Dr. Leo Galland is a recognized leader in the world of integrative medicine, an approach to health that aims to heal the whole body, combining Western science with complementary practices. Here, Dr. Galland explains how hidden allergies might be to blame for chronic health issues, in advance of his upcoming book, The Allergy Solution: Unlock the Surprising, Hidden Truth About Why You Are Sick and How to Get Well, co-authored with Jonathan Galland.
Maybe you're dealing with unexplained symptoms, like fatigue, weight gain, or pain, or complaints that don't go away, like brain fog, digestive trouble, or insomnia. But you aren't satisfied with masking the symptoms with more pills. Perhaps you've tried juicing, exercise, eating healthy, or other alternatives that enhance well-being.
And yet the answers to your health concerns have remained stubbornly elusive.
In my practice, I have many patients who come to see me with similar stories. They've consulted specialists, gotten all the tests, but still have not pinpointed the cause of their problems.
I realized that to discover the underlying causes, you need to ask the right questions. To get the answers, I created patient-centered diagnosis, which became the foundation of functional medicine, and aims to understand a patient's full health story and contexts in which disease occurs.
In fact, medical research has made important connections between our immunity, nutritional status, lifestyle, and environment that now provide clues to many unexplained symptoms.
I began to wonder if a hidden allergy might be the cause of the mystery symptoms so many of my patients were dealing with. It took years of investigation to crack the code and understand that many of them did, in fact, have allergies.
Sure, if you have these symptoms, you may not think of yourself as allergic. Your nose may not run, and your skin doesn't itch. But research shows that many common complaints can be associated with allergies, including:
- Weight gain
- Stomachaches and digestion issues
- Depression or anxiety
- Brain fog
As the research, and my experience as a doctor, shows, allergy can be the culprit. I’ve seen chronic conditions that were previously diagnosed as autoimmune diseases, psychiatric disorders, or many others, wind up being allergic in origin. What is fueling this expansion in allergies?
What's causing the allergy epidemic
The allergy epidemic affects an estimated 1 billion people around the world. We have been hit by the perfect storm of fast food, chemicals, stress, and poor digestive function, all of which knock our immune systems off balance and contribute to more allergies.
For example, a study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains that processed foods are specifically harming our immunity and increasing the risk of allergies.
But all of these factors can interfere with your immune system, especially with the cells that naturally prevent allergies. They’re called regulatory T-cells, or T-regs.
In order to heal, you need to balance immunity by restoring the power of your T-regs.
How to balance your immune system with fruit, vegetables, and tea
In simple terms, the solution is to prevent or reverse allergy by balancing immunity and improving antioxidant status with a whole-foods diet, rich in vegetables, fruit, and tea that provides vitamins, minerals, and powerful phytonutrients to balance immunity, support detoxification, and reduce inflammation.
Delicious foods that can help accomplish that include strawberries, parsley, green tea and oolong tea, as well as spinach, asparagus, lentils, black beans, sweet potatoes, and many more.
Further, eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may help reduce allergic reactivity, according to a study from UCLA. They explored how a component of broccoli helped to decrease the amount of allergic inflammation for people exposed to diesel fumes. This interplay between nutrition and environment is a game-changer for how we can fight back against pollution and other toxins.
The nutrients that naturally give food its vibrant colors are called flavonoids. They help fight allergies and encourage the diversity of bacteria. Overall, I recommend eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and herbs and enjoying several cups of tea a day,
How to heal your immune system from the inside out
You should also know that the gut is the largest part of the immune system, which is the source of allergies. A healthy gut protects against allergens in your digestive system. It contains trillions of bacteria, which can determine your immunity, allergies, metabolism, and mood. A diversity of gut microbes is important for healthy immunity.
Eating foods like sauerkraut, raw foods, and yogurt can help give your diversity of gut bacteria a boost. Research indicates that probiotics, the healthy bacteria from certain foods like yogurt or supplements, can also help relieve symptoms of allergy by improving immune responses.
Further, unless you’re scrubbing for surgery, avoid antibacterial soaps and shampoos. They just encourage the growth of resistant organisms and have a negative impact on healthy bacteria.
Organic farming also increases the diversity of bacteria in soil, which then enhances the diversity of bacteria you ingest with your food. Pesticides and herbicides kill more than pests—they can also kill good bacteria and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria. I recommend aiming for organic foods whenever possible.
The good news is that allergies can be overcome. Using the tools and strategies I provide here and in The Allergy Solution, you'll understand your allergic symptoms and start on a path to healing.