HOW TO DETECT SENSITIVITY TO FOOD AND DRINK

Skin and laboratory tests for allergy to foods are not always conclusive or reliable. They need to be considered in the context of a detailed history of symptoms. Exclusion dieting, followed by challenge testing – eating a food to see if you react – is the most reliable method of testing for both food allergy and all types of food intolerance.

One specific form of food intolerance, which reproduces the symptoms of allergy and responds to treatment with anti-histamines, is called ‘false food allergy’. It can be detected by modified laboratory tests for allergy. Certain foods are known to cause false food allergy (i.e. peanuts, beans, pulses, wheat, egg white, shellfish, pork, fish, chocolate, tomatoes and strawberries) and other foods are suspected of causing it (i.e. buckwheat, mango, mustard, papaya, raw pineapple, sunflower seeds). If you have classic allergic symptoms caused by any of these foods, respond to antihistamine treatment, but have negative results to tests for allergy, false food allergy may be the cause.

Food intolerance caused by specific chemicals found naturally in certain foods can only be confirmed by exclusion dieting. Some foods contain chemicals that have effects directly on the body, such as histamine, other vasoactive amines and caffeine. Histamine is found naturally in fermented foods, cheeses, well-ripened foods such as salamis and sausages, and fish of the mackerel family that has been kept too warm. Other vasoactive amines are found in cheeses, fermented and pickled foods, yeast extract, chocolate, bananas, avocados, wine and citrus fruits. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate, cola drinks and some painkillers. For a full description of this kind of intolerance.

Exclusion dieting will also help identify known enzyme defects that can cause food intolerance and specific symptoms, or coeliac disease, a form of wheat and gluten intolerance. A specialist doctor will be able to identify such defects readily from your pattern of symptoms.

Hyperactivity in children has been linked to enzyme defects and food intolerance.

People with food sensitivity often exhibit some identifiable traits of character or behaviour. While not precisely symptoms, these are strong indicators of sensitivity.

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MULTIPLE SENSITIVITY: IF YOU WANT TO GO FURTHER

If you know that you react to many things and that basic avoidance has not helped very much, you will probably need specialist help and advice. If you need advice on medical treatments.

Skin and laboratory tests can help to identify what substances you are allergic to, although they will not help with chemical sensitivity or food intolerance. Which will also help you work out what might cause your problems in different areas of your life, and help identify patterns of symptoms.

If you want to take the process of elimination and avoidance much further, and clear your environment of the things that cause you to react, use the other sections of this Guide to help you with thorough avoidance. Choose either an area of life where you have the most pressing problems, or a type of allergen or substance that seems to be particularly troublesome. Only investigate one area or type of allergen at a time – you will get very confused results if you are eliminating many things at once and you do indeed have multiple sensitivity. You may find the process complicated in that your symptoms may not totally disappear when you remove only one cause from around you, but you should always notice some difference, and usually some improvement, when you avoid one thing, as long as it is something that causes you to react. If you notice no change or disturbance at all in your symptoms, then you are unlikely to be sensitive to the one thing you have chosen to avoid.

This phenomenon of ‘masking’, or the symptoms of multiple sensitivities hiding or blurring each other, is one of the most difficult things to untangle when you start avoiding things. Often, when you avoid and eliminate one allergen or substance, you find that another starts to bother you more intensely than before, as if its effects have been unmasked by the removal of the first substance.

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ALLERGY TO CLEANING PRODUCTS/CHEMICALS AT WORK OR SCHOOL: DISINFECTANTS

Most domestic disinfectants are based on quaternary ammonium compounds or on phenol (carbolic acid). They also contain fragrances, usually complex hydrocarbons. Disinfectants are unpleasant and troublesome chemicals. Do not use them unless you have a strong need – say, infection or an invalid in the home.

Very hot water, and plenty of it, is the best way to clean up after any baby messes and mishaps. Most kitchen surfaces are effectively disinfected by thorough washing and rinsing with hot water. A solution of Borax or sodium bicarbonate will serve as a mild disinfectant for most purposes, as will oxygen bleach.

Air conditioning systems are often regularly disinfected to protect against bacterial infections such as Legionnaire’s Disease. This may affect you at work in the days immediately after the disinfection, while the fumes are blown through the system. Ask the people responsible to give you warning so that you can be prepared, or out of the building.

If you need to use a strong disinfectant, The Allergy Shop make an anti-bacterial concentrate which some people tolerate well. Unscented Dettox (available from supermarkets) is also tolerated well by some people with chemical sensitivity. Try these with care.

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ALLERGY BABYCARE\HOW TO WEAN: IF YOUR BABY REACTS

If your baby has reacted to a food during the day of testing it, (first or second time around), do not repeat it. Try and get through the day without giving another new test food – it may not be easy to work out which food the baby is reacting to, and will confuse the results.

If your baby is first weaning and reacts to a number of foods that you try, keep trying different foods on a four-day rotation until you find four foods that suit. Try not to give foods more frequently than once every four days – a food-sensitive baby may start to react to foods that he or she tolerated well if they are eaten too frequently. Ask a doctor for advice as you go on, particularly if you start running out of foods to try and you have a very hungry baby shouting for food. Ask for specialist help if you need it – some health visitors and GPs are very experienced and helpful with highly sensitive babies.

If your baby appears to start to react to foods for unexplained reasons, one of the causes may be cross-reaction between related foods. If you have a very sensitive baby, read FOOD AND DRINK and CROSS-REACTION before planning a weaning programme.

If your baby is on an established diet and is only testing single foods at the first meal of the day, you may get confusing results if he or she is reacting to foods in the normal diet, eaten during the rest of the day. The only way to sort this out may be to go to a full rotation diet. Consult a specialist doctor and.

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ALLERGY TO MOULDS: WHAT TRIGGERS SPORE RELEASE?

So what situations trigger spore release in concentrations? Usually it is some change in their environment. Sudden warming in damp conditions can stimulate spore release in an indoor environment. Using a tumble dryer, ironing clothes, drying wet towels or hanging wet laundry near a strong heat source will stimulate spore production. Bringing damp logs or a plant in from the cold will also produce mould spores. Installing central heating in an old house can bring about sudden concentrations of spores where there were few problems before. A damp spot beneath a dripping radiator valve can induce high levels of mould as the heating comes on. Keeping rooms dry and keeping a steady average temperature can do much to avoid such problems.

Climatic conditions can also stimulate spore release. A warm, humid period of weather in summer will encourage mould production on foliage, crops and plants. If there is then a windy period, the spores can be dispersed and carried even long distances. Some moulds implicated in allergy – Cladosporium, Alternaria, Botrytis Cinerea, StemphylUum – produce spores more readily in a drying wind. They can produce explosive concentrations of spores on hot, dry days in summer.

One allergenic mould – Didymella Exitalis – is very sensitive to moisture levels in the atmosphere. Its sporulation is provoked by dew formation; between June and early September, spores are released at about midnight and reach their peak at 3 a.m. It is also provoked by thunderstorms and reaches a peak some hours after very heavy rainfall in storms.

Another moisture sensitive mould is Sporobolomyces which, like Didymella, reaches its peak on warm summer nights in humid weather. It is at its height usually at about 4 a.m. in late July and August.

Some moulds thrive better in coastal situations, others inland.

Penicil Hum, for instance, does well in coastal sites; Cladosporium, Alternaria and StemphyUium are more prevalent inland.

Warmth and climate changes can thus stimulate spore production in airborne moulds. Disturbing and stirring up the mould’s environment can also produce very high local concentrations in soilborne moulds. Some moulds, such as Mucor and Rhizopus, live in the soil and only become airborne (and thus able to provoke allergic reactions) when they are disturbed. Thus digging a garden, playing in a sandpit and ploughing a field can propel spores into the air.

Other activities, too, can expose high levels of spores. Raking leaves, mowing grass, turning a compost heap, picking fruit, sweeping a yard – all these will throw mould spores into the atmosphere in high concentrations.

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SEXUAL PROBLEMS: SEX THERAPY

Unfortunately, many men share similar attitude: They take advice to see a sex therapist as an indication that someone thinks they are crazy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Sex therapy is for people who want to overcome habits and attitudes which sabotage their sex lives—if s usually not for people with serious emotional or mental problems, because often they can’t benefit from it. Generally, a sex therapist will not focus on your unconscious, or attempt to analyze you. A sex therapist will help you define your goals and possibly revise them so they are more attainable; identify problem areas and suggest solutions; and provide suggestions and exercises for making positive changes.

The fact is, sexual problems affect most people at some point in their lives. Think about it: Why would this emotionally packed area of human behavior be any more immune from disturbance than other parts of life? And sex therapy doesn’t take a lifetime. Sometimes, just a brief period of help can make a very positive and rewarding difference.

Although there are lots of variations of sex therapy, modern-day sex therapy began with the work of Masters and Johnson. As the term is usually used, sex therapy is designed to focus on the needs, concerns and expectations of the client. It can be a highly structured, short-term program lasting a few weeks or months, or it may be more flexible in design.

Different forms of sex therapy can benefit men and women with a wide variety of sexual difficulties, but we’re going to concentrate on how sex therapy can help men who experience erection problems.

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IMPOTENCY: BLOOD FLOW

The arteries in the penis are quite tiny, and zeroing in on them to take the pressure can be difficult. If the wrong arteries get measured, the results will be inaccurate. Generally speaking, if you get a low reading, you can probably figure the test was done correctly, Sometimes, though, you may get a false normal reading, If blood-flow problems are suspected, you then may need a more sophisticated measurement, called the duplex Doppler test.

Using the radar-like duplex Doppler, doctors can actually measure the increase in blood flow that a man is able to generate to get an erection. This sophisticated and nearly painless test can let the doctor actually see the arteries in the penis, and figure out how well they’re doing their job.

For years, doctors have used the duplex Doppler to look at other parts of the body. Tom F. Lue, M.D., and colleagues at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, developed a new way to use it. We can now measure the increase in blood flow to the penis and the change in diameter of the blood vessels during an erection. This crucial information shows if the arteries are sufficiently healthy to deliver enough blood to the penis to sustain an erection.

Usually, these measurements are taken before and after a penile shot of papaverine which will, of course, usually produce an erection. By checking the change in blood flow between a man’s erect and nonerect state, the doctor knows if the arterial expressways are doing their job.

Sometimes a man with blocked arteries may be advised to have surgery to reroute blood around the defective arteries. If you’re considering this, you’ll need to have an arteriogram which can actually pinpoint the arteries at fault. First, dye is injected into the arteries which supply the penis, and then an X-ray is taken. f

Another artery test, thermography, measures the heat in the penis. The temperature is an indication of the amount of bloopl flow. But thermography has recently fallen out of favor with many urologists, since more accurate measurements of blood flow are now available.

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CONTROL TOUR EJACULATION: THE STOP-START METHOD

The stop-start method aims at giving the man a sense of control over his ejaculations. It starts with masturbation. In a quiet, private, secure place where he can relax, the man stimulates himself up and down the length of his penis, so that what he feels is similar to what he would enjoy during intercourse. While doing this, he needs to concentrate on how he feels, especially in his penis. When he senses he is going to ejaculate, he stops and waits until this feeling completely passes. Then, he begins self-pleasuring all over again. He may continue in this manner until the fourth time of wanting to ejaculate, when he allows himself to do so. He continues these exercises over a period of time, until he can control his ejaculation to his satisfaction.

Now, if there’s a partner, she can become involved by caressing her lover in the way described above. He can control her hands and stop her when necessary. Sexual fantasies can be an important part of this process.

Once a man can delay his ejaculation with masturbation and with his lover’s manual stimulation, he’s ready to try intercourse. If s best to start with the woman on top, because in this position the man has less general body tension and his partner is free to stop moving when he signals her to do so. When the couple first begins intercourse, the man and woman may lie still for a while or may enjoy caressing each other in nongenital areas. Once thrusting begins, he can use the stop-start technique to avoid early ejaculation. He may want to hold on to her hips to control the movement and the stimulation he feels.

The next-to-the-last step in the process is for the woman to be able to thrust herself while on top, without the man being in control. However, he may stop her if he feels he will ejaculate too soon.

Reaping the benefits of this technique takes time. You should expect premature ejaculation to continue for a while as you’re becoming familiar with the method. Once you have mastered each phase (a week for each period would be expected), you can try other positions during intercourse.

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PEYRONIE’S DISEASE CAN CAUSE ERECTION PROBLEMS

Peyronie’s disease, named for the doctor who discovered it, can also cause erection problems. Most often, this condition occurs in middle-aged men, who usually show up in the doctor’s office complaining of a penis that curves to one side when erect. Sometimes this curvature makes intercourse difficult. Sometimes there is also pain that disappears when the erection does. And some patients can actually feel a lump in their penis. (They usually think they have cancer, but growths caused by Peyronie’s disease are not cancerous.)

Not all men with Peyronie’s disease become impotent, but some do. Sometimes the disease appears to be caused by injury to the penis, and even, according to some experts, by medications. And there appears to be a genetic component, since it sometimes runs in families.

For reasons doctors don’t fully understand, the disease causes scarring in the corpora cavernosa, those all-important cylinders in the penis which must fill up with blood for erections to occur. This scarring can create the lumps, bending and pain which are the hallmarks of the illness.

A whole variety of treatments have been tried to stop the progress of the disease, including medication, radiation, injection of steroids into the penis and surgical removal of the lumps, but none have been proven particularly effective. About half of all patients get better over time (usually after about a year), so it’s important to take the most conservative approach you can live with. If you do decide to try any type of treatment, be sure you’re well informed about all the possible consequences. You may want to get a second (or third) opinion before proceeding. If severe bending with erection persists, an operation to straighten the penis may offer a permanent solution. In some cases, a penile implant may be necessary.

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ERECTION PROBLEMS: TROUBLE AT HOME

An unhappy relationship coupled with a demanding partner is another possible source of erection problems. In this case, as in others, separating the erection problem from the relationship is often counterproductive. Marion and Walter, for example, had been married for more than 20 years. It was not a happy relationship. Walter did not turn out to be the ambitious, energetic man Marion had wanted. Faced with conflict, he withdrew. Over the years, Marion had built up a lot of anger over her husband’s “failure,” his lack of responsibility, his unwillingness to participate in family events. But she did not deal with the issues openly. Instead, she took the battles into the bedroom. She compared her husband’s sexual skills with those of her best friend’s spouse, with the expected disastrous results. “Mary’s husband doesn’t have erection problems. But you do!”

The predictable result was that Walter’s erection problems increased, and Marion had something else to be angry about.

This was a no-win situation for both partners, but the erection problem was only a part of a very troubled and unfulfilling marriage. Some people might see Walter’s lack of erection as a way of punishing his wife, or as a logical response to a hostile situation. Feeling under attack, he and his penis withdrew.

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