Weight Loss and Allergy Flares

As you may remember, I was feeling rather ill early in the week. I’ve had a nasty cold since last Friday, in which my throat was on fire and coughing was a killer. One day I drank apple cider vinegar and raw honey all day [Homemade Cough Syrup and Other Remedies], the next I decided to try sipping vodka. I spent way too many days sleeping on the couch, and I’m still not fully recovered. My throat made me not want to eat much, and my newly-worsened propylene glycol allergy meant that there were limited foods to eat that were both edible and didn’t feel like knives going down. The result: I lost five pounds.

What was strange about this event is not that I lost weight, but that a gradual allergic reaction spread across my upper body. On the first day, my forearms developed red, rashy spots. On the second day, the rash moved all the way up to my elbows. On the third day, the rash began to itch more and spread onto the backs of my hands and my scalp. On the fourth day, I had successfully treated the rashes on my arms but the back of my neck and shoulders was itching like mad. I wasn’t eating my allergens because I was hardly eating at all, and I wasn’t coming into contact with them because I was barely leaving my nest. Yes, stress can cause histamine release, triggering allergy symptoms, but I wondered if there was more to it than that. Could weight loss cause allergic reactions?

My first thought that was that my chemical allergens could be stored in fat tissue and released when the fat is used by the body. This study suggests that depending on the chemical allergen, this is indeed possible. The article states that adipose (fat) tissue has the ability to protect the body by regulating and reducing toxic exposure to persistent organic pollutants (and other lipophilic, xenobiotic chemicals, or chemicals that are easily absorbed by fat tissue and are foreign to the human body) by storing them and releasing them slowly back into the body. Weight loss speeds their release, leading to increased allergy symptoms. Fat loss also leads to higher concentrations of these chemicals in the blood, which leads to temporary take-up of more of these chemicals by the remaining fatty tissue. This is why excessive weight loss can be dangerous for anyone. Overall, weight loss does tend to lead to a slight long-term decrease in this chemical load in the body, as the body excretes these chemicals through feces, and also through pregnancy and lactation.

In addition, some of these persistent organic pollutants are considered obesogens, meaning that they cause or interrupt processes in the body that affect fat storage, leading to weight gain (or lack of weight loss). What is even more disturbing is that these chemicals can have an even greater (possibly lifetime) effect on children when those children are exposed in the womb, in early life, and during puberty. Our desire for convenience and simplicity in food, and body and home care choices while caring for young children (not to mention teens’ desires to experiment with popular body care trends) can have long-term effects on their well-being and risk of later-in-life obesity.

Some persistent organic pollutants have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol and plaques in the blood, not to mention acting on pathways related to certain common cancers. Finally, many of these chemicals have the ability to create inflammation, disrupt metabolism, and encourage the development of metabolic diseases like diabetes. Scary stuff, and a lot more than I bargained for by asking this question.

But are there any other reasons why a cold and weight loss might cause allergic reaction symptoms? Everyone knows the work that free-floating white blood cells do in fighting off infection. Mast cells are another type of cell that are located in most tissues throughout the body, especially ones that contact the outside environment, and act as first-alert “master switches” on immune activation. While mast cells detect a pathogen, including both infections and allergens, they activate myriad releases of mediating chemicals (including histamines), tailored to the type of incursion (as best the body can do). Histamines are the chemicals that lead to typical allergic reaction symptoms such as rashes and inflammation, and they help to attract other immune system components to the site of the defense breach. [The Role of Mast Cells in the Defence against Pathogens] [About Mast Cells – What are they and why should we care?]

Mast Cells

Histamine release by mast cells can also be triggered by stress, and stress is both emotional and physical. Thus it is possible that the combined stress of weight loss and fighting a bad cold caused sufficient histamine release to worsen my symptoms. The combination of release of chemicals from fatty tissue and the release of histamine from stress on the body could be sufficient to cause my symptoms, with the caveat that I need to better understand whether my specific allergens are lipophilic (soluble in fat) enough to be stored in fat.

My study of these mechanisms brought a lot of interesting factors to light, most notably that there are toxic chemicals within our bodies that do not substantially dissipate over time. Thus it would be prudent to do what we can to avoid increasing that chemical load and further burden our bodies. When society at large is moving in the opposite direction, it is up to the individual to make choices to reverse that trend, if not for society, then at least for themselves and their families.

As next Monday is Family Day, Default to Nature will return with a new post next Friday.

2 Responses to “Weight Loss and Allergy Flares”

  1. Kerry Kuzak

    I definitely agree that our bodies accumulate environmental toxins and that allergy symptoms are the body’s attempt to rid itself of these toxins. It is my belief, however, that heavy metal toxins (like lead, mercury, aluminum) primarily tend to accumulate in the brain, immune system and kidneys. Toxicants from drugs, alcohol, toxic chemicals, pesticides and food additives can settle in the liver. Microbiol toxins are absorbed toxins caused by bacteria and yeast in the intestines. Breakdown products of protein metabolism, like urea and ammonia, can also put a burden on the kidneys after excessive protein intake. Symptoms like fatigue, nausea, headaches and skin eruptions are known to occur because of the flood of toxins being released into the blood stream during detoxification.

    I follow the belief of holistic practitioners who believe that all disease starts in the gut and that Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a major cause of chronic conditions in modern society. Leaky Gut refers to increased intestinal permeability. Due to poor diet, chronic stress, toxin overload and/or bacterial imbalance, this porous intestinal lining allows food molecules, that would normally be too large, to pass through the intestinal lining. Once these abnormally large molecules get through, a natural defense reaction occurs whereby the body builds antibodies to identify the larger molecule as an invader and attack it. The result of this antibody reaction is what we call allergy/sensitivity. Leaky Gut is all about inflammation because of the weakening of the intestinal wall and the imbalance of bacteria in the gut ( which makes up about 80% of our immune system).The logic goes like this:

    1) When the gut is inflamed it does not secrete digestive enzymes to digest foods properly or absorb nutrients and foods properly. The result can be digestive issues like GERD and indigestion with gas and bloating (IBS).
    2) When the gut is inflamed, carrier proteins are damaged, so malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies occur. These deficiencies slow down the ability of the gut to heal and can cause any number of other symptoms ( e.g.magnesium deficiency induced angina; chromium deficiency induced high cholesterol).
    3)The detoxification pathways become compromised. The leakage of toxins overburdens the liver, so that the body is less able to handle every day chemicals in foods, water and air. Now many foods can cause symptoms that never did before because the liver is unable to cope with the hundreds of chemical additives, dyes, preservatives and pesticides common in our foods.
    4)When the gut lining is inflamed, the protective coating of the gut antibodies can be lost and the body becomes more vulnerable to infections in the intestines from bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeast.
    5) When intestinal lining infections set in, the bacteria and yeast can pass from the gut cavity into the blood stream and set up infection anywhere else in the body, including the brain. This is often the cause of infections in the teeth and gums, bones, prostate, bladder and sinuses.
    6)Autoimmunity can also occur when the immune system is constantly under this kind of attack. While there seems to be a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease, there is also the presence of environmental triggers such as viruses, bacteria, medications, pollutants, hormones or stress present. Diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroiditis are all thought to begin with inflammatory conditions in the GI tract.

    • Thank you for your ideas. The post you are commenting on is stating facts from studies based on years of medical research by trained medical doctors. While I appreciate alternative viewpoints, if someone says that something is in a certain body tissue because they have opened up the body and physically removed a part of that tissue and chemically analyzed it, I am inclined to believe them.

      Science does agree that the digestive system plays an as-yet-not-fully-understood role in other body systems, and admits the possibility of enhanced permeability of intestines. What it does not do at this point is name a cause of this condition or specify effects of this condition, and certainly the range of human experience in that regard is varied. The leaps you make are rather large and do not take into account the actions of all the other systems in the body, nor the possible other causes of these conditions.

      I’m glad that your lifestyle choices in this direction help you and I encourage all who feel that these changes may help them to seek out a medically licensed integrative doctor to aid them on their quest. If they find any doctor who does not help them to achieve appropriate resolution, I encourage them to find a new one.

      I make a point here on this blog to focus on proven facts and to clearly call out where I am deviating from fact by stating theories (which I then support with evidence).

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