HEALTHY BITE | Allergies: A Personal Story

Today, I'm sharing my own experiences with allergies and how a holistic approach helped me overcome them. 

I'm also sharing some of the highlights of my interview with Prof Pete Smith, how psychotherapy helped me with allergies, the five-pillar model and so much more.

Allergies: A Personal Story

Well, this week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Professor Pete Smith. Now Pete is one of Australia’s leading experts in allergies. Allergies are something that affects many people in our population of all ages. Also, asthma is another thing we touched on, and the interesting thing about this discussion and Pete is just… His knowledge is encyclopaedic, and it was really a pleasure and an honour to talk to him. 

The thing that struck me so much about it, and he made this point himself, that the study of allergies and his background is initially as a paediatrician and then did a PhD in Immunology, and the thing that drew him into allergies was it brought together so many disciplines. It took such a holistic approach. 

In fact, to deal with it, let me just preface this. To deal with it properly, one needs to take a holistic approach. That’s an important thing to say because it ties together so many aspects of health care without, for example, a broad understanding of nutritional and environmental medicine, which happened to be the drivers of allergy. Then really, you just paying lip service to any serious approach to allergies.

About Allergies

You know, that is if you’ve suffered from an allergy and you’re gone to a specialist, and the specialist has done a few pinprick tests and said, know you’re allergic to this, this and this, here’s some drops, but it’s much more than that. 

You need to be looking at nutritional and environmental drivers and into any regular listener of this programme. You will know that building biology, that environmental stress, that all of the chemicals and plastics and personal care products and household cleaning products and fire retardants and the list goes on. I think the list is around 100.

We did a programme with Professor David O. Carpenter, who is one of the world’s leading experts in environmental stress. And I think he listed something like 100,000 chemicals. We did a similar programme with Professor Mark Cohen and his Ten Toxic Truths, and I did recommend you go back and listen to that, but the point is that we live in a chemical soup and after Pete outlined all the things that could go wrong, and I think he made the point that one in five Australians may suffer from allergies or something like that, or maybe one in ten.

I was amazed to think how come we, it’s a testament to the human body that we aren’t all sick and then I took a stand. I thought about it after the podcast. I thought, Well, actually, we may not all have allergies and but 50% of the population have one co-morbidity, which means they either have cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or any one of over 100 now autoimmune conditions. That’s the body attacking itself. So the drivers of these things are inflammation. 

Inflammation and insulin resistance

Again, we come back to inflammation and insulin resistance because insulin resistance provides the fuel for inflammation, and again, we touched on endothelial lining damage. We talked about this with Dr Sandeep Gupta, Dr Ross Walker, Dr Cristobal Yeoh, with Dr Pran Yoganathan

I’m not doing justice because so many of my other guests have touched on this topic before. I think it bears remembering that endothelial lining when it is damaged? What happens if the endothelial lining is damaged? Well, I guess the first question is, where is the endothelial lining? It happens to be this thin layer of cells which is one layer of cells that separates the blood vessel from the tissue from the internal organs. 

It’s how blood or food or air moves through our body. It hits the endothelial lining, and then the nutrients are exchanged to be made available to tissues. 

Endothelial lining

Endothelial lining, if you talk about cardiovascular risk, well if the endothelial lining is damaged through inflammation you will have cardiovascular, you may be at the beginning of cardiovascular disease if you have endothelial lining damage in the airway, then you may have allergies, asthma or respiratory conditions like COVID. 

If you have endothelial lining problems within the gut, which are referred to as intestinal permeability or leaky gut, it means that undigested proteins into the bloodstream and the body mounts an immune response. 

Now, the thing that you know, when I say that, it surprises me that everybody doesn’t have an allergy. But half the population, at least half the population, have been diagnosed with at least one co-morbidity. This is where genetics comes in. If your genetic predisposition is allergies, endothelial dysfunction will manifest itself as allergies. If your genetic predisposition is heart disease or cardiovascular disease, yours will be that similarly autoimmune conditions.

When we get into autoimmune conditions, if your predisposition genetic predisposition is thyroid, endothelial dysfunction may manifest itself as thyroid disease, or it might manifest itself as gut dysfunction or irritable bowel or coeliac disease. Or, if your predisposition is joints, it may be rheumatoid arthritis. If it’s nerves, it may be multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. So this is why going off to see specialists is great, but often specialists learn more and more about less and less.

Actually, this is what this programme, podcast Unstress and our Unstress online community is all about. Bringing together a holistic approach to health care, not just for a week, not just for a month, not just for a year. 

Nasal breathing is important

I mean, we’re talking about building a community for habits of a lifetime and this discussion with Pete Smith this week reminded me so much about that. We touched on mouth breathing and nasal breathing, and Pete repeated again, you know why nasal breathing is so important to warm, humidity, and filter the air before it’s taken into our lungs. 

He pointed out that within the nasal passages, the air is warmed very quickly before it’s taken into the lungs. And yet it’s also filtered through the fine hairs in our nose, the mucous lining in our nose, and the nitric oxide that’s produced in our nose before it’s taken into our lungs. 

Now, if you breathe through your mouth, you’re not cooling, humidifying or filtering the air. You’re not passing it over into anti-microbial nitric oxide production. You are setting yourself up for allergies and life and asthma and respiratory diseases and other autoimmune conditions, depending on your genetic predisposition.

We touched on that; we talked about a vast array of toxins. We talked about building resilience. I guess what building resilience is about focussing on the five pillars of health. 

Our emotional health to allergies

Now, interestingly, when it comes to allergies, here’s an interesting story that alerted me to how important our emotional health is to allergies. I, something like 25 years ago, was going through the worst bout of… I suffered from hay fever and allergies all of my life. I was a chronic mouth breather. At this particular point, I think I was in my late thirties or early forties, and I had the worst hay fever I’d ever have. 

There would be a box of tissues, use tissues on the floor by my bed because I would have so many problems. This went on for six, almost 12 months. I went to see every allergist I went to see. I didn’t go to see Pete Smith, of course. I went to see every allergist.

I had all my tests done. I went to see an allergist who wasn’t Pete Smith. I had all my skin prick tests done. I got my drops for desensitising myself. I had tried all sorts of nasal sprays, antihistamines, etc., etc., and I was in a really bad way. I was in a really bad way. 

My wife bought me a book called I Love Your Disease, which was impressive. It was a little it was old. It was about it had been written about five or ten years earlier. By a doctor here in Sydney who’s no longer practising. 

Anyway, and it talked about stool and talked about blood tests, urine tests, stool tests, looking at skin da da da da da da da. I thought, wow, this is going to be amazing. I’m going to go for the most holistic approach to a check-up I’d ever had up to that point. Remember, this was 25 or 30 years ago.

A personal story

I went, and the first appointment was an hour and a half. I sat there, and the doctor said to me, “So what’s the problem?” And I told him, and he said, “Okay, so what causes you stress?” And I said, “Well, you know, I mean, I’ve got a young family. I’ve got my parents are getting older.” “Okay, let’s talk about your parents, who are getting old.” 

After about 5 minutes, I realised that we weren’t going to be checking my stools, and we weren’t going to be checking my urine. This was really actually about. It took about 10 minutes for it to sink into me because he was, “What’s your relationship like with your parents?” You know, da da da. 

And so began a one and a half-hour session of psychotherapy. I wasn’t prepared for it, but I was open to it, you know. And hey, look who isn’t affected by your parent, and when your parents have been through the Holocaust as mine have, you carry a lot of baggage with you. I thought this was something worth exploring.

I then submitted very happily to an hour and a half, a little disappointed that my stools weren’t going to be examined, but I got a bit preoccupied with that clearly. I went through an hour and a half psychotherapy session, and I came home to my wife a little disappointed, and I said, you know, it was just psychotherapy, really. 

But the next morning, I woke up, and there were fewer tissues on my bedroom floor at the end of the first week. I would have said my hay fever had improved by at least 70% at the end of the first week. I was just blown away. I mean, remember, I have a holistic model of health while this has developed and this has evolved. 

But at that point, I hadn’t quite brought myself to talk about emotional stress as part of that issue, but this was a real Aha! moment for me. I went back for a second session, and it was another psychotherapy session.

Look, I’ve had psychotherapy over various times in my life for various events in my life. I can say it’s a very cathartic and useful experience, particularly if you find yourself a practitioner to who you can relate to. Just the experience of relating to a stranger who’s qualified, but just the experience of relating to a qualified person, what is going on in your head is in and of itself very cathartic. 

And then for them to add direction to that experience is profound. We’ve done many episodes with some wonderful psychotherapists — Jocelyn Brewer. Jacqueline Stone, Professor Julia Rucklidge. Nigel Denning. Oh my God. I could go on and on and on. I probably left out someone. 

Anyway, my hay fever after two sessions improved to the point that I couldn’t drink red wine at the time. That would set me off. I now no longer have hay fever, and that’s now 25 plus years later. That was through two sessions of psychotherapy. This is about building resilience and looking at resilience through the five-pillar model: sleep, breathe, nourish, move and think. 

Hey, have a look at the website Unstress online. We are moving into a very exciting period in this programme and my life which I’m hoping to share with many of you. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.



This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.