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.

1 Comment

  1. Sajani Patel

    October 30, 2014 at 2:10 am

    January Jones, Uma Therman, and Jenny McCarthy (among many others) have all promoted alternative medicine or certain lifestyles so Gwyneth Paltrow is not the first celebrity to endorse some form of alternative medicine. I don’t think that celebrity endorsements are a bad thing, but they can be harmful if they spread false information. In this case, Gwyneth Paltrow posted something on her website that was not scientifically based and is not proven to work. She probably has fans that avidly follow her website and did what she proposed without doing further research into the legitimacy of what was posted. While it’s important to remember that celebrities are also people with their own opinions and beliefs and technically should not be obligated to make sure they present correct information, they should still be cognizant of the fact that they are influencing the general public. Whether they like it or not, celebrities are a source of information for many people and what they do and say influence people’s actions. They can be considered as images and representations of the thing they are endorsing and people will associate them with the said lifestyle or object. It is crucial that celebrities remember the status and influence they have in society and their fans. Also it is important for the lay person to realize where their information is coming from. We have to remember that celebrities do not have medical credibility and are not doctors so things that they post that are medically related must be taken with a grain of salt.
    Alternative medicine also makes the job of the doctor more difficult. These are treatments that don’t necessarily have scientific backing or proof of efficacy. People could use these treatments, expecting to have their problems solved and if they don’t work their medical problems could just be exacerbated, making the doctor’s job of bringing their patients back to good health harder. Initially, doctors had to work hard to gain credibility and ensure that their patients would listen to what they said, believe them, and do as they recommended. There was a gradual shift to putting complete faith into one’s doctor and doing exactly as they said. Recently there has been a shift away from this mindset to one of skepticism in the whole medical system and turning to alternate sources of medical information. While in this era of skepticism, doctors have to work even harder to ensure that their patients are properly treated for and that the alternative medicine does not do harm. One way to do this is through doctors using media such as TV shows, blogs, and radio programs to portray factual medical information to counteract any false information that is being presented by other TV shows or celebrity websites like Gwyneth Paltrow’s.

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