A New Approach to the Allergy Wars: A new treatment called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is rapidly becoming the preferred way to eliminate allergies, says Dr. Jonathan Psenka
Jan 31, 2014 09:01AM
● By Dr. Jonathan Psenka
In the past, the only medical solution for allergy desensitization included visits to an allergist’s office and receiving a series of painful shots every two weeks. After a year or two of these shots, it was possible to “train” the body to stop reacting to the allergic substances in the environment. Aside from being both painful and costly, this approach did help a great many people.
Allergy shots, however, may soon become a thing of the past. A new treatment called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is rapidly becoming the preferred way to eliminate allergies. This new treatment utilizes the blood vessels underneath the tongue as a way to introduce minute dosages of allergy-causing substances into the body instead of using shots. These small dosages gradually “re-train” the body’s immune system to stop viewing the allergic substances as a problem and to begin seeing them as a normal part of the environment. SLIT works via the same general principles as allergy shots, except there is less risk of an adverse effect, and there are no injections.
Several companies prepare sublingual immunotherapy vaccines, but not all make similar products. Some use a “master mix”, that takes all of the potential allergens and puts them together in a single solution. However, researchers from several sources, including the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, have published concerns with this approach. First, certain types of allergens can cross-react in solution, severely decreasing the potency of the medication. Second, because master mix solutions contain a large variety of allergic substances, it is likely that there will be some things present in the solution that the person is not allergic to. These substances may have the ability to work as “sensitizers”, potentially initiating an allergy.
Some doctors take a more personal approach to sublingual immunotherapy. They use customized SLIT vaccines for patients that are based on each patient’s unique allergies. Determining what a person’s particular allergies are can be done using a simple blood test. These allergy tests measure a person’s antibodies to specific allergens, which can be used to determine not only what someone is allergic to, but also how severe their allergy may be. Using these results, the physician can then compound a custom sublingual allergy vaccine containing only the relevant allergens.
Using sublingual immunotherapy couldn’t be easier. Simply spray the solution under the tongue, and that’s it. Used correctly, these allergy vaccines can help control allergic symptoms in a matter of months, but for best results should be used for a year or two. After that time, the allergies should disappear. The best part of SLIT, in addition to being painless and working well, is that it is extremely safe, even for children, and is very cost-effective.
Dr. Jonathan (Jake) Psenka has been practicing naturopathic medicine at Longevity Medical Health Center in Phoenix since 2002. For more information, call 602-428-6151 or visit LongevityMedical.com.