Probably no recent development in the study of allergy has caused more confusion than the recognition of the multiplicity of symptoms it can produce. No doubt this has hampered progress, since the traditional medical view of patients with many and variable symptoms has always been that they were somehow neurotic and ‘putting it all on’.

This dismissive tendency is made worse if the patient suffers psychological disturbances, yet few doctors have ever thought to question whether such personality changes could also be caused by an allergy. Even if they were not, if you had a chronic disease or symptoms that came and went in a baffling way – headache one week, sore throat the next, diarrhoea the next, and so on – wouldn’t you expect to feel bad mentally? Some doctors now like to use the term ‘pseudo-food allergy syndrome’, which does not help patients at all. One of the sacred texts of this disagreeable trend appeared in the Lancet in an article by D. J. Pearson, K. J. N. Rix and S. J. Bentley entitled ‘Food Allergy: How Much is in the Mind?’ (Lancet i: 1259-61, 1983).

The trouble is, there researchers made no allowance for the fact that their tests might be at fault and assumed, because they got no reaction, that the patient was deluded (their tests were the equivalent of evincing the effect of eating a beef steak by allowing the patient only two capsules of beef). This is not to say that there are no neurotic individuals whose symptoms are an attempt to win sympathy from a world they find too hostile; merely that such people are in a small minority.

How do such changeable and mysterious symptoms come about? The modern allergist thinks in terms of target organs or shock organs. The concept is really very simple: an allergic reaction is, of course, a manifestation of the whole person, but some part of the body, or a particular organ (for reasons which are not clear) receives more of the trauma than the rest. Symptoms will depend largely on the function of this organ. (see also target organs section)

Five Key Symptoms of Allergy

The range of potential symptoms caused by an allergy is vast. Nevertheless, Dr Richard Mackarness gives five key symptoms that point the way to allergic illness and that have special importance. He believes that without one of the following symptoms diagnosis is unlikely:

Over or underweight, or fluctuating weight
Persistent fatigue that isn’t help by rest.
Occasional swellings around the eyes, hands, abdomen, ankles, etc.
Palpitations or speeded heart rate, particularly after meals
Excessive sweating, not related to exercise

 

It needs mentioning that there should be no other obvious explanation for these symptoms!

The table below lists symptoms commonly encountered with allergies and maladaptation syndrome. The list is far from complete.

It is important to say that most of the symptoms could be caused by some other illness, although several – such as sneezing attacks – are peculiar to allergies. What really matters is the spread of symptoms – the more of these you have, the more likely it is that your illness is allergic in origin.

Some are quite obvious; those denoting digestive disturbance would point particularly to a food allergy in the absence of any other pathology. Those affecting the brain show up clearly as mood changes, altered feelings, etc.

Abrupt changes from being well to unwell (well one minute, sick a few hours later) are also pretty characteristic of allergic reactions.

What often surprises people are those symptoms of feeling bad first thing in the morning. This is so common most people can’t accept that it is even a disorder, never mind an allergy. It’s almost considered normal to feel that way! The key is food addiction. By the time a person wakes up in the morning, he or she has often been off food for 12 to 14 hours: that’s enough to start up withdrawal symptoms. He or she then has breakfast, which acts like a ‘fix’ and symptoms start to clear. Certainly these feelings are common, but that’s only because masked food allergies are very common.

Another surprise is the ‘four – day flu’, which isn’t really flu at all – it’s a food allergy. Dr Arthur Coca, a pioneer of allergy detection and treatment, said, ‘You don’t catch colds, you eat them’. He had a point: a person eats a food, symptoms are centred on the nose and muscles so he or she experiences headache, runny nose, aches and pains, may be even a temperature, but a few days later, when the food leaves the bowel, the symptoms disappear. That’s too quick for the natural course of a viral disease.

Symptoms that May Be Attributable to Allergies and Maladaptation

ORGAN COMMONLY ATTRIBUTABLE SYMPTOMS

eye

redness, itching, blurred vision, ‘sandy’ or gritty feeling in the eyes, seeing spots, heavy eyes, seeing flashing lights, dark rings under the eyes, double vision (comes and goes), unnatural ‘sparkle’ to the eyes, watering

ear

ringing in the ears, hearing loss, itching and redness of pinna (outer ear), recurring infections (especially if the sufferer is a child), earache

cardio- vascular

rapid or irregular pulse, chest pain, palpitations, especially after eating, tight chest, pain on exercise (angina), raised blood-pressure

lungs

tightness in chest, wwheezing, hyperventilation (over-breathing) coughing, poor respiratory function

nose, throat and mouth

metallic taste, post-nasal drip, mouth ulcers, stuffed up nose, frequent sore throats, sinusitis, stiffness of throat or tongue, sneezing

gastro- intestinal

nausea, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, constipation, variability of bowel function, abdominal bloating, flatulence, hunger pangs, acidity, pain in the stomach, abdominal distress

skin

eczema, urticaria (hives), rash that isn’t eczema, excessive sweating, itching, blotches, chilblains

musculo- skeletal

swollen, painful joints, aching muscles, muscular spasm, shaking (especially on waking), cramps, fibrositis, pseudo-paralysis

genito- urinary

PMT, menstrual difficulties, frequency of urination, genital itch, bedwetting, urgency, burning urination

head

mild or moderate headache, migraine, sick headaches, solid feeling, pressure, throbbing, stiff neck, stabbing

nervous system

inability to think clearly, memory loss, ‘dopey’ feeling, stammering (attacks), terrible thoughts on waking, insomnia, maths and spelling errors, blankness, delusion, crabby on waking, hallucination, difficulty waking up, desire to injure self, convulsions, light-headedness, twitching

stimulated overative mental state

silliness, anxiety, intoxication, panic attacks, hyperactivity, irritability, uncontrollable rage, tenseness, restlessness, smashing-up-attacks, fidgeting, general speeding up, restless legs

depressed underactive mental state

‘brain fag’, depression, feeling withdrawn, lack of confidence, melancholy, low mood, unreal or depersonalized feeling, confused, tearful

other very revealing symptoms

Sudden tiredness after eating, sudden chills after eating, vertigo, abrupt changes from feeling well to unwell, feeling unwell all over

Return To Top Of Page