This is an interesting topic, partly because we in veterinary medicine talk about the relationship of food allergies to skin problems all day long in the exam room, and yet, most of my clients with eczema have never had their dermatologist tell them anything about the possibility that their diet is causing their psoriasis, eczema, or severe dandruff. Once again, if MDs studied veterinary medicine the way I have researched human medicine since April of 200, we would have all of this knocked out. I tell people all of the time that one of the purposes of dogs and cats is to show us the truth about medicine in double time. Their abbreviated lives tell us sooo much about our medical woes…if we would simply listen.
I will be placing an article on the Website in the near future titled Allergies 101. It goes into detail about the origin and physiology of allergies but in a rather simple and (hopefully) understandable way. It discusses the mast cell- the cell that produces histamine- which acts as our allergy sentinel. They are strategically placed in our skin, lungs and GI tract, just where you’d expect to find a cell that warns us when we have been exposed to a potential threat. Once triggered to do so by these challenges, the mast cells release histamine, leukotrienes, and other inflammatory agents that invoke a number of reactions in the tissue and blood vessels, producing the typical symptoms that we and our pets experience when exposed to an immunological insult (allergens, toxins, viruses, etc.): hives, itching, swelling, flushing, coughing, brochoconstriction (asthma), vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, etc.
So, we should not be surprised to find that food allergies/intolerances can cause any of theses signs. My veterinary clients seem to have no trouble grasping the connection between food and GI issues or even the one between the diet and skin problems. But they look at me like I’m a bit crazy when I suggest that the diet plays a role in their pet’s (or child’s) asthma. This connection should no longer be difficult to see once we know that our allergy sentinels (mast cells) are located in areas of the body where we are most likely to be challenged by insults- the skin, the GI tract and the respiratory tract. In fact, the lungs and sinuses should be the first to become affected since they are dealing with both inhaled proteins and those from food that are floating around in the blood stream.
However, just about everyone has heard that the “fun fact” that the skin is our biggest “organ”. And it does get a lot of abuse, both externally and internally- we just tend to forget the second part. The mast cells, which are highly concentrated in the face, hands, feet, and anal area, are constantly being bombarded by proteins that have been taken in both orally and through the respiratory tract. The formation of allergies is discussed elsewhere on the Website and will be the main topic of Allergies 101 but once they are a factor, the mast cell has its work cut out for it, deciding when to release its inflammatory contents. The cool thing to see is that mast cells have a tolerance level (determined, I believe, by the living entities inside them- the viruses and intracellular bacteria they contain). Once this threshold is exceeded, the signs of allergies begin. Thankfully these signs come and go, at least at first. But as we become more and more sensitive to our particular allergens and we become allergic to more things, this allergy threshold is more easily exceeded and the symptoms become more frequent, more severe, and involve more tissues.
Why some individuals have asthma vs. eczema vs. IBS is a great question and is addressed in the following Email.
Eczema, Asthma, and IBS- An Email to a Client
Sounds like you’ve done it! Congratulations (on your recovery from multiple problems through diet and holistic means).
And yes, the eczema, asthma, and IBS are all related as you suspect/know. It’s interesting to see how/why some individuals have one symptom over another. In the dog, it’s all about the skin in most cases. IBS becomes a factor later in the course. Asthma is relatively uncommon in dogs and sinus infections are downright rare. In the cat, it is the opposite. Most food issues are manifested as IBS, with a significant number having sinus issues or asthma. The skin problems come on late and are much less common than in dogs.
I believe the answer lies in what viruses/bacteria (e.g. pleomorphic bacteria) they acquire and where they end up. Dogs do not have many viruses that affect their sinuses whereas cats have a myriad of them that do this. Dogs have a pantropic virus (distemper) that goes into all tissues including the skin. I used to think of this virus as a culprit but I now realize that it, like most viruses, serves multiple purposes- to serve and protect the host while also serving to cull the weak from the pack…survival of the species, to insure their survival. The weakest die from the infection and the stronger get stronger. Sadly, there is lots of clinical evidence that the modified live distemper virus we give the dog does cause subclinical disease. Therefore, it is probably contributing to the high rates of skin disease we see.
So, your progression from eczema to asthma to IBS is quite classic for the human. Some breeds of dogs also take on a similar pattern. Cats would be more likely to do the opposite. Bottom line: Can you say “Woof”? :):):)
You are certainly on the right path, which is always exciting to see. It’s a lot more enjoyable walk than the one down the pharmaceutical highway.
Let me know if you have any questions. I’m sure I could learn something from some of the things you’ve done. I am hoping that I will learn much more about herbs and essential oils in the future but keep getting sidetracked. Thank goodness the elimination diet works alone as well as it does. But Eastern medicine holds so much promise for speeding up the process and insuring our recovery.
Keep in touch,