One of the dividing principles between conventional allergy and clinical ecology is the concept of the hidden or ‘masked’ allergy. Conventional allergists and immunologists don’t recognize the existence of the phenomenon. Clinical ecologists use their understanding of it all the time to treat many patients and many diseases.
Basically, a hidden allergy means that a substance is capable of making a person ill but that constant exposure to it (as with a frequently eaten food) mutes the person’s reaction to it. A so-called masked allergy is a variant of this, whereby exposure to the substance temporarily diminishes or ‘masks’ the symptoms. Both phenomena make diagnosis very difficult.
The symptoms of a hidden allergy can be protean, bizarre, changeable and paradoxical.
- Protean: the foremost characteristic of an illness caused by a masked allergy is the incredible variation in the pattern of a patient’s symptoms. Naturally, this constantly endangers his or her credibility, especially in the eyes of doctors.
- Bizarre: symptoms are peculiar because a twisting of the patient’s perception is a prime ingredient of this form of illness. Often the complaint bears no relationship to anatomical structures. Symptoms are unique to the individual and defy description in ordinary terms: individuals speak of ‘cobwebs over the face’, ‘legs full of boiling water’, ‘a feeling of floating outside the body’, etc.
- Changeable: symptoms come and go without apparent reason and move from one body system to another, causing, for example eczema, then asthma, migraine, spastic colon, etc. Naturally, this constantly endangers his or her credibility, especially in the eyes of doctors.
- Paradoxical: these are illnesses full of contradiction: lethargy that swings in and out of hyper-activity, anorexia with bouts of bingeing, tachycardia (fast heart) alternating with pseudo-heart block, feeling miserably cold or tormented by heat.
From this, you may deduce a hidden allergy is a complex and mysterious phenomenon. No wonder recognition was so long in coming. In fact the first person to uncover the hidden allergy effect was Dr Herbert Rinkel, one of the founders of clinical ecology. It was by observing his own responses that led him to postulate the mechanism of ‘masking’.
What we have learned since is that while there is food residue in the bowel, there may be no reaction. If we eat a food every day or several times a week, it means there is always some of that substance on-board. This may help to hide the allergic reaction: since there is already some present, eating more of it may have little or no immediate effect. That is why you must allow a five-day (minimum) cleansing period on an exclusion program, before you begin testing and re-introducing foods.
This residue effect also explains why allergies to everyday foods has gone unnoticed for so long.
The body seems to get accustomed to an allergen, in a sickly sort of way. Only when too much is encountered at one time do symptoms break through. This also seems to happen when the body’s resistance is lowered temporarily, such as due to stress or acute illness. Age can have the same effect, so that an allergen that may have been harbored unwittingly for decades gradually comes to the surface.
The crucial key to this bewildering variability of symptoms is another revolutionary clinical ecology concept.