Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people, such as house dust mites, pet dander, pollen, insect bites and stings, moulds and certain foods.

Take our Allergy and Reactivity Questionnaire (MCAS) to help determine if you need to investigate further.

Allergy or reactivity is an inappropriate immune response to what should be a harmless substance in the environment. This could be pollen, a food item and/or a natural or synthetic chemical or product. The severity of reactions varies significantly from person to person, ranging from serious anaphylaxis (eg. An allergic response requiring Epi-Pen use), to milder symptoms such as ongoing headaches. 

Not everyone with an allergy has an anaphylactic response, but may instead experience other allergic conditions such as hay fever, allergic asthma, atopic dermatitis (skin rashes) or food allergies (eg. coeliac disease). Allergies often involve the release of histamine, a chemical secreted by specific cells when you are exposed to an allergen. 

It is a combination of an abnormal immune response, and the subsequent release of histamine, that results in a diverse range of physical reactions that may include respiratory symptoms (eg,sneezing, sinus pain, red itchy nose), gut symptoms (eg. bloating, flatulence, cramping), and/or skin symptoms Eg. red itchy rash, hives), amongst others.

Typical systems of the body that may be affected are:

  •  Skin – itchy skin, rashes, hives, eczema, dermatitis 
  •   Respiratory – asthma, sinus congestion, sneezing, hayfever 
  •   Nervous system – mood changes, restlessness, headaches, foggy head 
  •   Gastrointestinal – digestive symptoms, erratic bowel movements, bloating,        excessive wind, cramping

An intolerance is considered a chemical reaction to a substance, commonly food, and does not show up on a traditional allergy test. Reasons for reactions may include an absence of specific enzymes to digest a food substance (eg. Lactose intolerant people do not have enough lactase enzyme to digest lactose). Reactivity may also occur in response to natural chemicals in foods such as histamine, or due to added chemicals (eg. Food additives). Common food intolerances are dairy, gluten, eggs, nightshades (capsicum, tomatoes, eggplant, potato), soy and nuts. Intolerances have been linked to gastrointestinal symptoms, skin complaints, respiratory issues, fatigue, headache, migraine, cognitive deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders, anxiety, depression, joint pain, muscle pain and hormonal disturbances. Regardless of the cause, be it environmental or food-induced, the impact on an individual’s quality of life can be considerable. 

Building tolerance

Increasing tolerance to environmental and food-borne allergens is a key strategy when faced with the range of respiratory, skin and digestive allergic/reactive events that can impact individuals of all ages. Our award-winning, experienced Adelaide naturopath has helped many people with allergies, food intolerances, skin and gut issues. Her approach is not only to provide some symptomatic relief, but also to focus on correcting the underlying processes involving the immune and digestive systems, gut issues and microbiome. This can help increase allergen tolerance and is achieved through elimination, then gradual re-introduction of certain foods. Take our Immune Health Questionnaire to check the status of your immune system

Reducing allergic reactivity

The key to reducing reactivity symptoms is by improving your threshold of tolerance. One of the key ways to do this is by supporting good digestive system function and health. There is a strong connection between the health of the gut and immune reactivity, as foods you eat can alter microbes in the gut which regulate immune function, as well as cause inflammation of the digestive tract lining. This can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, and also trigger reactions in other areas of the body; for example, in your respiratory system, nervous system or your skin. This is why you may find eating certain foods results in headaches, sinus congestion, a rash, or maybe an energy slump or mood change. To reduce allergic reactivity your gut lining must be repaired, while simultaneously allowing your immune system to rest by avoiding the substances that are causing it to react. Your immune system can be reset by addressing some of the underlying factors that cause it to be overactive.

What symptom picture are you?

Allergy and reactivity can vary significantly from person to person. You may experience symptoms relating to only one body system, or a variety of symptoms affecting different systems. Some common symptoms include:

  • Head: Itchy throat/watery eyes, blocked ears, mouth ulcers, headaches, dark circles under the eyes.
  • Respiratory: Sinus/congestion, postnasal drip, sneezing, itchy/runny nose, mucus, tight chest, wheezing asthma ‘attacks’, coughing, feeling chronically sick.
  • Digestive: Bad breath, bloating (upper and lower gut), nausea, flatulence, cramping, pain in the lower gut, constipation, diarrhoea, variable bowel motions.
  •  Skin: Itchy/dry skin, flushing, rash, roseacea, eczema, psoriasis, hives.
  •  Mood: Poor concentration, ‘brain fog’, anxious, jittery, low mood, aggressive/short tempered.
  •  General: Ongoing fatigue or energy ‘slumps’, muscle pain, difficulty losing weight, insomnia, frequent urination.
  •  Children: Restlessness, ear tugging, hyperactivity, mood changes, unusually quiet, bed wetting.

Causes of Gut Inflammation

Poor Immunity & Gut Function:

About 60-70% of our immune system is located in the gut just below the single-cell layer lining of the gut. If the lining of the gut is damaged, the immune system is activated and we may begin reacting to foods, toxins and even the good gut bugs. It may not appear to be related, but a chronic infection in the gut may be the culprit that starts the damage. Bacterial overgrowth, viruses, yeasts or parasites in the gut can manifest the symptoms of sinus and congestion. 

An elimination diet where food allergens are removed and healing stimulated, will bring great relief. Sometimes leaky gut or increased permeability of the gut lining can cause widespread inflammation and can be associated with allergies. Naturopathic treatment will include key
nutrients to clear toxins, improve digestion, reduce inflammation and heal the gut lining. For example, an appropriate high-strength probiotic, zinc, glutamine and other nutrients will help optimise the health of the gut. When healing occurs often allergy-related symptoms disappear

Food Allergies:

Firstly, the kind of allergy that results in anaphylaxis after eating peanuts is called an IgE hypersensitivity reaction or an immediate allergy. This is extremely serious, but luckily not too common. The other type of allergy is a delayed allergy or an IgG delayed hypersensitivity reaction. This is more common and is the reaction that affects millions of sufferers. Symptoms can be felt anywhere from a couple of hours to a number of days after ingestion of the allergen. There are a number of common food allergens that upset the gut and immune function for many people. These include dairy (milk, cheese, butter, cream, yoghurt), gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut), soy products, eggs, corn, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, potatoes), citrus, alcohol and yeast & fermented products. Once these foods are eliminated, we need to replace them with a whole food, plant-based diet which is rich in phytonutrients, contains high levels of antioxidants and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the gut. Including good omega-3 fats (from fish, nuts & seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil) also helps to reduce inflammation.

Environmental Allergens:

Dog hair or cat dander can also be irritating to some people and cause hay fever-like reactions. Others are highly sensitive to moulds, pollens and grasses
or chemical toxins in our environment. Searching for the offenders is a priority and may involve further testing, to be able to select the right treatment for

Sleep Deprivation & Stress:

Our immune function is greatly affected by poor sleep which damages the metabolism, causes cravings for sugars and carbs and increases the risk of
autoimmune disease. When we are unwell with the flu, we often allow ourselves time for rest so we can recover. However, many of us regularly string
together many nights of broken sleep getting up to a sick child while expecting to work the next day at full capacity. Over time this does impact on our
immune function and can cause us to feel below par and rundown. Good quality sleep needs to be prioritised to maintain vibrant health and keep
inflammation at bay. Stress can also marginalise our health by adding to our inflammatory load and ramping up the immune response. It is normal to
experience some level of stress day to day, but when this becomes chronic it can ruin our lives. Practicing some mindfulness or relaxation, yoga or yoga
breathing is proven to have positive benefits for health, such as reduced blood pressure, slower heart rate and pulse. Exercise is a great de-stressor and antiinflammatory, so daily exercise is highly recommended.

Family and/or personal history of allergies

There is often a genetic link within families, making members of the family at a greater risk of presenting with allergies and reactivity.

Common allergenic food groups

While everyone will be different, certain patterns have been identified through research and clinical observation with regards to the most commonly seen allergenic food groups, as well as what sorts of symptoms these may create.

  •  Common allergenic food groups: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, legumes and peanuts, nightshade family foods (eg. tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, goji berries, capsicum, chilli, tobacco), alcohol, caffeine, food additives, citrus, beef, pork, yeast, corn, soy, shellfish, chocolate, salicylates and fish.
  •  FODMAP foods: fructose, fructans, galactans, lactose, polyols.
  •  Histamine foods: histamine-rich foods, such as fermented foods, wheat, tomatoes, avocado, spinach, strawberries, citrus, chocolate, wine, etc. 


Some symptoms of allergy and reactivity may include: eczema, rashes, flushing, itching, pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, reflux, headache and migraine, fatigue, mood disturbances, sinus, wheezing, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. Children often experience other symptoms of restlessness, ear tugging, hyperactivity, mood changes, acting unusually quiet and bed wetting. 

Lifestyle tips while on your elimination diet

Some forward planning can help you make easier choices when it comes to eating out. Take a proactive approach when catching up with friends and suggest going for a walk or bike ride instead of meeting for a coffee or meal. 

  • Fill up on a suitable snack food (from your customised plan), before going out. Having some food in your stomach makes it easier to only choose food items that are on your allowable food list. Avoid the temptation of eating something you will react to. It’s not worth it.
  •  Keep a copy of your allowable foods on you if you find it difficult to memorise the details. Ask your waiter/waitress about ingredients in dishes to help you avoid foods that are not part of your dietary plan.
  •  Enquire about any hidden, unwanted ingredients (such as additives), or let them know that you have a food reactivity, so dishes can be modified. Many restaurants are very happy to help – if unsure, call ahead to check if it will be possible.
  •  Tell your friends that you are following an elimination diet for a few weeks to gain control of your symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask for their support.
  •  Reducing stress is particularly important when managing allergy and reactivity, as stress reduces immune tolerance and can actually make your symptoms worse. 

Ways to allergy-proof your environment

  •  Invest in hypoallergenic bedding
  •  Encase pillows and mattresses in dust mite proof covers
  •  Wash your bedding once or twice a week in heated water (over 54C) with non-allergic detergents
  •  Vacuum once to twice a week using a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter
  •  Close windows during pollen season and wind-up car windows when driving
  •  Use an air filter inside your house
  •  Avoid smoking and smokers
  •  Use the exhaust fan over your stove to reduce exposure to cooking fumes
  •  Limit the number of rugs in your home to reduce dust and mould. Make sure you clean and air rugs regularly.
  •  Wear a face mask when sweeping, vacuuming, mowing or dusting, to limit your exposure to inhaled allergens that 

A person’s allergies and reactivity can be reduced through an appropriate dietary regime with supportive nutrients, while improving the gut & immune function. The goal is to heal the gut and skin, improve immunity and reduce reactivity in the long-term.