Allergies are a widespread and growing issue, with the numbers going up by 5% each year. 1 in 3 people will be affected by an allergy at some point in their lives.
Although allergy awareness is growing and ‘free from’ product ranges are becoming more widely available, simply avoiding the triggers or taking medication is not enough for many people.
Certain Important questions still remain unanswered:
What are allergies?
The term ‘allergy’ is used to describe an exaggerated or hypersensitive immune response to a normally harmless substance in the environment. Many substances can become allergens, including airborne particles, foods, medication and insect stings.
Allergic responses cause an array of symptoms, including rhinitis, sinusitis, conjunctivitis, skin rashes, swelling, breathing difficulties and gastro-intestinal pain. These responses can range from mild discomfort and irritation to temporary disability and even fatality.
The conventional (modern medicine) perspectives
Allergies are described as ‘acquired disorders’, as they are rarely present from birth, instead developing at a certain point in an individual’s life.
Why they begin is not fully understood in modern medicine; they are not related to injury or infection, but can sometimes be linked to over-exposure to a certain substance.
The usual risk factors of pollution, diet, extent of physical activity and genetic factors are cited as possible reasons for the onset of allergies.
Medical explanations also often take into account the hygiene hypothesis, which connects the growth of allergies to the increased hygienisation of indoor environments and widespread use of vaccination and antibiotics. These factors reduce normal early childhood exposure to bacteria and viruses, thus making children more sensitive to environmental stimuli.
While each of these risk factors can certainly lower one’s threshold and increase sensitivity to allergens, we need to look more deeply into an individual’s life to find meaningful answers.
The meaning behind allergies
META-Health, a bio-psycho-social system for health understanding, enables us to answer these questions. One of the key principles of META-Health is that symptoms are bio-logically meaningful reactions.
Rather than seeing an allergic response as a mistake, an erroneous over-reaction to a harmless substance, we ask: Why would the body react in that way? How could this response be meaningful in the context of the person’s life?
When and why do allergies begin?
The first step to uncovering the ‘why’ behind an allergy is knowing that allergies begin at a specific point in life. This enables us to start exploring key questions.
A precise understanding
META-Health takes us from this generalised awareness to the specific connection between our reactions to stress and symptoms.
Most illnesses, including allergic responses, begin with negative life experiences: unexpected events that we are mentally unprepared for, such as hearing bad news. The feeling of shock and corresponding negative emotional reaction cause immediate physiological changes.
Why does shock lead to an allergic reaction?
At the moment of shock, all available data about the experience is taken in by the five senses and registered in the brain. This is a survival mechanism: the more information we can record, the more able we are to identify and avoid a similar situation in future.
With allergies, this recording of sensory data is especially important. The substances present at the moment of shock become associated with the incident. The body remembers! The next time the substance is encountered, the body is ready to react accordingly, for example, producing more antibodies.
Imagine that the shock is being bitten by a dog. The brain will record everything:
What happens if we see or hear a similar dog in the future? Immediately, we will experience the same emotions (fear) and the same allergic reaction (wheezing).
Allergies can also be established through atmospheric exposure – for example, one could become allergic to pet dander after experiencing a shock such as receiving bad news in an environment where dander is present.
In Spring, with so much pollen around, if we get a shock, it's likely to get associated into it - but as META-Health tells us, it's not the allergen that's important, it's finding out what triggered the stress response!
Why do we get different allergic responses?
Why do allergens trigger particular physical symptoms?
The symptoms triggered by allergens are wide-ranging, affecting the skin, gastro-intestinal tract, ears, nasal passages and sinuses, eyes and airways.
Many allergic responses affect epithelial tissue, which indicates the general underlying pattern of sensitivity to environmental and social stimuli. These include issues of social acceptance, connection, communication and territorial fears.
Children develop allergies more often than adults largely because they are still learning through association and more sensitive to their social environment.
Within these themes, the META-Health knowledge base gives us the specific meanings and emotional patterns (META-Meanings) behind different allergy-related symptoms.
Here are some common allergic reactions and the meanings behind them:
Nasal mucosa and sinuses:
Swelling of the nasal mucosa, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, sneezing and sinusitis are common allergic reactions to airborne irritants.
The nasal passages and sinuses help us to breathe in and sample our outer environment. These passages become blocked when we don’t want to accept a certain environmental stimulus.
We want to block out what stinks, literally, an unpleasant smell, or metaphorically, somebody or something that gets ‘up our nose’ and on our nerves. The trigger emotional stimulus to explore behind this reaction is social annoyance, feeling irritated by the behaviour of oneself or another.
Redness and itching of the eyes, particularly of the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis) often occurs alongside the nasal hay fever symptoms mentioned above.
The conjunctiva helps to protect and moisten the eye and thus helps one to see clearly. When we experience conjunctivitis, it is a reaction to a visual separation or disconnection; that is, losing sight of a loved one, friend or the social group. A typical trigger situation would be being singled out or ostracised by schoolmates or colleagues.
Reactions of the epidermis (outer skin) such as eczema, hives and other rashes occur when an allergen is ingested or touches the skin.
The epidermis enables us to make physical contact with those around us. An epidermal reaction stems from sensitivity around the themes of connection or separation: feeling disconnected and wanting to connect with others or wanting disconnection from them.
Reactions to ingested allergens include vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
The gastrointestinal tract enables us to swallow, digest and excrete. This process relates not only to food, but also to information.
An upper GI reaction such as vomiting indicates that we can’t accept, swallow or take in what we’ve experienced. A reaction in the lower GI tract, such as bloating or diarrhoea, indicates an inability to let go of something, e.g. bad news we can’t process.
Bronchial and laryngeal reactions such as wheezing, asthma, spasms and constriction can result from contact with an allergenic substance.
The emotion of fear is linked to upper airway problems; most often communication fears in the case of laryngeal issues and territorial fears in the case of bronchial issues.
Working with the Root Cause of Allergies
META-Health enables us to uncover the precise reasons why a person is experiencing an allergy and the deeper patterns behind it. This can be empowering; it provides options beyond simply avoiding allergens or coping with the symptoms.
When we address the underlying themes, change our associations and re-programme our behaviour, we reverse the cycle of increasing stress and sensitivity. We become more resilient to outside stimuli.
This brings benefits at all levels: we grow stronger, healthier, more balanced, at ease and relaxed.
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