As published in the May 2011 issue of Vitality Magazine
“No, thanks, I’m allergic to oranges,” announced the woman I was conversing with at a recent cocktail party. As the server walked away with the fruit tray, the woman continued telling me about her latest airport and customs ordeal. I, however, remained fascinated by her orange allergy, and wondered if she had issues of responsibility-avoidance, or whether she had an overindulgent mother.
My mind then drifted to my neighbour and her perfume sensitivity. Was she repressing her true feelings and denying the past? Did she grow up with a highly intrusive mother?
Allergies tell a story of how we live our lives. Are we at ease or feeling compromised? Allergies are tied to the quality of our thoughts, the suppression of our feelings, and are produced and perpetuated by the limiting patterns of behaviours created by our attitudes and beliefs
Allergy is the overreaction of the immune system to a substance (known as an allergen) which is usually harmless to most people. The immune system mistakenly believes it is being invaded, and produces Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to that allergen in an attempt to protect the body, These antibodies then cause certain cells to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is the well-known histamine
The histamine then acts on the nose, throat, eyes, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract, triggering the symptoms of allergic reaction. Each future exposure to that same allergen will again trigger the antibody response, and therefore the allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions can be mild, like a runny nose, or severe, like difficulty breathing. An asthma attack, for example, is often an allergic reaction to something that is inhaled into the lungs by a person who is susceptible. Some types of allergies produce numerous symptoms, and in rare cases a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Peanuts are one of the most common allergens known to cause anaphylaxis. Signs of anaphylaxis include swelling of the tongue, lips, and throat, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and in rare cases, loss of consciousness.
In homeopathy, symptoms are seen as expressions of a curative process; the organism’s failed attempts to heal itself. Taking cues from this process, the homeopath prescribes a remedy that will promote (rather than suppress) the symptoms, thereby helping to complete the curative process that has already been set in motion.
By contrast, allopathy (modern medicine) views symptoms as being inflicted on the organism by outside causes, such as viruses and bacteria. Thus the symptoms are seen as evidence of a disease process that must be eradicated or suppressed using drugs.
One example that demonstrates the difference between homeopathic and allopathic views of symptoms can be seen in the treatment of hay fever. Modern medicine sees the runny nose and itchy, watery eyes as the disease itself. Homeopathy interprets these symptoms as the flow of waste products (such as pollen) leaving the body.
The medical doctor will prescribe anti-histamine drugs to suppress the symptoms, forcing the sufferer to retain large amounts of pollen that may continue to irritate and disturb the patient long after the flowering season. A homeopath will prescribe a remedy that mimics and enhances the flow of waste materials out of the body, thus reinforcing the function of the immune response. This reinforcement strengthens the immune system, enabling the organism to fight and win its own health battles in the future. Most importantly, the homeopathic prescription is not based on the allergy symptoms alone, but on a sum total of the person’s physical complaints, including emotional limitations and fears.
Judi was the typical seasonal allergy sufferer. Her allergies emerged every spring and fall, when grass, trees and flowers pollinate. Runny nose, alternating with dryness of nose, red, itchy eyes, sneezing, and scratchy throat were some of the symptoms experienced by this 39-year-old school teacher. During allergy season, Judi felt pain in her teeth when blowing her extremely stuffy nose.
Further investigation of Judi’s health revealed left-sided chronic headaches, left-sided severe menstrual cramps, tendency to all sorts of itching and burning skin eruptions, chronic bladder infections, periods of insomnia, and recurring nightmares relating to death. Her food cravings included sweets and raw onions.
Conversations about her personal life and situation revealed Judi’s low self-esteem. She said she always felt ugly and that people were judging her appearance. Judi had never been married or in a serious relationship. Further questioning revealed her strict religious upbringing and how she was made to feel shame for dressing up in pretty clothes or trying to look attractive as a young teenager. She grew up feeling ugly and undeserving of love.
Judi’s rigid ideas of relationships and marriage, combined with her health information, corresponded to the remedy Thuja Occidentalis. Over the course of six months, Judi’s health slowly transformed with the use of this remedy. Her hay fever symptoms were 75% less severe in the fall than in the spring, when she began the prescribed remedy. She began sleeping through the night, her skin was 50% clearer, and she’d only had one bladder infection. In addition, Judi reported feeling more confident and less self-conscious of her appearance. In fact, she had started dating. By the following spring, one year from the time she started treatment, Judi reported feeling only slight symptoms of her seasonal allergies and was in a committed relationship.
A 42-year-old business owner initially sought help for his sleep problem, but the consultation also uncovered multiple allergies and sensitivities. Scott was aware of his reactions to mould, perfumes, household cleaners, gluten, and peanuts, and suspected having other triggers. Scott carried his EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector) everywhere he went, which he had used a few times in the last ten years, mostly for his anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. His gluten allergy was also severe, causing abdominal discomfort and pain upon ingesting anything containing gluten.
Scott’s other ailments included long periods of sleeplessness at night, loose bowels, high blood pressure and eczema. The remedy Sulphur was a suitable match for Scott’s gregarious and philosophical nature. Scott’s allergies and eczema first emerged when his parents divorced and his father moved away when he was ten years old. While he carried on a strained and cordial relationship with his father, Scott harboured anger and resentment toward him over the years.
After taking the remedy, Scott reported feeling lighter and sleeping deeper. Over a period of three months, Scott’s sensitivities to perfumes and chemical cleaners diminished. He reported feeling less angry at his father and wanting to re-connect and build a better relationship. Scott’s eczema started to disappear.
Scott was happy to remain on a gluten-free diet for the time being, and to never eat peanuts again. I agreed with him, and gave him the best resource I know for gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free living: www.GlutenFreeToronto.com. The website also features a cookbook by Victoria Yeh with great recipes and substitutions.
The woman from the aforementioned cocktail party took me up on my offer to help with her orange allergies and decided to give homeopathy a try. Diana claimed to be suffering from “whimsical” allergies, appearing and disappearing without a pattern. As her story unravelled, an interesting correlation between her allergies and life situations surfaced.
First, at the age of eleven, she developed allergies to animal dander shortly after she was sent to boarding school. She felt anxious and isolated and felt resentment towards her mother for sending her away. The allergies disappeared when she returned home, but appeared a few years later when her boyfriend left her and started dating her friend.
After getting married, Diana developed allergies to citrus fruits, dairy products, and shellfish over a period of several years. Diana mentioned living with her in-laws periodically. When I questioned her about the timing of her living arrangements, her allergy manifestations started to make sense. Her allergy symptoms were triggered during periods of cohabitation with her in-laws, and tended to diminish and disappear without the in-laws. Needless to say, these living arrangements were extremely difficult for Diana. She also had a strong craving for chocolate, suffered from digestive difficulties (bloating and gassiness), constipation, and was prone to vaginal yeast infections. She had difficulty expressing her feelings and tended to conceal her grievances – especially from her husband.
A striking feature of this case was that many of Diana’s symptoms appeared, disappeared, and changed sides. For example, her headaches were mostly on her left temple, but would sometimes shift to the right. The bloating and gassiness were severe one day and non-existent the next, with consumption of the same amount of dairy. Her shifting symptoms corresponded to the remedy Sabadilla.
Within one month of taking this remedy, Diana reported feeling more confident, as well as communicating her feelings with her husband – including her displeasure for living with her in-laws. She boasted about not keeping anything in and “telling it like it is” both at home and work. Diana’s allergies completely disappeared within four months while living with her in-laws for part of that period.
The idea that negative thoughts and feelings contribute to ill health is not new. “We are what we think,” said the Buddha. In You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay teaches us the psychosomatic reasons behind illness and gives us affirmations to break free of the negative thought patterns and regain our health.
In his manual, Allergies and Aversions, Narayan Singh, PhD, explains the psychological meanings of many allergies. In this alphabetical handbook, you will find everything from Acacia to Zucchini, and they almost always relate to dysfunctional family upbringing or feelings of maternal rejection.
It is important to note that not all ailments are completely our own. We do inherit weaknesses and predispositions from ancestors, which make us susceptible to certain maladies. But we are responsible for our health, and can take charge when it comes to identifying and healing the weaknesses. Whether the susceptibility to the allergy came from your father or grandmother or beyond, it is now yours. You can choose to live with it or get to its root cause.
Illness is the soul’s way of communicating dissatisfaction. It expresses unconscious feelings and conflicts by way of physical symptoms. It tells us that we are in a relationship or situation that is causing us to compromise who we are. Illness is the soul’s cry for help and communicates the need for change. As a teacher, illness offers us the opportunity to learn more about who we really are and understand why we do the things we do. Its purpose is to slow us down long enough to reassess our priorities and recognize destructive patterns of behaviour. Are we doing things for other people’s reasons, or for our own?
If we slow down and listen, we will hear the hidden meanings our illness holds beneath the symptoms. The presence of illness requires that we revisit the choices that we have made. It encourages us to express emotions rather than suppress them, and it helps us recognize which habits, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs are undermining our well-being.
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