Gwyneth Paltrow and Chinese Detox, Allergy Relief

This week, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, on her website GOOP, had guest blogger Adele Reising “share thoughts on spring from a Chinese medical perspective and provides tips for those of us who are suffering from allergies. ”  Reising recommends:

  • “If you are an allergy sufferer, I recommend avoiding mucus producing foods, such as dairy, wheat, sugar, and cold raw foods and also taking a probiotic.”
  • Check out a “yeast free diet. If you follow it for about 6 weeks, you will lose a little unwanted winter weight, avoid the misery of allergy season and also detox naturally and be ready to bloom in the summer months.”
  • Use a neti pot to clean out the sinuses
  • A spring detox regimen which uses licorice and mung bean: “The green color of the mung bean is associated with Spring and the liver, it has a cooling nature. The licorice harmonizes and strengthens the digestion.”

These recommendations bring up two common misconceptions:

1. Dairy causes an increase in mucus production: For many years, many have believed that milk causes mucus formation and should not be drunk if you have a cold or asthma.  Studies on this topic have failed to demonstrate any effect of milk on mucus production. Many people confuse the temporary, slight thickening of saliva after drinking milk with mucus. There is no scientific research showing that milk produces mucus in the airways or the throat. It will not worsen cold or asthma symptoms.

There is one caveat to this statement, and that is that people who have a milk protein allergy may manifest it as runny or itchy nose. This is an immune response to the proteins that are in milk- whey or casein. when a person with milk protein allergy ingests something with milk protein in it, the immune system acts as if it is being invaded by something foreign and produces antibodies against the “invader.” Release of antibodies causes the release of histamine and other chemicals,  leading to allergic symptoms:

1. the skin — in the form of red, bumpy rashes (hives), eczema, or redness and swelling around the mouth
2. the gastrointestinal tract — in the form of belly cramps, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
3. the respiratory tract — symptoms can range from a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing to the triggering of asthma with coughing and wheezing

Milk allergy is like most food allergy reactions: It usually happens within minutes to hours after eating foods that contain milk proteins. Most reactions last less than a day. Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance, a much more common condition which occurs then the intestines do not have enough of an enzyme called lactase to break down the sugar in milk. Intestinal symptoms of cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and gassiness are the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

2. Changing the diet will relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis: seasonal allergic rhinitis (like milk protein allergy) is an immune system response to a foreign protein. In the case of spring allergies, the most common culprits are tree and grass pollens. This year, because of heavy snow, followed by a late spring and then a spell of higher than average temperatures, many flowers, trees and grass bloomed at the same time. This has caused pollen counts to skyrocket, much higher than in other years. It is this inhaled pollen that causes the immune reaction that releases histamine (and other chemicals) causing the well known symptoms of allergic rhinitis :

  • Breathing problems
  • Burning, tearing, or itchy eyes
  • Conjunctivitis (red, swollen eyes)
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Itching of the nose, mouth, throat, skin, or any other area
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing

Allergic rhinitis is treated primarily with antihistamines and corticosteroids (in some cases). Avoiding the allergens (the things you are allergic to) is just as important. Stay indoors as much as possible on high pollen count days. Change your air filters frequently. Shower and wash your hair before going to bed (to keep pollen off your bedding).

For more information:

Allergic Rhinitis
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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