Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Please note: The following post is based on anecdotal information and my observations. To my knowledge, there is no scientific proof for any of the claims made.

I was born into a family of allergy sufferers. I married into a family of allergy sufferers. My children suffer from allergies as do their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Last week Becka and I took the dog on a usual trail along the river. Dakota led the way and took his favourite route on a footpath at the river's edge. We had not been in this area for a few weeks and found ourselves surrounded by flowering plants, (which Cathy has identified as ragweed!) that were at least six to eight feet high. After making our way back to the groomed trail, Becka's arms began to itch and she started sneeze.
Thus began the fall allergy season.

Becka in a patch of Giant Ragweed, which can grow to a height of 13 feet

September was a difficult time for Becka when she was in school as her seasonal allergies were at their peak. We tried various antihistamines but she still felt miserable until the frost came. A few years ago I read in a magazine that eliminating certain foods from the diet could decrease sensitivity to environmental allergens. A total elimination diet is a challenging undertaking and the article recommended eliminating the seven most common food triggers for a week, and then introducing one food at a time. The seven foods were wheat, sugar, eggs, milk, corn, soy and peanuts. I tried a diet free of these foods for one week and was surprised at the effect it had. For several years, I had taken inhalers for exercise induced asthma. Whenever the dog heard me use an inhaler, he knew it was time for his walk. After a few days of eliminating the seven foods, I had no wheeziness and could walk briskly in cold air with no symptoms. I have not used an inhaler for three years now.

Becka agreed to forgo the same foods during the late summer period. As a young teenager, it took discipline to pass on pizza and ice cream, but she was motivated to continue as her hayfever symptoms disappeared. We have narrowed the list of offending foods to three items and this weekend changed our diet to avoid those food triggers. Becka had to take an antihistamine for one day, but has been free of symptoms now for 24 hours. We went for a walk in the field near our home with no problems, but will avoid the river trail for now.

I also read that eating local unpasteurized honey exposes one to regional plant pollens and helps desensitize a person to their allergic effects. So we add a tablespoon of local honey to our daily ration. Perhaps it helps, perhaps not, but it tastes good.

Food and environmental allergies are very common and there are many theories on the causes for their apparent increase in incidence in recent years. Sensitivities can develop with overexposure, and our diets often contain an excess of refined products, particularly wheat and corn. For most people, sensitivities are an annoyance as true, life-threatening food allergies are relatively rare.
I know what foods I need to limit even if I cannot prove it scientifically. We need to listen to our bodies instead of reaching for a prescription or over the counter remedy for every symptom. Finding a trigger and removing it rather than masking a reaction is the sensible approach to any physical complaint.


  1. The plant called "ragweed" is what has been getting me recently!

  2. Anonymous6:50 am GMT-4

    I am so sending this post to my daughter, anecdotal though it is... Sometimes, you're just ready to try anything!

  3. Has your dad ever told you how bad is fall season was as a kid and his trips to the coast to get away from ON pollution?
    Interesting post about removing certain foods for the allergy season.

  4. Keep us updated as to the success with this dietary approach. My poor son spent his childhood doped up on antihistamines when the ragweed started to bloom in mid-August - just about the time he had to go to school and try not to nod off. (He did OK:0)

    Yep - that's Giant Ragweed.

  5. Monarch- You are not alone. I stopped having hayfever symptoms after my first pregnancy. I don't think that will work for you.

    Jennifer- That is the way I felt. There is no harm in trying a food approach. We still keep antihistamines in the cupboard, but try to keep their use to a minimum.

    OmaLois- I was going to ask Dad about that. It seems to me that I remember hearing he went to Black's Harbour NB to escape the season. We visited there when I was 12 and I remember that people there knew him.

    Cathy- I didn't know what we were walking through, but you are right, it is Giant Ragweed. I had no idea it could grow so high. And I bullied by daughter to plough through it instead of turning back. Oh my!

  6. My mother suffered greatly and they would leave as soon as the season began and would head north to Algonquin Park wich at that time was ragweed free. Luckily for me it seems to have skipped me but my poor daughter has suffered greatly for about the last 10 years. I will mention your article to her.

  7. Ragweed in the fall has always made me ill. It begins in September with the running eyes...then leads to bronchial infections, wheezing, etc. The older I get, the less I suffer and haven't needed over-the-counter meds in several years. I'm probably jinxing myself by telling.

    I really appreciate your suggestions! As a child who took allergy injections for several years and also learned at the age of 9 that I was allergic to the entire atmosphere, basically, I take all of the suggestions I can get.

    I'm allergic to dog dander. But they still sleep in my bed. What can you do?

  8. Oh I love it! Mary's allergic to dog dander and they still sleep in her bed:0) I had exactly the same problem and wouldn't have kicked them out for anything.

    Ruth - Don't feel bad about the ragweed gauntlet. If that's the worse thing you ever do as a parent . . .

  9. Ruth--the proof is in the outcome. Forget scientific basis--if it works, it works.

  10. That must be tough to deal with! My sister had all kinds of allergies-I'm just sensitive to poison ivy.-I get it from just cutting the grass.

  11. Anonymous6:35 am GMT-4

    Interesting post. I've never been bothered by allergies, but it seems something in the air these last few days is making my eyes itch, so I enjoyed reading this post, just in case I'm developing a later-in-life type allergy. Is there such a thing? Yuck!

  12. Hi Ruth,
    That's quite an interesting post. A few weeks ago I visited with a woman I used to work for who had lost quite a bit of weight. She said she had been sick all spring and finally saw an allergist and found out she was allergic to many of the foods you mentioned. She's about 60 and has had an awful problem with dermatitis for as long as I've known her (about 7 years). She cut all of those foods from her diet and has lost over 30 lbs. and now says she feels like a million bucks! I had no idea those foods could affect people in such a negative way. I'm glad you shared this with all of us--it's valuable information and no prescription needed!

  13. 2 puppies- Thanks for commenting. I would imagine that Algonquin Park has its share of ragweed now, but its season is likely shorter.

    Mary- "allergic to the entire atmosphere"! Well I am glad you are growing out of it. My husband was allergy tested and had many allergies too. He took needles for years, but I can't see that they helped much. I decided not to subject our daughters to that.

    Cathy- Mary loves her dogs so much, I think she would go in a dog house before she put them in.

    Larry- We have never experienced poison ivy in this household, and hopefully never will.

    LauraO- Allergies can develop at any stage of life. Childhood allergies often lessen as time goes on, but ones that develop later can be quite persistent.

    RuthieJ- It is not hard to lose weight on this diet as all sweets and junk are eliminated. My husband is prone to rashes and they improve when he cuts back on refined sugar and flour. Interesting story!

  14. Mother, what were you thinking? I didn't want to walk on that pathway, but no, you just had to make me suffer...:P


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