Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants and all those great things that are out there are not always the best answer for allergies are they?
Dr. Heath: That’s right. When we think of allergies, we often think of something that may not be able to be changed. Yet, allergies are really just our learned response to environmental agents. They are caused by a hyperactive immune system. If we can calm that immune system, then every time we get exposed to some of these environmental agents which make us uncomfortable, we can, in fact, change that immediate response.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of publicity about certain types of allergy remedies that, when mixed with other types of pharmaceutical drugs, can cause deadly reactions. Please comment on that.
Dr. Heath: It’s important to ask when you’re taking a medication, any medication, what potential side effects there are and if there are any interactions of the particular medication you’re taking with something you might pick up over-the-counter or at a health food store.
What are some of the common side effects that are associated with allergy drugs? For example, I took an antihistamine. I’m not coughing, but I feel like I’m a zombie.
Dr. Heath: Right. It can’t be exclusive to the problem that’s creating those allergy symptoms. So it affects the whole system.
Why have you chosen the natural route? How come you feel that’s the way to go for your patients?
Dr. Heath: In my particular patient management and approach to patient care, I try to get the body’s ability to heal itself optimized. Whichever way I can do that is the route that I choose. Many times, a patient doesn’t need a very strong or very potent intervention. They can get a lot of return from just a little change of diet or something that’s conservative and doesn’t have the side effects. If I can start there with my patients, then that’s where I prefer to start rather than give them the risk of having these other side effects.
Give me an example of some of the remedies and how they work.
Dr. Heath: The allergy is really a heightened response of our immune system, and it’s a learned response. If we can re-educate ourselves to not to be totally reactive on an immediate basis, then we can have a change in how we function in the world. It is in this area that in some ways the herbal supplement can begin to re-educate the cell to not be so reactive. For instance, we have an extract from buckwheat or even the citrus fruits called quercetin. This particular product can make that cell that is the mediator of our allergy reaction calm down. It actually stabilizes the cell membrane which releases histamine, creating our sneezing, runny nose and that itchy feeling. If you can get that cell not to release its histamine automatically when you’re exposed to something you breath or something you eat, then you have a quieter immune system, one that’s not quite so irritating to you.
Does this natural antihistamine create the same kinds of side effects as over-the-counter medications?
Dr. Heath: Not in this particular product.
So it calms the immune system without putting a damper on the rest of the body?
Dr. Heath: Correct.
So you still feel alert and active and things like that?
Dr. Heath: Right, and that’s why people are looking to other approaches because they really don’t like those side effects.
You said this is a preventive measure. What about the person that wakes up one morning and they’re just having miserable allergy symptoms? Is there anything they can take on the spot to help alleviate this?
Dr. Heath: In that case we have something called stinging nettles. It is an actual plant which comes in different forms, like freeze-dried so it’s very concentrated. Stinging nettles takes away some of the sneezing, some of the runny eyes, some of the itching, some of the very acute symptoms where you’re just in a heated reaction.
Why do you prefer prescribing these natural remedies as opposed to the pharmaceutical ones?
Dr. Heath: Again, I think if we start with the simplest product and with a substance from nature that has a desirable effect without some of the undesirable side effects, then I think that’s a more desirable first line approach. It also fits into the broader understanding of really healing and health — that is we have in our systems a learned response, and if we can re-educate that response to be more in a healing mode, if we can, in fact, accentuate their health, then their body that has the wisdom to balance and to heal is going to be working at a more optimum function. That is where we need to direct our attention — to finding the health of the person, not the disease.
Could we get the same effect from making tea from stinging nettles and eating buckwheat pancakes and oranges?
Dr. Heath: Some people could. It depends on the dosage amount. There’s such a wide variety of responses. Any food supplement, herb, formula or even medication results in an individual response. We talk about freeze-dried extract because it’s concentrated, and of course you’re going to get a higher dosage of the biologically-active ingredient.
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week.