To Be Allergic, or…Not?

I remember my first few allergy attacks way back around 1980-81. I was in sixth grade, and I was in music class for one of them. I couldn’t stop sneezing. My eyes started to itch, and that was the part that would really cost me so much misery over the next 20 years or so.

Allergy attacks can really only be understood by people who go through them themselves. I’ve told people before that I want to scratch my own eyes out, and it doesn’t make any real impression. Perhaps they were curious-you know, there’s something you don’t see every day…hmmm….

Yes the attacks were bad from then until the end of 1989. But starting in 1990, when I was stationed in Germany, they became intolerable. Starting around January 7th every year, I would have between 5-10 attacks every day where I was unable to do anything else (bad if you’re in the infantry), all the way through until the end of June.

One captain, who once told me he caused a Russian fighter jet to crash by throwing his helmet up into the air, ordered me on one occasion to stop rubbing my eyes. Tee-hee.

So I was sent to the ‘hospital’, where common soldiers are trained to perform, like, medical stuff, like for example test me for allergies. Fortunately, I had a real doctor to perform the test, and he informed me that I was allergic to ALL European tree pollen. At least I knew what was what.

He started me on Desensitization Therapy, where you’re injected small doses of the pollens you’re allergic too and thereby acclimated to that which causes so much misery. Thinking back on it now, it seems kind of odd that this therapy was supposed to work by exposing the patient to MORE of what clearly harms him, but, to be fair, the procedure did lead to a mild lessening of my woes.

The problem was that the injections are (or, were) administered daily, and before the season. That’s OK if you have a job where you’re doing nothing all day, like soldiering (I can say that since I was one), but after I left the Army, I got a job in Germany where the last two week before Christmas were the busiest workdays of the year, and there was no way I could make the appointments.

What now?

Many of you allergentlemen and -women out there will already know what next.


Cortisone is a wonderful medicine that walloped those allergies into submission after only one injection! Swell! With barely any side effects. Kinda.

I’m not going to go into any details here except to say that it is advisable to consider other options before injecting it once, and repeated usage is at best unwise. I tried my best-with positive thinking-to fight my way through my allergy season for the first few years in Germany, but after several weeks (usually 2, tops), I would collapse in an eye-rubbing, sneezing wheezing mess, and make my way to my next cortisone injection.

Somewhere near the end of the 90’s I was sitting at the dinner table with my in-laws, when my father-in-law mentioned that changing my diet would help me get my allergies under control. Two things about him: 1.), Mr. Pork is the last person who should be giving any nutritional advice to anyone, and 2.), my father-in-law always has to be right (and usually is).

Over the next couple of years, my wife and I talked about it more frequently, even more so after she went vegetarian. Also over the next couple of years-I intensified my love for the double cheeseburger, especially those flame-broiled ones from Burger Thing. Yeesh.

Around 2004 I had had enough. My allergies had the upper hand every year from January 7th until July, and ragweed had arrived in Germany. “An allergogenic time-bomb” was how the newspaper put it. It was. We had moved to the edge of town where the only thing between our property and the farmer’s fields were a long long line of ragweed bushes? plants? In short, August now became an allergy month.

I took one last loving look at a flame-broiled double cheeseburger from Burger Thing, brushed the hair out of its sesame seeds, dabbed the grease from its ‘cheeks’, (best part of a cow!!), and said with quavering voice goodbye. We haven’t spoken since then. I hear she’s married to a dentist from Minnesota.

I went vegetarian around 2004, sick of having no control over the itching of my eyes, the running of my nose, and all of that sneezing. As the season began in 2005, I was nervous. Who said this is really going to work? I wondered. So many people enjoy meat, and I know hardly any with allergies. Cancer and heart disease, yes, but no allergies. Then it was the middle of January. The end of January. February. And no bad attacks.

Sure they came around, but more of a cordial visit, like: “How’ve you been?” “Oh, my shingles are acting up but..” “My son just took a spelling test, and the only word he spelled right was ‘illiterate'” -kind of thing. My eyes tickled, but itched for no length of time, my nose ran a little but it was winter. I sneezed. By June I’d say my allergies were about 75-80% better and, more importantly, I did not need any Cortisone.

Did I take some allergy medications? Yes, but they also hadn’t helped in years prior. 2005 was a revelation.

It breaks down like this: everything happens for a reason. If you’ve got bad allergies, there’s a reason for that, and getting jacked to fight an all-out war with lasers, phasers, and a mace against your symptoms means you’ve whupped the symptoms (if you win), but the problem is still there in Stealth Mode.

There must have been something that caused the body’s incorrect reaction to pollen. Trees have been around for a gazillion years, we’ve been around for, what 2 or 3 million years-why have these allergies just suddenly ‘appeared’ over the last 100 years or so. Well, because I don’t want to piss off the wrong consumer groups, I’ll just say you are what you eat.

Your body needs a change, is how African shamans would put it.

Fast forward to 2020. It is now February 2nd. Groundhogs Day. I haven’t had a cortisone shot since 2004. I haven’t taken an allergy pill in ten years or so. I’ve even gone (93%) Vegan, and reaped countless benefits in the overall health and endurance fronts, so much so that I started to compete in Triathlons in 2009 and am now the ultimate ultra marathon runner. Ultimate here meaning “wicked gung-ho” and not, like, good. Although I have surprised myself.

I recently ran 96 Km in an event in Asia, during allergy season, without hint of a reaction. If you think I’d consider going back to meat now, you’re nuts.

*Coincidentally, for those of you new to this topic or kind of on the fence, I recommend the great new documentary “Gamechangers” on Netflix.

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