Health Column: Low-dose allergy therapy cures many ills
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Free Press Health Columnist
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Low-dose allergy (LDA) therapy is a treatment for “turning off” an overactive immune system. This applies to allergies, autoimmune diseases or any process in which the immune system is activated. LDA is different than traditional allergy therapy because it uses much lower concentrations of allergens and can treat not only inhalant allergies, but also allergies to foods or chemicals, as well as certain autoimmune or overactive immune conditions.
Traditional “immunotherapy” involves administering a dilute solution of allergen by injection or under the tongue drops. The concentration of allergen is relatively high and stimulates the body to make “blocking antibodies” that block the portion of the immune system that is overactive. The injections take years to work and are dangerous due to the high concentration of allergen. Under-the-tongue allergy drops are much quicker and safer, yet both injections and drops are limited for use only with inhalants such as to pollens or animal dander.
The key, the “magic” if you will, to LDA is an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase that attracts specialized white blood cells called T cells that are involved in the immune response. It makes them pay attention to whatever allergens are included with the enzyme. The enzyme then causes a down-regulation of only that part of the immune system that is over-reactive. Because of the enzyme, much lower concentrations of allergens can be used, yet the immune system is markedly desensitized. LDA therapy is really best described by the original name — “enzyme potentiated desensitization” or EPD.
EPD started in Europe around 40 years ago and is widely used there today. There are dozens of studies that show evidence of safety and effectiveness for EPD in treating seasonal allergies. EPD was used in the U.S. until about 20 years ago when the FDA stopped importation of EPD. Since that time, a doctor in the U.S. has reformulated the original EPD mixes and called them LDA. In the U.S. we can now get the LDA ingredients from College Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy located in Colorado Springs, Colo.
LDA FOR AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
Using LDA for autoimmune diseases and conditions that involve an overactive immune system is a truly unique therapy. It is well established that certain autoimmune diseases, and perhaps most of them, are “triggered” by an initial infection. As the immune system recognizes the infection and mounts an attack there is a cross reactivity with their own tissue. This process is called “mimicry”.
Even after bacteria are eliminated the immune system remains activated and the autoimmune process continues. Since the immune response is coded to recognize the original bacterial trigger, including the specific bacteria in the LDA, it will lead to a desensitization of the immune system, calling off the attack on both the bacteria and the body tissue.
An example of mimicry can elucidate this process better, and also point out why treating an acute infection may resolve a symptom. Yet treating a chronic infection may be fruitless as the immune response is actually causing the symptoms.
Consider acute strep throat, in which antibiotics kill the bacteria quickly before the immune system gets very upset. If strep goes untreated, however, about one in 13,000 people will get rheumatic fever (an autoimmune reaction that requires anti-inflammatories to treat, not just antibiotics). The autoimmune reaction was triggered by strep.
The LDA injections come in different concentrations. Some LDA therapies are such that one dilution seems to work well for all patients, while others have a wide range of dilutions. If the dilution is too strong, the patient will have a flare of their symptoms. If the dilution is too weak, the patient will not improve. Since most patients respond by the second or third shot, if there is no improvement by then, a stronger dilution should be considered. Or, consider that symptoms are related to a different antigen, or that the LDA is not the correct therapy in general.
If we have a delicate, fragile, or worried patient, we consider using a weaker dilution. If we have a patient that is anxious to see results and fairly stout of constitution, we use a stronger dilution. If a patient has a flare of symptoms from the LDA, a standard short burst of steroid is usually sufficient to regain control of symptoms. The next injection should be more dilute.
LDA injections are given at seven-week intervals – no sooner. The immune system has a memory and does not like to be told twice to do something. Repeating the same LDA injection sooner than seven weeks will cause a flare of the patient’s symptoms.
Initially most patients will get some relief of their symptoms for a few days to weeks. Eventually, by the fourth to fifth injection, they will start getting symptom relief all the way through the seven weeks until the next injection. At this point one can stretching out the injection interval, basically until symptoms start returning. Typically, after a few years, patients only need the injection once or twice per year to maintain remission.
Free Press health columnist Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 970-245-6911 for appointments or more information.
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