Sunday 20 July 2008

Raw Food And Hayfever

OK - this article is mostly about hayfever and even if you don't suffer from hay-fever, PLEASE...pass this on to someone who does.)

The girl in the picture could be me as a teenager - I couldn't have spent more than 15 minutes in a field like this in June before getting wrecked with sneezing, and streaming eyes.

I was diagnosed with hayfever at the age of seven. In the Sixties, I was a bit of a rarity; not many people had it then, but of course since then the number of people suffering has grown enormously. As a child and teenager, my life from late April to early July was blighted by it. It got me in the country, by the sea, and in the middle of cities. Outdoor games at school were misery, and it was a big problem at exams, and the vital revision period leading up to them. I tried every anti-histamine under the sun (little effect) and lost a boyfriend through mixing anti-histamines and alcohol and spending most of our relationship half-asleep. I had allergy tests, courses of injections, annual booster injections...and in my twenties remember one particularly bad summer where whenever I could I'd stay in my flat with all windows closed.

Then, I discovered Beconase, a steroid spray. This seemed to be the answer;It reduced symptoms significantly and I was able to enjoy days outside in June again, as long as I remembered to puff this drug into my body three times a day, every day...It also seemed to me that my hayfever was improving slightly with age. But - I still never managed to get through a whole June without Beconase.

Until...raw food.

I've now had three summers on raw food, and...NOT ONE symptom of hayfever!

OK, so we know that all sorts of illnesses disappear on raw food, and with many there's an obvious connection. Instead of chucking into our bodies damaged toxic food we're running on good fuel instead.

But why should the raw food diet cure hayfever, which is said to be an 'allergy' to pollen, and which indeed always affected me most badly on windy, warm, 'high-pollen-count' days? What would food have to do with it?

When I first wrote this article in the summer of 08, I said 'I'm not sure why.' And went on to present a few theories.

Editing the article in summer 09, I'll run briefly through a couple, finishing with the one that does make total sense, and explains the true cause of hayfever.

In short, I am sure now what food, or, more accurately, an unhealthy lifestyle in general, has to do with hayfever.



This I'd got from something I'd read pre-raw. It's that little bits of pollution in the air attach themselves to the pollen flying around, and that the bodies of healthy, vibrant, sensitive individuals will do their best to expel them.

Obviously, that somewhat flattering theory had always attracted me. Problem with that: I really wasn't that particularly 'healthy and vibrant' through my teens, when I had hayfever worst, and, anyway, after adopting a raw foods diet, one would think that the body, being 'ultra clean', would be more sensitive than previously, ie that I'd be sneezing even more rather than not at all.

So that theory doesn't really wash.



Pasteurised milk milk is linked with all sorts of illnesses, particularly asthma, which is part of the eczema/asthma/hayfever 'atopic' trio.

I never liked the taste of milk as a child and was allowed not to have it at school (we had free school milk in those days). But - I was OK with having it 'disguised', ie in tea, or in 'Nesquik' (milkshake) and did have cheese. So, it's possible that by the age of seven I'd ingested a lot of a substance that my body really didn't want.

Possible problem with that one: in my first summer without hayfever, I was probably 80-90% raw. What did the 10-20% include? Mozzarella and feta! However, it's true to say that I'd reduced my dairy significantly, so...could be a factor. (The second summer I was 100% raw vegan).

So 'milk theory' - a possible...


A general diet connection

The symptoms were at their worst in my childhood and teens. As a child, and teenager when at home, my diet was standard cooked, including meat, dairy, and desserts. I didn't eat a lot of salad or fresh fruit - I expect it was around, but I wouldn't have eaten it as back then I found fruit and salads boring! At school we used to sneak out at lunchtimes and a typical lunch was a plate of chips (French Fries) followed by two or three bars of chocolate.

As an adult, my diet was better. For most of my adult life it was vegetarian, or fish-and-vegetarian, and I loved salads (and remember eating a ton of fruit and salad each day when pregnant).And, from late 20s onwards, my hayfever wasn't as bad as it was as a child and teenager.

So - better diet = reduced hayfever symptoms. Seems plausible. But what's missing here is the WHY the better diet might lead to reduced symptoms.


This is the only complete explanation.

The true cause of hayfever is a build-up of toxins that cause inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes. As to what these toxins might be, there could be thousands of suspects in the unhealthy lifestyle of 99% of those in the developed world. In the diet, cows' milk is a likely contender. In the lifestyle, exposure to smoke is one.

The lining of the membranes becomes inflamed and very sensitive to irritation. The inflammation is there constantly, and means that the nose in particular is particularly sensitive to any irritants in the environment.

Pollen is not the cause of hay-fever. The cause is what led to the permanently-inflamed membranes - the toxemia in the diet. The pollen is simply an irritant.

Natural Hygienist Dr Herbert M Shelton: 'The systemic condition of sensitised membranes is present before the plants shed their pollens. With most hayfever sufferers, these conditions are present all the year round. They do not become conscious of the sensitivitiy of their membranes until these are brought into contact with outside irritants. Pollens irritate sensitive membranes; they do not make the membranes sensitive. The real cause of the hayfever is the cause that sensitises the membranes.'

The reason some people get hayfever and others do not, is that it is simply that inflammation of the membranes is the particular way in which the bodies of those people have reacted to toxins in their lifestyles. Others may express their toxemia via other ailments. Shelton et al do say that those with 'neurotic tendencies' tend to express via inflammation of membranes (we-ell...OK, I'll go with that :-)).

So, how to cure hay-fever? Remove the causes of the inflammation.

Why I do know this explanation to be correct?

I wasn't born with hay-fever. As a toddler, I didn't spend half the summer sneezing. This is because it would have taken a while for toxins to build up to the level at which my mucous membranes became permanently inflamed.

As I mentioned earlier, the only thing that had ever 'worked' for me was Beconase. Beconase desentises the membranes of the inside of the nose! The fact that Beconase worked obviously said something about the state of the inside of my nose. However, as I don't want anyone rushing out to buy this as a 'short-cut', it did not remove the causes of the inflammation. It simply suppressed symptoms. The true causes remained, and were no doubt wreaking havoc on my body in other ways. And the drug itself would have had a negative effect on my body, depressing its self-healing ability.


So, those who would like to wave goodbye to hayfever, for it never to return, need to make a radical change in diet, and that is to a raw, vegan diet, or at least raw vegetarian free of cow's milk and ideally very low in dairy. In the first summer that I had no symptoms, I was only 80-90% raw, but worth noting that I'd also stopped drinking tea and coffee, and had reduced dairy significantly. Note that dairy is a 'likely suspect', but there are vegans who suffer from hayfever as well! There could be all sorts of elements in the diet and lifestyle that cause inflamed membranes. All I can say for definite is that, before raw, I'd had hay-fever every single summer from the age of 7 to 48. In the three summers since raw - no hay-fever.

I went raw in the winter - six months before the hay-fever season, and it would appear that by that time the toxins had been sufficiently eradicated from my system for my hayfever to be cured in the first season.

However, those going raw just before the hayfever season may find that symptoms in the first summer may be worse. This is actually a good sign. Your body, being freed of the onslaught of the usual toxic burden, will be taking advantage of that to have a good 'clean out'. Bear with it. Next year, and every year of your life after, symptoms should be gone.

Here's me (really me this time), two summers after going raw.

So please pass this to a hayfever sufferer you know. Because it is WONDERFUL being able to roll around in the grass in the summer, spend all day outdoors (without drugs!) and not have to seal the hatches when the lawn's being mowed!


Hilary Baumann said...

For me, raw milk, less stress, some other small changes in diet and regular exercise has been what has helped my allergies. My story is somewhat similar to yours except that I also got bronchitis and pneumonia yearly until this last fall. Allergy shots didn't work, OTC meds typically didn't work with a few exceptions (double doses of things you shouldn't double dose.) And never had a single perscription medication work for me either.

In general, finding out what makes you personally healthier is the key whether it's going 100% raw or making several other changes.

For me I know that the dairy is a significant factor. I went off raw dairy for awhile (my farmer's milking machine blew up and I had to wait for the cows to calf) and during those 5 months I had allergy attacks again. I wasn't constantly sniffly however. The raw milk for me is one of the keys for me along with the rest of the changes.

I HAVE added in more raw to my overall diet but I'm not super raw by any means, I have also found a few foods that trigger allergy symptoms for me if I eat too much of them. Wheat and grains primarily... I've tried going completely without but I see the most significant change when I keep it to a bare minimum and don't stress about eating a cookie now and again.

I have noticed that some of the foods I've reduced eating are often not edible by anyone if uncooked (handful of flour anyone?) But I also have allergies to other foods if they aren't cooked (bananas - I can eat them cooked but I can't uncooked... long story but it has to do with starches.)

Anyway - I wanted to mention this for those people who don't think they can handle 100% raw vegan.

Keeping a food journal could also help you figure out what works for you.

And one more note for people who aren't raw foodies who are reading this: if you want to become raw you might want to do it gradually instead of diving in headfirst, getting fed up with it and giving up on it completely. Often people try to change too quickly and then don't stick to it (there are exceptions though. Some people can do it and stick to it.)

Thank you for sharing your experiences with this - I do think it's going to help people!!!

Debbie Took said...

Many thanks, Hilary, for sharing your experiences - it's certainly true that raw and pasteurised milk have quite different effects on the body, and I agree that anyone who is not a raw foodie and suffering from bronchial problems would do well to try cutting out pasteurised milk.

Wheat and grains certainly do cause problems with some people when cooked, but wondered if you'd tried wheat raw and sprouted, and if you'd seen my article 'Give Wheat a Chance' in the April archive.

Good point about the flour (that reasoning, as you may know,is very 'natural hygiene') but pity about bananas!

Hilary Baumann said...

I did see that article on the sprouted wheat and I do agree it's a completely different thing. I had forgotten about that when I mentioned flour.

I do sometimes also buy the Food for Life Ezekiel bread which is different from your article since it does eventually get cooked instead of dehydrated but it is a sprouted grain bread. It's not raw but it is better than most plain breads.

Sourdough should also be better than plain bread but there aren't many places that make real sourdough anymore. I created my own starter and made one batch that was too dense and then accidentally dropped the starter jar ... haven't gotten around to creating a new sourdough starter yet.

I'm thinking that real fermented foods might also chemically change things for the better but I haven't spent much time testing that on myself yet. There are some people both into raw and not who think that fermentation is a great thing (kimchi, real saukraut for folks into raw depending on their POV.) I have no idea what effect real fermented foods might have on the allergies (though it may depend on the types of allergies and the types of fermented foods.)

Something else I'll go ahead and mention is that I've heard rumors (no studies to back this one up) that part of the reason more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease (allergy to wheat gluten) MAY be in part due to the pesticides used on most wheat. Not saying that this is not the only problem but there are a lot of things that can factor in.

Wow - sorry about the somewhat random bits of info. I could probably talk for days about allergies!

Debbie Took said...

Interesting, Hilary. If you see anything firm (ish, ie in print) on the wheat allergy/pesticides thing could you let me know? (perhaps via gi2mraw) As I'd then use it to update the wheat article. Thanks!

Hilary Baumann said...

Will do. I honestly wish I remember where I heard the info about pesticides and wheat so maybe I could trace it back to something with some proof.

Also a couple more good resources (I started to go to sleep and it was bugging me):

Info on raw dairy -

Good educational book on allergies - "The Allergy Self-help book" by Sharon Faelten

That book has a lot of useful information though maybe not info you want to follow to a T but worth reading. For example there's a whole page on potential sources of hidden corn for people with corn sensitivities/allergies and it does also talk about allergies to food dyes and includes references about food families (I have sensitivities but not a flat out allergy to the melon/gourd family. Raw or cooked, organic or not I have to be careful with these and I don't mean a nasal allergic reaction to those.)

And since I feel like I went a little anti-raw on you in my previous comments - before I go, my favorite raw green smoothie (makes 2-3 servings so share with a friend):
- Juice one apple (I like fuji or gala), one bunch of celery and one cucumber.
- Pour in a blender and add a few handfulls of spinach and frozen pineapple chunks and blend it all together.

That and an apple "waldorf salad" made with yogurt (little to no mayo), walnuts and raisins are probably my favorite raw foods.

Debbie Took said...

Well thanks Hilary, you've certainly added a lot of'extra value' for anyone reading the blog! That green smoothie sounds excellent, and, as a tribute to your effort, will make it today! (using fresh pineapple - um, blogged on that... :-)) Best wishes, and hope that you'll comment again on future posts.

Jonny Clean said...

Here's a quick summary of my story... I didn't have allergies until about 19. When they hit, they hit hard. I think it was mostly a grass allergy but it made life outside in the spring and summer hard, even when I was indoors sometimes. I thought they started because I had smoked for a few years (16-19) but after quitting the allergies continued. I figured I was stuck with them.

I tried all the over the counter stuff and considered shots. This recent winter I started eating more and more raw. I'd guess I eat around 70% or so??

Well this summer I have no allergies...except after I eat cooked food. I know this seems too perfect, but if I have a cooked meal for dinner the next day I have light allergy symptoms. After a day of raw food they are pretty much gone again.

I have to experiment some more and see if I can narrow it down to specific foods but I can't tell you how pleased I am.

I'm already a huge raw fan...I love the extra energy and I'm digging the lower body fat too...and then to get rid of allergies to boot!
Rock on! :)

Debbie Took said...

This is so good to hear, Jonny! I wish I'd discovered the power of raw to stop hayfever earlier in my life, as then I'd have discovered raw earlier, and...could have saved myself lots of other ailments that are so common nowadays. I feel so happy for you - when you next see someone suffering as you did, please tell them about this article, and your experience. Could just change their life (and we're not of course just talking hayfever here :-)).

Unknown said...

My story - I've had very mild grass allergy symptoms sporadically over the years, though so mild it's barely noticeable.

Present moment...sitting in front of my computer, I've got a headache, fever chills, sneezing, and my nose has been running for three hours straight. Terrible. I've been 100% raw for one month now.

I tend to agree with the thoughts expressed in this blog post, so in trying to explain my current condition, here's what I've come up with.

1.My body could be trying to expel toxins from "bad" foods. I ate raw chocolate for the first time two days ago, and ended up feeling extremely sick. I've also had more non-organic food than usual.
Problem: While both raw cocoa and sprayed fruits may be suboptimal, I'm surprised if those alone caused such a drastic bodily reaction. (I've forever crossed chocolate off my good food list though)

2.My body is using the angel dust, as you say, to facilitate expulsion of toxins as part of my general detox. Seeing as I'm new to raw and still detoxing (weakness and fatigue mostly), my body could be trying to use any and every method of getting rid of toxins.
Problem: The suddenness. I had symptoms of allergy throughout June, but today is unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Another possible factor - went for a walk and swim in the woods last night and didn't shower right after. Could simply be a pollen overload.

How long had you been raw before that first summer of minimal symptoms? I appreciate the message that a raw diet will eliminate allergies, but what if you start on raw right in the middle of allergy season? Your body would still have plenty of stored toxins to expel, right? I kind of got the impression from your post that going 100% raw would solve your problems overnight.

In any case I'm considering a water fast to facilitate this process. Ack, it's not fun. But I have faith! Enjoy tumbling in the grass!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Jonas

I so want you to experience what I'm experiencing now - a THIRD year (and hot hayfevery weather here right now!) without hayfever, and I'm even spending days gardening!

The one thing that so often dejects people on improving their diets is that they then get ill! But this IS detoxing - lots of energy has been freed by the cessation of the constant onslaught of toxic matter, so the body, is, at last, free to conduct a significant 'elimination', resulting in symptoms, but then, after that's passed, is so much healthier. I think your worse-than-usual symptoms are due to two reasons. Big load of pollen (your walk and swim in the woods) facilitating a spectacular elimination of toxins today. And these would be an accumulation from hour cooked diet. I don't think you need be concerned too much about the odd bit of raw choc or non-organic food. And I certainly had plenty of the former in my first year of raw and still have plenty of non-organic fruit.

I'd been raw for six months at the first pollen season, so, yes, I'd probably passed that stage where the body was still trying to find ways to offload an accumulation.

Hope I didn't give the impression that any cure would be 'overnight' - I'll read through the article again and edit if necessary.

Now, strange thing has happened - thought I saw something about considering fermented foods in your post, but now can't(did you edit?) Anyway, just to say I'm not into them and generally go with the Natural Hygiene line on these (, Lesson 69).

Only other thing I'd say (and please forgive me if this doesn't apply to you, and I suspect NOT) - make sure '100% raw' isn't including coffee or any other 'substances'/supplements/medicines etc. And I should probably say that when I went raw I also stopped drinking alcohol pretty soon afterwards (even though wine is technically raw).

Fasting - is an excellent way of cleaning, although of course it also happens to be the most efficient, eg the most accelerated way of cleaning, so could actually result in more symptoms initially,'ll have to weigh up the pro's and cons!

Anyhow, very best wishes whatever you do, and, Jonas, please remember to report back to this page NEXT hay-fever season!

Debbie Took said...

Please note, everyone, in case anything I've said in replies to previous comments doesn't seem quite in line with the article, note that I have substantially changed the article since its first publication in Summer 08 to put a firm focus on the Natural Hygiene explanation of hayfever.

Unknown said...

I've suspected something about fayfever for 5 years.
It's likely more than one cause.

April, May, June are the peak time for arigucultural chemicals sparys in England. Are pollens the true cuase for hayfever? Or the chemicals attached on the pollens are the real enemy?

Debbie Took said...

Hi Chang-Yu

Thank you for commenting (good to hear from you!).

I'll stick to my belief, as per Natural Hygiene theory, that it's general inflammation of our mucus membranes caused by toxic substances that's the TRUE CAUSE of hayfever, which means that the insides of our nostrils/corners of eyes will be extra sensitive to any irritants, eg pollen, that those who are less sensitive won't react to.

The problem with agricultural sprays being a CAUSE of hayfever is that those who do experience hayfever often find it's just as bad in the middle of big cities as in the country. Now big cities will have trees and flowers, but agricultural sprays are unlikely to be an issue.

Unknown said...

Hi there

Very interesting…. OK first i have suffered from extreme hay fever for as long as i can remember.
I have pretty much hated summer my whole life, those wing hot days put me into a state of not wanting to leave the house
and i was also able to do a box of tissues a day EASILY !!!
Then i stopped drinking milk as i heard the protein in milk can cause allergies. The next day red cheeks and sneezing gone by 80 % .
About 12 months later i started a vegan diet and what do you know hay fever gone by 95 % after 3 weeks.
To me it seems to be dairy that has been my enemy all of this time.
Before all of my changes i ate and drank a lot of milk and cheese!!!!
So now i am totally converted !!

Debbie Took said...

So good to hear, Brad! Have a great Christmas, and best wishes for another hay-fever-free summer.

Unknown said...

Hi! I just wanted to comment a little on your theory. It sounds good, but several years back, I had a bit of a different experience. I went raw for two months one year. At the earliest, I started eating entirely raw about weeks before spring allergy season (my worst). The whole two months I felt great! I don't remember having any detox type symptoms, I just remember having no allergy symptoms (and mine are SEVERE...not that I'll die from them, just EXTREMELY miserable when I have them.) I also didn't get sick in spite of being around people with terrible cold/flu symptoms. Anyway, just wanted to add this thought to perhaps help some who may be getting a late start on their allergy season :)

Debbie Took said...

Interesting, that going raw temporarily still helped. Thanks Gina!