April 07, 2017

How I Cured My Allergies

I’ve been asked enough times how I cured myself of allergies to dogs that I thought it was worth sharing the answer with the world at large in the hopes that it helps many more people than I could ever meet.  Here is the story of how I did it.

It’s not that modern medicine is bad, it’s just that it doesn’t encompass all the paths to healing. 

When it comes to allergies, we (the general populace) are beginning to realize that we can often cure ourselves without relying solely on pills and powders, inhalers and injections.

I cured myself of allergies by following not just the modern medicine path (loratadine/claritin, albuterol/ventolin) but by questioning the accepted knowledge, being desperate to change, and being absolutely convinced that I could heal myself.

I grew up highly allergic to dogs and cats.  In their presence I was almost instantly wheezing, sniffing, and sneezing.  Wherever I went I had to have my inhaler and my allergy pills with me.

Onset was rapid.  Within a few minutes of simply seeing a dog or cat I could have a full blown allergy attack.  The dog and cat allergies heavily influenced my life.  I would prepare for any exposure by dosing up on medicine ahead of time, and I would endure weekends of labored breathing, a runny nose, and watery eyes when we visited family or friends with dogs and cats.

As I grew older, I imagined having a pet dog but always ran up against the fact of the allergies: No matter how fun a dog might be, it’s hard to enjoy life when your nose is constantly running and breathing is an effort.

I was resigned to a life avoiding dogs and cats until a few curious events happened.  The first happened in my early twenties.  After a few drinks at the bar I ended up sharing a bed with a girlfriend and her new puppy.  Focused on experiences that didn’t include the puppy, I didn’t notice until the next morning that I’d slept through the night with no runny nose and no asthma.

Curious, I thought.  Maybe I was growing out of my allergies?  I tested that by hanging around other dogs, and was immediately enveloped in the usual allergic symptoms. 

Was it just puppies?  That puppy?  I went back to the girl’s house and played with the puppy, only to be hit with a severe asthma attack and the usual miserable symptoms. 

It was unpleasant enough that I stopped asking questions for years. I didn’t want to deal with the consequences of being wrong, and life held other interests for me.

It wasn’t until I met my wife Lee that I started to question again what triggered my allergies.  Lee is a die-hard animal lover and has had dogs and cats in her house throughout her life.  When we moved in together we made the decision to not have a dog or cat due to my allergies, and the experience of being without an animal was not an easy one for Lee.

Still, I was solid in my belief that my allergies limited me when it came to animals. Then I got a job as a mobile notary.

A mobile notary travels around to people’s houses and notarizes documents for them.  The niche I was in centered around home loan documents, and in the heady real estate years of 2006-2008, business was booming.  I would visit up to 5 houses a day, spending an hour at a time in each house going through all the loan documents with the borrowers.  It was during this time that I noticed a few odd things.

Normally I would travel with at least two inhalers (in case one ran out), 2 handkerchiefs and  a bottle of Claritin pills.  I was living in an inflamed state. Nose running, wheezy breath, watery eyes.  I would walk in to the house and if I smelled cat or dog, or worse, if I saw them, my body instantly went into hyperdrive allergy response mode. 

I was embarrassed by the allergies but the money was good and I had learned to endure. 

Then I had the first of a few odd experiences. 

I was an hour in to watching another home owner sign their loan docs.  We had been having a pleasant conversation and my allergies had not made an appearance.  I felt fine.  Then, in the last five minutes of the loan signing, a cat walked around the corner and into the room.

Instantly my nose began running and my throat started to close up.  I took a few quick hits off my inhaler, began blowing my nose and apologizing to the home owner, explaining that I was allergic to cats.  I finished up the loan in a blur of watery eyes and hurried out of the house to my car.

As I drove away, I wondered.  I hadn’t had any symptoms until I saw the cat.  Why was that?  I thought I was allergic to cats?  It reminded me of the “puppy in bed” experience, and I began to question my reality. 

As I thought more and more about allergies, an idea began to form.  What if the allergies were a mental response, not a physical reaction?  Was that possible? 

It didn’t seem likely. I had been examined by many doctors, had all the pricking and scratching tests, visited allergy specialists and had my allergies confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt. I had been told that the only way to ever manage my allergies was by getting an injection on a weekly basis that would merely reduce the symptoms, never eliminate them.  Were the experts wrong? 

I had had allergies my whole life; could they really be just my imagination?  To fully investigate this thought line, I had to face two hard and unpleasant facts.

First, I’m an attention hog.  It’s not a unique trait, there’s nothing special about it, but I thrive on attention.  For a long time it didn’t matter what kind of attention that was.  Positive, negative, neutral, as a victim, patient, or perpetrator; I just wanted attention. 

Second, allergies got me a lot of attention.    When you’re in a wheelchair being rolled out to an ambulance, the whole school knows who you are.  When you’re a little kid, your parents will make sure that anyone who might “hurt” you, accidentally or otherwise is warned, fended off, or guarded against, usually in very vocal fashion.

I had to travel back through my memories to fully understand what might have started it.  When I did, at the very bottom of the well, I found what I thought was the genesis.

When I was a very young boy, maybe 3 years old, I made a fateful visit to my aunt and uncle’s house.  They had an enormous German Shepherd and what seemed like innumerable cats.  I cornered one of those cats in the way that toddlers do, and it took a swipe at me.  The claws just missed my eye, the fuss over my scratched face was enormous, and from then on I was highly allergic to cats.

Allergies to dogs and other animals followed; the attention I got from being allergic was tremendous. 

It seems so obvious now, but it took me 29 years, a driven curiosity, and total desperation to figure it out.

I had a few more experiences as a notary where I hadn’t realized an animal was in the house and I had no symptoms until I saw it.  I became convinced that my allergies were psychosomatic, but I wasn’t able to rationally “unthink” my belief in my allergies.  By that time the allergy pattern was deeply ingrained.

I began to explore alternate therapies.  I tried acupuncture, NAET, homeopathic remedies, even holding an electrode while a small current was run through the allergen and then me in an attempt to “reorient my magnetic fields.”  At this point I was still just curious, not desperate.  None of the treatments seemed to work; I was still allergic.

I decided to become desperate, so Lee and I bought a dog. 

Birdie was a little Australian Cattle Dog puppy when we first got her. She was exactly the dog I’d always dreamed of:  High energy, a constant companion, curious about the world, and with her little impish black mask she was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen. 

Birdie the cattle dog as a puppy

Still, she made me sneeze.  I couldn’t hold her close without starting to wheeze, and if she licked me on the arm I’d get a red mark in the shape of her tongue.

I’ve been a runner and general exercise aficionado my entire life, and the wheezing and running nose interfered with my workouts.  I loved Birdie, but my life was starting to be a constant state of misery.  Still, by this time I was convinced that the allergies were just in my head and I could change.

It took 2 more things to figure out the cure.  I’d had the lightbulb moment, I had desperation, now I needed to learn the methods to change both mentally and physically.

First, I found a book by Louise L Hay called, “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Ms. Hay was one of the first and best of the New Age movement, convinced that our minds are far more powerful to create our reality than was previously believed, and her book laid out both her story and a path to permanently changing one’s mind.

As I read through it, absorbed the information and did the exercises, I noticed small yet steady changes in my beliefs.  I wrote out affirmations by the thousands, performed thought experiments, and delved deeply into the roots of my belief system.  My symptoms would ease temporarily and unexpectedly, giving me hope. 

Still, they would come back, leaving me wheezing at night, struggling to breathe so mightily that the bed would shake and Lee would lay awake next to me wondering what I was doing.  I had asked her to never acknowledge my allergies. I felt that cutting off the attention flow was key to the cure.

I also felt that continuing to use my inhaler wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go; the instant ease would allow me to avoid dealing with the reality I needed to mend.  It meant I fought with asthma on an almost constant basis.

One night, as I dealt with the elephant on my chest and the bed shook, I went over my affirmations in my head.  I was flailing for anything, desperate for something. I sought that feeling of freedom from asthma, from sickness, from allergies.  I was willing to do anything, I let go of every old unhelpful thought I could remember.  I poured every good emotion I had into the moment, aiming for something I wasn’t sure existed. Suddenly, my chest eased.  I took a deep, massive, unrestrained breath.  The night was quiet, but inside I was electric! 

The emotions I had summoned had somehow succeeded in temporarily and consciously re-wiring my mental response.  Through an intense focus strengthened by desperation, I had made the first giant step to cracking the spine of the monster I had created.

The symptoms came back later the next day, but by then I knew I could change.  From that point on I made rapid progress.  It was the first time I’d been able to consciously alter the reality I had experienced for 29 years previously, and the beliefs I had were forever changed.

Birdie and Nik, the cure begins

I continued with my affirmations, read and re-read Hay’s book, and made progress.  Within a week I was able to play with Birdie without instantly wheezing.  I began to sleep through the night without fighting to breathe.  Still, there was something missing, and I dealt with allergy symptoms on a regular, though less frequent basis.

The next step of the total cure was diet.  In 2009 I switched to a strict Paleo diet.  By the time I made the switch I’d had Birdie for a little over two years and had mostly cured my allergies. 

Still, I wheezed a little, itched a little, and hadn’t put together a total cure.  The psychosomatic symptoms were mostly gone, but my body needed a little help to get rid of them completely. 

Enter the idea of an anti-inflammatory diet.  Paleo has been covered extensively both on this blog and throughout the internet, so I’ll only touch on the things I felt contributed the most.

I’ll put some numbers on what I think worked, more to give you a framework for understanding importance and less to be exact down to the seventh decimal. 

First, cutting out dairy seemed to solve 50% of the remaining problem.   While grass-fed butter is now a part of my daily diet, every other dairy product seems to cause a noticeable gut reaction for me.

Second, reducing sugar drastically, down to the “low carb” end of the diet, seemed to have done most of the rest of the heavy lifting, say another 45%.  While I don’t believe dairy is universally inflammatory, I’m pretty sugar is in anything other than small amounts.  Pairing sugar with “good” fat seems to lessen its effect on me, but at the end of the day I have a very low sugar tolerance when it comes to triggering allergies.

Finally, removing gluten from my diet took it the last 5%.  Again, those numbers aren’t exact, but as a combination of inflammatory triggers, removing gluten, dairy, and most sugar from my diet proved to be the necessary step to eliminating my dog allergies.

With those steps taken, my allergies to dogs have disappeared completely.  I share my house with 3 of ‘em, and the littlest one snuggles next to me in bed every night.  Interestingly, I still have vestiges of cat allergies.  I manage them with a Paleo diet and usually avoidance, although I recently stayed at a house with 2 cats for 4 nights with nothing beyond a slightly stuffed up nose and the occasional wheeze. 

That’s how I did it.  I cured my allergies through curiosity, desperation, lots of thought work, and a change in diet.

Birdie and Nik sleeping

It’s not a sure thing.  Your circumstances are different.  I can’t and won’t say that if you do exactly what I did you will absolutely be cured. 

My hope is that it’s enough to let you know that someone out there did it, someone who was diagnosed by the conventional medical establishment as having irreversible allergies managed to eliminate them through a personal quest for health.

I found my own path to personal health.  The thing I’m sure of is that you can find yours.

To life!

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Nik Hawks

Author

Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!


Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?

2 Comments

Emily Shaules
Emily Shaules

April 11, 2017

AWESOME article, Nik!!! Thanks again for sharing your affirmations with me. I had a similar experience about two weeks ago when I spent the night with two dogs without any reactions. Not out of the woods completely, but now that I know how good it feels, I’m making it a priority. Can’t wait to get a dog soon :-)

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

April 09, 2017

Awesome. So incredibly awesome. My story is so similar! I used to take shots for allergies as a kid. I too craved attention. I was healed of allergies (mostly) through prayer, and the rest of the issue was healed in the same way – limited dairy, almost no sugar, and a paleo diet. Plus I get regular chiropractic adjustments! HaHa! Our bodies are amazing. We are certainly “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Thanks for sharing Nik!

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