More Evidence: Ancient Chinese Herbs Can Treat Allergy
FAHF-2 could be the closest thing to a cure for food allergies out there.
What is a cure?
In my opinion: tolerance.
Being able to savor what was once a mouthful of death.
I recently read “Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine….” The book chronicles the work of Dr. Xiu-Min Li – known by anyone who is anyone in food allergy circles as the originator of FAHF and FAHF-2 (Food Allergy Herbal Formulas 1 &2), as well as ASHMI (Anti-Asthma Simplified Herbal Medicine Intervention). I can safely say that anyone with food allergies would benefit from reading “Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine….” While I’ve read many an article and infographic on the immune process behind an allergic reaction, Henry Ehrlich (the author) goes through it more comprehensibly…. introducing concepts such as IgG and IgE competing for room on mast cells. He also covers things I’ve found in other readings (it was nice to have it reaffirmed) that IFN-gamma and IgE seems to be inversely correlated.
If you are seeing Dr. Li, you should definitely read it. Understanding the dynamics of the process and the studies will enable you to keep your eyes on the prize when day, after day, after day, you are coaxing your child into swallowing 20-40 pills before school, then another 20-40 in the evening. Luckily my son has learned to swallow larger capsules, bringing his pill number down to 1/3 or 1/4 that number. But, you get my point.
In this book, Henry Ehrlich covers Dr Li’s arc from interest in immunology to where she is today – on the cusp of releasing the multi-location phase 2 efficacy studies in humans. He also dives into the results of the studies, even discussing the process for inducing allergies in the lab mice. Overall – if you’re in the food allergy, allergy, and/or asthma sphere – this book is a must read. I’ve already returned to it several times to reference things that have lingered in my mind.
Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine… – is short – but dense with info.
This book took me longer to read than I expected, for two reasons. First, I couldn’t see through the tears and had to put it down. We’ve been so worn and ground down by our allergy and asthma regimen, that to just ponder life without it… well it made me cry. He also speaks with some other food allergy parents and, for me, there was a sense of comaraderie. Additionally, I was re-inspired in the belief that my crazed quest would actually beget a cure. OUR cure.
The second reason for my unusually long reading time was Henry Ehrlich’s incisive explanations of the allergic immune response function – Greek letters and all. Though I consider myself relatively knowledgeable about a wide range of cytokines, I still had to ratchet my brain to the max and search the net before I could fully grasp all his invaluable information.
In 2010 we discovered Dr Li through an Accupuncture Today article. I googled and emailed her directly after reading. In the winter of 2010, we had our first consultation with her. Our goal – to diminish the food allergies – was complicated and delayed by my son’s eczema and asthma. We were on and off topical steroids to control the eczema; inhalers to help with the asthma. During our first 6 months we were able to clear the eczema and discontinue topical steroids. Next, we tackled his immune system with Dr. Li’s herbs. The goal was to prevent colds and thereby, cold-exacerbated asthma attacks. We achieved this as well. As we moved on to food allergies, we were continually in flux, taking different herbs depending on whether or not he had a cold or asthma issue.
In hindsight, I realize that my expectations were too high (I wanted faster results), the protocol was difficult to swallow (around 40-50 pills for my six-year-old daily), and I didn’t quite understand the end goal. Thinking through it now I realize that we accomplished a lot, only we weren’t progressing at the pace I expected, not driving the IgE down fast enough for this anxious mother. What is so great about Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it’s helped me reset my expectations by walking me through the mice studies.
The initial mice studies of FAHF-1&2 kept the mice on the herbs for 7 weeks. The human equivalent of the two year mouse life span comes out to about 4.8 years. So when Dr. Li advised me to expect a three year time line, she wasn’t kidding. (Of course she wasn’t, but if I’m famous for anything, it’s for missing the obvious and needing to hear information multiple times before allowing my mind to assimilate it.) And so, our herb regimen for food allergies – following the successful regimens for eczema, asthma and colds – was too brief. I now understand that.
I’ve always had a passion for the Eastern way. I’ve ingested herbal concoctions from my local TCM herbalist for all ailments that have plagued me. Still, to my Western-raised mind, three years seemed so long to be on the same herbs. This book delivered more than a lesson on food allergy, it reminded me that curing food allergies and asthma is about patience and perseverance. I’m convinced we should return to Dr. Li for round two. There’s no doubt that she is the best game in town for food allergy.
The real eye openers for me out about FAHF-2 & food allergies were:
- That IgG and IgE battle for room on mast cells. Fascinating. I’ve read that desensitization increases the IgG levels for the specific foods.
- That when inducing food allergy in mice, the smaller amount of food administered initially, the stronger the allergy – ie. mice given 5mg of peanut had stronger food allergy than mice given 25mg. Seems counter intuitive – a smaller dose creating a stronger allergic reaction in the long run.
- FAHF-2 works on two elements that appear to contribute to food allergy: gut permeability and the immune system. Although it is difficult to separate the gut and the immune system, given that the gut rolls in the immune system. Gut permeability sounds to me very much like “leaky gut.” This too is fascinating. Gut permeability definitely plays a role in food allergy. This has always resonated with me. Not sure doctors would agree, but just a few years ago a chiropractor who heard about my son’s food allergies said “Oh, he’s got leaky gut.” She then gave us the supplement glutamine. I don’t recall how long we took it. Something to reconsider…
- Dr. Li’s three year timeline makes much more sense now. Mr. Erhlich cites FAHF-2 studies in which mice took the herbs for 7 weeks. Since mice life spans are about two years, 7 weeks in human time could be about three or more years. I wonder if the time off herbs during which the benefits persisted can also be translated into human years. The mice had protection for several months (sometimes they received a boosting dose of herbs – I’ll have to reread) – this could potentially translate to human protection requiring several years. Which would mean one would not necessarily have to take herbs every day for life, one could potentially take them for a solid chunk of time (months/years), then take a break for a solid chunk of time (months/years) and maintain tolerance.
- The immune system could be called a zero sum game. IFN-gamma goes up then IgE goes down. IFN-gamma is Th1 – IgE is Th2 – it’s a seesaw. This is something that I’ve known for awhile. And I’ve used this to skim and drive the particular probiotic strains that I’ve selected. Not sure how the recently talked about Th17 arm factors into this – will need further reading.