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Nutritional Causes of Allergies

By Dr. Paul C. Eck and Dr. Larry Wilson




Ever increasing numbers of people are suffering from allergies. Many individuals are developing allergies not only to dust and pollen, but to foods, household chemicals, smoke and other substances and products as well. Avoiding the allergic food or substance is one possible answer. However, avoidance is often not practical, or even possible. Also, avoidance does not help identify the primary cause of the allergy problem.

Modern nutritional science and biochemistry are now capable of providing significant insights into the basic causes and correction of allergy problems. When the primary cause is corrected, avoidance is less important and general health is improved as well.

Allergies As A Defense Mechanism

As with many health problems, we often overlook the possible value of allergic reactions. The phenomenon of an allergy is a response of the body to a perceived threat to the body's integrity. The ability to react is a sign that the body is yet capable of defensive action. Dr. William Frederick Koch wrote that if a cancer patient could develop an allergic response, chances of recovery would be enhanced.

Many individuals in air polluted areas suffer from allergies which represent nothing more than their bodies crying out for cleaner air.

Food allergies serve to keep us away from foods that would tend to unbalance our body chemistry. Environmental allergies similarly warn us about chemicals, or pollens that may be damaging to our health.

When an individual's allergies go away due to cortisone, or other symptomatic therapy, often the person will later develop a more serious disease. Therefore, we seek not simply to get rid of the symptom, but to understand its origin and correct underlying biochemical imbalances responsible for an allergic response.

Our approach to allergies is that when body chemistry is out of balance many individuals become hypersensitive. This is why they react to foods, or inhaled substances in an excessive manner. In other words, they are unable to cope with environmental stress, because their body chemistry is unbalanced, or weakened. The goal of corrective therapy is to determine why the body is unable to adequately cope with stress and correct this basic problem.

Some of the primary biochemical and nutritional causes for allergies are as follows:

Adrenal Insufficiency as a Cause of Allergies

Your adrenal glands are two almond-size glands that sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones, including cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone) which normally serves to prevent allergic reactions. Normally, when one is exposed to an irritating substance, the body increases its production of these anti-inflammatory hormones which prevents an allergic response from occurring.

Most individuals suffer from allergies because they are not producing adequate amounts of adrenal gland hormones. Often the problem is chronic and worsens when the person is fatigued, or under stress.

An adrenal insufficiency is the major cause of allergies to pollen, dusts, molds, animal hair, foods and environmental chemicals.

An adrenal insufficiency-caused allergy can be readily identified from a hair mineral analysis. As a rule, the individual's sodium and potassium levels are very low as compared to normal values. In many cases, the ratio of sodium to potassium is also low (less than
2.50:1), which is indicative of adrenal burnout.

The precise cause of adrenal insufficiency can be any combination of the following:

  • Nutritional, or stress-depleted adrenal glands.
  • Insufficient stimulation of the adrenal glands by the pituitary gland.
  • Inadequate transport and utilization of adrenal hormones.

The correction of allergies involves correcting one's current biochemical imbalances.

The adrenal glands specifically require vitamins A, C and E, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and specific amino acids, to function optimally. Deficiency, or imbalance of these essential nutrients, or toxic substances which block normal physiological functioning, interfere with the synthesis and adequate secretion of the adrenal hormones. If a person is living a particularly stressful lifestyle, a requirement of these essential nutrients is increased.

Nutritional correction is made possible by taking extra quantities of the specific nutrients the adrenal glands require for optimal functioning and eliminating toxic substances such as heavy metals, that severely interfere with optimal adrenal gland activity.

If the problem originates at the level of the pituitary gland, other factors come into consideration. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulation of the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH). In many allergic individuals the sympathetic nervous system has become exhausted, due either to excessive exposure to stress, or a relative inability to cope with stress. Often, copper toxicity, resulting from an adrenal insufficiency, has overstimulated the sympathetic nervous system until it no longer functions adequately. A nutrition and lifestyle program are required to rest and restore nervous system balance, as well as restore adrenal and pituitary gland activity.

Inadequate transport and utilization of adrenal cortical hormones occur due to factors such as inadequate transport across cell membranes and a deficiency of cell membrane receptors. On a tissue mineral analysis, these problems may be identified by very low sodium and potassium levels, together with high calcium and magnesium levels. Calcium serves to stabilize the integrity of the cell membranes, decreasing their permeability to cellular toxins, which interfere with vital cell functions.

Histamine, High Cell Permeability and Allergies

"Histamine is a biochemical which normally occurs in all soft tissues of the body." In excessive amounts, histamine produces many of the common symptoms associated with allergies, such as a running nose, sneezing, hives, etc. Individuals who exhibit a pattern of fast oxidation, as determined by a hair analysis, tend to release excessive amounts of histamine into their tissues principally due to an excessive tissue protein breakdown. High histamine levels, whatever the cause, increase one's proneness to allergies.

Cell permeability refers to the ability of substances to enter and exit the permeable membranes of body cells. Along with higher histamine levels, a fast oxidizer's cellular membranes are more permeable, usually due to a calcium deficiency. An increased permeability of the cell membranes allows increased amounts of histamine to be liberated into the surrounding tissues resulting in an increased allergic reaction. Both calcium and magnesium deficiencies in these individuals are related to tissue inflammation, hence increased cell permeability.

This particular biochemical mineral pattern (fast oxidation) often results in very acute allergic reactions, such as asthma attacks and shock reactions.

Fast oxidizers usually produce excessive amounts of cortisone, but when they are placed under undue stress and exposed to an irritating substance, they lack sufficient reserves of cortisol to cope with the ensuing inflammatory process. An excess of histamine serves to complicate the existing problem.

It is possible to identify an excessive histamine-caused allergy from a tissue mineral analysis. These individuals have below-normal levels of calcium and magnesium, specifically in relationship to their sodium and potassium levels, which are often markedly elevated above considered normal values. In many cases, the ratio of sodium to potassium is also low, indicating excessive tissue catabolism, with a resultant increase in histamine levels.

An allergy sufferer with the above mineral patterns requires a different nutritional regimen, one that increases their need for an additional calcium and magnesium intake. Other nutrients such as copper must also be given to help retain calcium and magnesium in body reserves, particularly the bone. Bioflavonoids are helpful to reduce cell fragility and increased cell membrane permeability. We also recommend the use of a thymus glandular substance to assist in regulating excessive activity of their adrenal glands. Excessive activity of the adrenal glands, due principally to stress, results in a calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiency, which further contributes to excessively high histamine levels. Zinc is required to store histamine. A deficiency of zinc results in a release of histamines into the surrounding tissue fluids.

Copper and Other Mineral Imbalances as a Cause of Allergies

Minerals play many important roles in regulating body chemistry. Not only are minerals required for glandular activity, but they serve to regulate the nervous system and every other system of the body. Toxic amounts of any nutrient will displace other vital nutrients and by doing so, result in various metabolic dysfunctions, including a wide variety of allergies.

Research reveals that copper toxicity is a major contributing cause of allergies, particularly those allergies associated with low cortisol levels. Low cortisol levels result in a chronic inflammatory process. Allergies occur because copper, in excess, deplete vitamin C, folic acid, zinc and other nutrient reserves that are required by the pituitary and adrenal glands. An excess of tissue copper also impairs liver function, resulting in a wide variety of food allergies.

Copper toxicity also results in an over-stimulation of the nervous system which leads to alterations of the pituitary-adrenal axis. Copper toxicity is often involved as a principal cause of brain, or cerebral allergies.

A copper deficiency frequently results in a lowering of tissue calcium levels, which serves to contribute to the excess histamine-type of allergies.

Many individuals suffer from a copper imbalance which is not detectable on a standard blood serum test. Copper toxicity can be identified from a hair mineral analysis, where it is indicated by either a high copper level, a high calcium level, a very low copper level, or a low sodium to potassium ratio which indicates adrenal burnout.

Many times, a food allergy problem can be traced to the relatively high copper content of certain foods. Common foods that are high in copper are wheat, corn, soybeans, chocolate and shellfish. Perhaps it is more than coincidence that these particular foods are common causes of food allergies. This topic will be discussed more completely in the section on food allergies.

Other Toxic Metals and Allergies

Other toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, when present in excessive amounts, contribute to the causation of allergies by replacing vital nutrients that the body requires to defend itself against allergic reactions. This problem is more common than one might imagine.

For example, lead is notorious for its ability to displace calcium from the bone. Because calcium functions as a central nervous system sedative, lead toxicity leads to nervous system irritability, which by over-stressing the adrenal glands, can result in allergies.

Cadmium replaces the essential mineral zinc in many critical enzyme systems. Zinc is also a central nervous system stabilizer and sedative. Zinc is also essential for protein synthesis and normal functioning of the adrenal glands. Therefore, cadmium toxicity can contribute to allergies by destabilizing the autonomic nervous system and by impairing hormonal secretions of the adrenal and pituitary glands.

Toxic metals have received far too little attention because the great majority of doctors do not test for them. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated that toxic metals are the second worst environmental problem in our country.

Toxic metals are accurately detected from a hair mineral analysis. However, several months of nutritional correction may be needed before these metals are initially revealed. The toxic metals are normally tightly bound by protein ligands and require time to be mobilized. In order for toxic metals to be released, adrenal function needs to be improved.

Toxic metals can be removed from tissue storage through scientific nutrition. Four methods for removal are applied simultaneously:

  • nutritional antagonists to the toxic metal are given,
  • chelating agents, or agents which bind the toxic metal are recommended,
  • eliminative organs are nutritionally supported and
  • the oxidation rate and the energy pathways are corrected.

For more information, see detoxification programs.

Food Allergies

Food allergies or sensitivities are becoming more common along with other allergy symptoms. Several biochemical factors are involved in the causation of food allergies.

Minerals in Foods

A particular food may be high in a certain mineral, or toxic metal that is already excessively high in body tissues, or which for some reason causes a detrimental change in body chemistry. This concept can explain why one person is allergic to one food, while another person is allergic to other foods. The sensitivity to food becomes more pronounced when one's body chemistry is more precarious, hence, more easily disturbed.

For example, avocados are high in fat and copper. In a slow oxidizer with an elevated tissue copper level, the additional copper and fat tend to worsen the copper toxicity problem resulting in an adverse reaction to eating avocados.

As stated above, foods such as molasses, shellfish, wheat, corn and soy are high in copper content, which can cause allergies in those who are especially sensitive to increased copper ingestion.

A high protein dietary intake can serve to aggravate food allergies in the fast oxidizer because a high protein diet is known to lower calcium and magnesium levels, permitting an increase in histamine release.

Grains are a common cause of fast oxidation types of allergies because the phytates they contain cause a loss of calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Dairy products also are capable of triggering an allergic response, not only because of the milk sugar that some individuals cannot tolerate, but principally because of their high fat and calcium content. Because milk is notoriously low in magnesium, it is common for a calcium deficiency to develop.

Wines and beer can trigger allergies because of their high copper and iron content and/or yeasts they contain.

Sugar-containing foods (even fruit) can precipitate allergic reactions by making copper biounavailable, thus allowing for increased intestinal yeast growth.

Chemical Additives in Foods

Minerals aren't the only food component that can detrimentally alter body chemistry. Additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, pesticides and hundreds of other noxious substances are added to our food. In susceptible individuals, these substances can cause numerous adverse reactions, by upsetting the balance between vital mineral balances.

Digestive Problems

Often food allergies result because a person cannot break down ingested protein foods adequately. Incomplete protein breakdown results in the absorption of incompletely digested peptides and polypeptides. These protein molecules can act as allergens. Another related problem is referred to as the leaky gut. A deficiency of zinc and other essential nutrients required to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall causes excessive leakage of toxic substances from the intestines into the blood stream. See digestive enzymes.

Liver Dysfunction

Food allergies can also result when the liver is unable to detoxify certain toxic substances found in foods. These may be naturally occurring, or man-made toxins. Copper toxicity, slow oxidation and heavy metal poisoning affect the liver's ability to detoxify harmful chemical substances.

Food Supplements and Allergies

Some individuals complain of allergies to nutritional supplements. While occasionally the culprit is a particular food product, or chemical used in the manufacture of the product, there are other reasons for adverse reactions to vitamins and mineral supplementation.

Improper food supplementation, by unbalancing body chemistry, can definitely cause allergic reactions. Two common examples are, giving high doses of "B" complex vitamins to fast oxidizers and giving copper to slow oxidizers. Both of these nutrients may cause severe reactions, because they are incorrect supplements for these individuals.

If a supplement contains sufficient nutrients to positively affect body chemistry, it may also detrimentally alter body chemistry so that a person becomes more reactive to toxic substances. Many individuals are so depleted of energy, that they can no longer mount an allergic reaction. As one's energy level increases, a sign of healing may be the return of allergies, indicating that the body is able to react positively to the ingestion, or inhalation of toxic substances.

Unfortunately, the flare-up in symptoms is often mistaken for a worsening of health, instead of welcoming the improved reactivity of the body.

If you are having allergic reactions to food supplements, we recommend that you eliminate one supplement at a time for several days each and identify, if possible, which one is causing the seemingly adverse reaction. You then may be able to reintroduce it slowly, little by little.

Food Allergy Testing

Testing for food allergies has become popular and offers positive benefits for some individuals. These tests are commonly performed by skin testing, or by mixing a blood sample with food extracts (cytotoxic testing). A drawback of all these tests is that if a food is eaten repeatedly, a person will often develop some antibodies to that food. The person may then test allergic to whatever he habitually eats. If he changes his diet and is retested several months later, he may experience allergies again to his new diet. This is a false positive result of food allergy tests.

Some of these problems can be avoided by using a rotation system, avoiding a concentration of one type of food.

Another method of food allergy testing is to determine your resting pulse rate and then note if your pulse rate increases more than 10 beats per minute after eating one specific food. If your pulse rate increases, it is likely that this food is causing an allergic reaction.

Food allergy testing can be very beneficial for those who are unaware of how their food is affecting them. However, a person can become sensitive enough to know which foods cause a problem and can become a better detective than any test. This is particularly the case today, when a string bean in the supermarket, raised in Mexican soil and contaminated with several pesticides, may not have the same effect as the string-bean extract used in the blood, or skin test.

Food Addiction

There is another phenomenon which makes the food allergy problem even more complicated. It is called food addiction. In this condition, a person craves the very food that worsens or maintains his abnormal body chemistry. The reason for this is that psychologically the person is happy where he is and uses a particular food to maintain his comfort zone. He is resistant to change because change is stressful. In these cases, eating food the body really requires can be unpleasant. For example, refraining from alcohol and addictive foods serves to break long established mineral patterns and in certain instances increases one's awareness, which can be particularly unpleasant for the addicted individual.

Allergies and Behavior

Another class of allergies is commonly referred to as central nervous system allergies. These are reactions that detrimentally affect one's emotions and behavior. The causes of these allergies are, in many instances, the same as those discussed above. The principal difference is that they specifically affect brain function, so that reactions are particularly noticed in one's behavior and attitude.

Biochemical mechanisms primarily responsible for brain allergies include:

  • excessive histamine release in the brain due to an elevated copper level, or zinc deficiency.
  • alterations of vitamin, or other mineral levels in the brain due to foods, or exposure to toxic metals.
  • changes in blood sugar levels due to diet, stress, or adrenal insufficiency. The brain is extremely sensitive to both low and high blood sugar levels.
  • specific neuro-chemical effects of food additives such as Nutrasweet® which contains phenylalanine, a neuro-active amino acid.

In the majority of cases of central nervous system allergies, we find that a copper imbalance plays a vital role. Research confirms that a copper toxicity problem causes a zinc deficiency, which in turn may result in a rise in tissue sodium levels. A high sodium level, in turn, is responsible for many of the symptoms associated with brain allergies.

Common symptoms of brain allergies in children are hyperactivity, learning disorders and concentration deficit problems. In adults, a high sodium level frequently manifests itself as manic-depressive disorders, hyperactivity, anxiety and various phobias.

Central nervous system allergies are handled the same way as other allergies. Imbalances in body chemistry need to be identified and corrected. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis needs to be restored to normalcy. Offending foods have to be avoided for a time. Digestion also needs to be improved.

Allergies As A Symptom Of Burnout

A common hair analysis pattern noted in allergy patients is a low sodium/potassium ratio (less than 2.5:1). We call this a burnout pattern, because it is associated with adrenal exhaustion.

Allergies are a common sign of adrenal burnout. The exhausted adrenal glands simply cannot provide sufficient cortical hormones required to prevent allergic reactions.

Another common hair analysis pattern in allergy sufferers is what we refer to as an all-four-low mineral pattern. The first four minerals on the chart (calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium) are below normal accepted values. This too, is a burnout pattern, one in which the person is under unrelenting stress, thus preventing recovery of the adrenal glands. Allergies usually accompany this particular mineral pattern.

A final hair analysis mineral pattern that is often seen when allergies are present is that both sodium and potassium levels are rock bottom, below 6 mg% for sodium and below 4 mg% for potassium. Again, this is a mineral pattern commonly associated with severe adrenal exhaustion.

Very often, in order to correct an allergy problem it is necessary to correct the underlying burnout condition. Otherwise we are just relieving symptoms and the associated allergies will never be permanently eliminated.

General Nutritional Recommendations for Allergies


Avoiding refined sugars and carbohydrates reduces allergies in a category of individuals who are classified as sugar and simple carbohydrate intolerant. Eating sugar, or simple carbohydrates in any form, places undue stress upon the adrenal glands, which are forced to respond to the sudden excess of sugar in the blood. The result is increased wear and tear on these glands, as well as on the liver and pancreas. The ingestion of sugar, especially in susceptible individuals, also upsets calcium, copper and other mineral levels, eventually causing a further alteration of body chemistry.

Refined carbohydrates lack fiber, which serves to slow the absorption of sugars into the blood stream. They also lack the essential trace elements desperately required for optimal adrenal gland support.

Eating foods appropriate for one's oxidation type is particularly important. For the slow oxidizer, this means avoiding high-fat diets and eating adequate amounts of protein. Increasing one's meat protein intake is often difficult for certain slow oxidizers, particularly those with a copper toxicity problem. Avoiding, or limiting dairy products is often helpful for the slow oxidizer. Dairy products are high in fat content which serves to further slow down an already slow rate of metabolism. Many slow oxidizers are also unable to tolerate milk sugar.

For the fast oxidizer, dietary fats are essential and in some cases increasing one's intake of fats will rapidly reduce allergy symptoms related to stress-related, excessive adrenal gland activity.

Avoidance of chemical additives is suggested for everyone, but particularly allergy sufferers. Even though there may not be an allergy to any specific chemical, the body still has to detoxify these chemicals, adding to the burden on the liver and the endocrine glands.

The same principle holds true for environmental chemicals, hair sprays, room deodorants, chemical cleaners and other toxic substances that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Minimizing exposure to the above allergens reduce the burden on the liver and glandular system.

Nutritional Supplements

While a total approach to allergies definitely requires specific scientific nutrition, several nutrients are particularly helpful for the majority of allergy sufferers.


These nutrients which are found in citrus and other foods and herbs, reduce excessive cell permeability and can help reduce an inflammatory process that often characterizes allergic reactions.

Especially when combined with vitamins C and A, bioflavonoids can offer relief from allergy symptoms. High doses of these nutrients may be required. Herbs found to be useful in the treatment of allergies often contain flavone, or bioflavonoid compounds.

Pantothenic Acid

This member of the B-vitamin family (B-5) is specifically required by the adrenal glands. Giving high doses of pantothenic acid (approximately 4000 mgs. daily) are very beneficial for some allergy sufferers, particularly those in adrenal burnout (sodium/potassium ratio below 2.50/1).


This combination nutritional product (available in our online store) is specifically formulated to correct low sodium/potassium ratios, which in turn, is indicative of adrenal burnout. This formula contains manganese, zinc, copper, magnesium and vitamins A and C in specific amounts. If given in adequate amounts, this formula is very effective in reducing a wide variety of allergy symptoms relating specifically to adrenal burnout.

Random use of other vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, or manganese will help some individuals, but may make others worse because they may move body chemistry more out of balance, instead of restoring balance.

Antioxidant Nutrients

These include vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, selenium and several other nutrients. One of their functions is to help prevent free radical damage. In so doing, they reduce stress on the adrenal glands and by doing so, may be the mechanism by which these nutrients are helpful for many allergy sufferers. See antioxidants in our online store.

Scientifically Designed Nutrition Programs

The most effective method we have discovered to correct underlying causes of allergies is to go on a complete nutritional program. This includes both diet and supplements that are chosen, based on a tissue mineral analysis as well as the individual's symptoms.

Retest mineral analyses should be performed every three months to assess progress and alter the nutritional program so that it is appropriate for the patient's needs. Only by such a program, are the causes addressed and the nutritional support provided to correct the basic underlying causes of allergies.

What About Medical Treatments for Allergies?

Allergy Shots

These offer temporary relief, although many individuals must continue receiving the desensitization shots. Allergy shots do not address causes.


Antihistamine medication also can offer temporary relief, although they cause tiredness and sleepiness as a side effect. Giving calcium, magnesium and vitamin C can act similarly to anti-histamines. Ephedra, an herb, has anti-histamine properties.

Cortisone Therapy

Individuals with severe sinus, or allergy problems are often given cortisone. Although cortisone provides dramatic temporary relief, the individual often becomes dependent upon this medication. Even a reduction in a cortisone dosage can cause a severe flare-up of symptoms. While placing the adrenal glands at rest, which would be beneficial in some cases, continuous administration of cortisone often impairs their functioning so that when cortisone is withdrawn the ability of the adrenal glands to function adequately is greatly reduced.

Long-term use of cortisone is commonly associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, immune system suppression and other severe health problems.


Our research indicates that the reason allergies are so common today is largely due to an adrenal burnout-induced imbalanced body chemistry. The body has become hypersensitive to foods and environmental chemicals, which cause many types of allergic reactions.

Body chemistry has become impaired due to inadequate diets, stress and environmental pollution. Today, children are born with toxic metal poisoning and nutrient deficiencies, which indicates that even if an individual eats well, they may still be afflicted with allergies.

Fortunately, many nutritional imbalances can be measured accurately using hair mineral testing. Research has shown that changes in diet and lifestyle, along with scientifically recommended food supplements, can bring about improvement in many allergic conditions.

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