Threshold or Trigger Values
It is implicit in the body load model that you will be able to tolerate a definite level of each stressor and only by exceeding that do you move into overload. These limits may shift under different circumstances but there is always a line, drawn somewhere, which you must not cross if you want to remain well
Bad allergens, then, are the ones of which even a tiny quantity puts you over the limit. Mild allergies are those which need a big dose of an allergen to come into effect. Probably mild allergies would not arise at all if the allergens were encountered in normal quantities, but several together can add up to trouble. It is even possible to imagine a scale and assign arbitrary numerical values. If your threshold limit is, say 10 points, a 12 allergy would put you straight into symptoms. But one or two 3s taken together would still have no effect; two 4s and a 3 might, so on. This can be represented diagrammatically.
The ‘values’ scale may be a bit artificial but if you get the idea of allergies being cumulative, you will avoid unpleasant consequences more often than not. You will also begin to understand why sometimes you can eat a food without any effect and at other times be ill.
Incidental life events can play havoc with these threshold levels. Virus infections often shift the values markedly, usually to the patient’s disadvantage; so does emotional stress. This is completely in accord with what I said about body load in the previous sections
Individual Biological Variation
By now the reader will have readily grasped one of the key working principles of clinical ecology which is that of individual biological variation. With such a bewildering array of potential responses to stressors and overload, it is virtually impossible to make generalizations. This is where conventional medicine is going badly askew: it seeks to reduce each individual to a common factor in a bigger overall statistical picture and it just won’t work. Clinical ecology, on the other hand, views every case as individual and virtually unique. Working with general principles and specific cases is one of the many aspects of our philosophy in approaching disease which separates us from our determined and, at times, belligerent colleagues. We also believe in the power of Nature to fix things, given a chance. Conventional medicine seems to have gradually taken the point of view that when someone falls ill, Nature is busted and Man needs to take over and put it right.
The late Dr Theron Randloph, one-time doyen of the clinical ecology movement, took the trouble to tabulate the two approaches to medicine, which he called the EXOGENOUS (clinical ecology) view and the ENDOGENOUS (conventional) view.
I summarize his distinctions here for you:
|ENDOGENOUS (Conventional) VIEW||Exogenous (Ecology) View|
|Body to blame||Exterior causes to blame|
|Collective (statistics)||Individual (case history)|
|Treats symptoms||Seeks for causes|
|May add to the problem||Seeks to unburden|
|Drugs and intervention mainstay of treatment||Drugs and intervention considered further stress|
Finally, there is the phenomenon of enzyme deficiency, often called ‘inborn errors of metabolism’. Some people are made ill by their inability to detoxify or metabolize foods, chemicals and drugs. An example is lactase deficiency, which causes people to suffer unpleasant abdominal symptoms when they drink milk. Children with phenylketonuria lack the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase and are unable to dispose of phenylalanine, which thus accumulates and causes mental retardation and neurological damage.
But deficiencies are not confined to such named disease conditions. There are thousands of enzymes in our bodies, all working in concert. Many of them are dependent on vitamin and mineral “co-factors” to function properly (for example alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme which breaks down alcohol, needs zinc and vitamin B1 to work efficiently).
Considering possible variations in inherited endowment of enzymes, complicated by missing nutrient factors, the reader will be readily aware that enzyme deficiency can be a very individual thing. This subject of innate biological variation is something which confuses the picture with respect to allergy and overload. Doctors will insist on foolishly believing that everyone is the same, we are all “average”. In fact only a tiny percent of the population is “average”, no matter what criterion you are measuring, the vast majority are all over the place, some very far indeed from that average figure (taken to its full absurdity this would be like saying the average height for a man in 5 feet 10 inches, therefore people who are under 5 feet or over 6 feet 4 inches simply don’t exist! Can you imagine tailors being as crazy as doctors are in this regard?).
Pharmacological (drug) Effects
Confusion can arise from the fact that there may be pharmacological effects masquerading as an ‘allergy’. For example, the headache, flushing, racing pulse and giddiness that can come on after too much caffeine is really a drug reaction, not an allergic one. Obviously individual variations in trigger thresholds make this one sometimes hard to observe.
Few people understand the incredible range of pharmacological substances that are to be found in plant substances. Most “green-minded” people think of herbs as kind, nurturing and gentle: wouldn’t hurt anyone, right? But, hey, I like to point out that foxglove, hemlock, opium poppy, marijuana, deadly nightshade and countless plants stuffs are dangerous, even poisonous. “Beware the humble carrot” wrote Richard Mackarness; this innocuous looking vegetable contains a neuro-toxin. Not relevant? I had a patient in the 1980s, a young boy, who had epileptic fits every time he ate carrots or anything from the same food family: parsnip, celery, parsley, dill, fennel, coriander etc.
There is no doubt that in the right hands, plants have healing power, but they can also do great harm. Don’t confuse this type of reaction with a true allergy or even intolerance.