This article first appeared in Today's Dallas Woman, Oct. 1997

Questions and Answers about Allergies

If you are an allergy sufferer you are certainly not alone. Sinus problems affect an estimated 30-35 million Americans. It is one of the most common reasons that people seek medical attention. The following are some questions that my patients frequently ask:

Icon What is an allergy?
An allergy is an inappropriate response by the body's immune system to a substance that is not normally harmful. The immune system is a complex defense mechanism that helps us to combat infection. It does this by identifying "foreign invaders" and mobilizing the body's white blood cells to fight them. In some people the immune system identifies a nontoxic substance as an invader, and the white blood cells overreact. This ends up doing more damage to the body than the invader. Thus, the allergic response becomes a disease in itself.

Icon What are some common symptoms of allergies?
Common responses include nasal congestion, hayfever, wheezing, itching, hives, eczema and other skin rashes, coughing, headaches, asthma and fatigue.

Icon What are some common substances that provoke allergic reactions?
Common allergens include pollen, dust, molds, certain metals (esp. nickel), cosmetics, lanolin, animal hair, insect venom, drugs (penicillin, aspirin). Common food allergens are chocolate, dairy products, eggs, corn, wheat, shellfish, strawberries and citrus.

Icon What causes a person to develop an allergy?
No one knows why some people are allergic to certain substances. Allergies do run in families and it also seems like babies that are not breastfed are more likely to develop allergies. Often, symptoms develop after an unusual stress to the immune system. Some predisposing factors linked to allergies are disturbances in digestion (especially protein and sugar), alkalosis (pH in the body is too alkaline) and adrenal insuffiency.

Icon What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses. There are four sets of open spaces within the bones of the skull that are part of the plumbing system of the head. There are sinuses above the eyes (frontal sinuses); to either side of the nose, inside the cheekbones (maxillary sinuses); behind the bridge of the nose(sphenoid sinuses); and in the upper nose (ethmoid sinuses). Most cases of sinusitis affect the frontal and maxillary sinuses. If the sinuses cannot handle the volume of mucous produced, they can become clogged. Pressure in the sinuses increases, causing pain. Clogged sinuses can invite infection.

Icon What are the symptoms of acute versus chronic sinusitis?
Acute sinusitis is frequently caused by bacterial infection such as streptococcus pneumonial and hemophilus influenzae or viral infections of the nose, throat and upper respiratory tract, such as the common cold. Symptoms include green or yellow discharge, facial pressure around the cheeks, eyes and forehead, fever of 102 degrees or above, upper molar tooth pain. Chronic sinusitis problems may be caused by small growths in the nose, injury of the nasal bones, smoking, fumes and smells. Allergic sinusitis may be caused by hayfever or food allergies, such as dairy products. Symptoms include low grade fever less than 101 degrees, nasal congestion, nosebleeds, headaches, sore throat and cough, poor or absent sense of smell, bad breath. In a University of Miami Study, 50% of chronic sinusitis patients were found to be suffering from immunological disorders.

Icon What are some alternative treatments for allergies and sinusitis?
In my office, patients frequently report major relief of allergy and sinus symptoms after chiropractic treatments and specific nutritional recommendations. Treatments may include a gentle manipulation to the neck which takes pressure off the head, neck and facial area and boosts the immune system; massage of certain lymphatic and sinus points; and acupressure therapy. In my office nutritional recommendations are based on an individual's history and symptoms. Since disturbances with digestion, metabolism, pH balance and adrenal fatigue can be predisposing factors that cause allergies, nutritional recommendations are often made to support and heal these areas. In general, helpful nutritional supplements include herbs such as fenugreek, thyme, marshmallow, red clover, echinacea. Helpful vitamins include vitamin C (3000-10,000 mg. daily), calcium/magnesium (1,500 mg. daily), vitamin B complex (100mg. daily). It is important to support the immune system by eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables, stretching, meditating, laughing and choosing to have a positive outlook on the situations in your life.

Some of this information on allergies was taken directly out of Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Dr. James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch.

Suzan J. Smith, D.C., is a chiropractor in Carrollton. She teaches yoga classes on a regular basis. She has released a yoga video for beginners and intermediates and a second yoga video for pregnant women.

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