Allergies: The Emotional Connection

Ah...Springtime,  new life, flowers in bloom, the smell of mown grass, warmer weather and..allergies. In Australia the frequency of allergic disease has roughly doubled in the last couple of decades and it is now estimated that at least one in three Australians will be affected by allergies at some time in their lives.(1)

An allergy is basically a condition of hypersensitivity to a substance (allergen) which might be considered harmless to most people. The immune system reacts (or overreacts) to a substance, causing inflammation symptoms. 

This condition of hypersensitivity can be caused by many things such as the toxicity or acidity of the body, poor liver or kidney function, parasitic or fungal infections, hormonal imbalance and so on. But I have come to be particularly interested by how our own emotions can create hypersensitivity.

Having suffered from multiple sensitivities and intolerances over the years I am unfortunately quite familiar with the debilitating effects of allergies. Yet this also means (being the curious perfectionist) that I have had many personal opportunities to analyse (over-analyse?) the intricacies of allergic responses.

About a year ago I experienced a career setback and found myself being consoled by my family over a glass of wine as I recounted the gory details of my stressful ‘drama’.That night I barely slept, my sinuses were completely blocked, my stomach blew up like a balloon and my eyes felt so puffy I could have used them as one of those squeezy stress balls. I was puzzled by this allergic reaction since I had previously dealt with all my allergies – why had one reappeared? Thankfully I never have to wait long for an answer because I can use Kinesiology to assist me to quickly identify the stressors at hand. During the balance the offending substance was identified, as well as the primary cause and the time of the trigger. The trigger was the badly-needed-drink and whinge-fest with my family, the offending substance yeast and the cause? Emotions! Shock, anger and embarrassment to name a few. And I had to agree with my body - these were the exact emotions I had felt as I talked to my family.

So it really can be quite simple, an allergy can be due to a basic Pavlovian response. The body learns by association, when we experience strong emotions during a time of stress our body may create an association with any substance we come in to contact with during this time. For example, a client who presents with an allergy to wheat due to experiencing workplace bullying while working at a bakery or a baby who develops an allergy to milk due to a stressful breast-feeding session. 

While I have seen examples of this working with clients, I was pleased to discover that this emotional connection is also explained by science. A relatively recent development is the field of Psychoneuroimmunology. Dr Richard Ader conducted the first study of how our body can be conditioned to associate to external events with the foods ingested during those events. Ader gave mice an immune-suppressant drug in a saccharin solution and then he just gave the mice the saccharine solution without the drug. What he observed was that the saccharine alone was enough to decrease their immune system function. The mice had quickly associated the taste of saccharine to simultaneous immune suppression. This explains why the human body may create negative associations, if a trauma is linked to a particular food, smell or substance, the body may remember to react as if in trauma when exposed to the food, smell or substance in the future – it has been conditioned through a strong association. If an emotion is strong enough (which is a perception of trauma) the same applies.  

As we have discussed before, all illness is a state of dis-ease in the body. A blockage in energy such as a trapped emotion is one such example. An emotion linked to a trauma is a good example of the body’s intelligence at work. You might want to consider this the next time you choose a topic of dinner-table conversation!


1)   Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy