy is suspected. This method is at best cumbersome and painful. Also, considering the large number of potentially allergic foods the number of shots needed to successfully diagnose of all a child's allergy can be overwhelming.

A better method of identifying food allergies is the Natural Allergy Elimination Technique. Using this technique allergies can be quickly identified and treated, without the use of shots or medications. The NAET treatment is based on the measurement of frequencies. Allergies and illnesses can cause a disharmony of the body's natural frequencies which can be detected by NAET. This technology is based on the idea of bioimpedance, which
is a term used to describe the response of a living organism to an externally applied electric current. It is a measure of the opposition to the flow of that electric current through the tissues. The stronger the opposition caused by a particular substance, the greater the chance of a allergy to that substance. The technique can also be used to painlessly desensitize someone to their allergies, which makes it perfect for young children.

If you have allergies, or have young children, make sure that you learn all that you can about what allergies are, how you can prevent them, and all of your options for treating them. At Naturopathic Family Care, we have been known as a clinic that specializes in alternative allergy treatments for two decades. We have several different allergy programs which can be used with both children and adults, and which are specific for certain types of allergies. If you would like to learn more about allergies please see our website at http://www.4wecare.com If you're interested in learning more about natural and alternative medicine and treatments, you can subscribe to this blog for weekly postings.