Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

The magical allergy-curing hamburger

OK, this is weird. Julie woke up this morning and had a massive allergy attack, which is different for her than it is for me. With me, I can feel some histamine-related swelling, but mostly it makes me feel really fatigued and run down. With her, it’s full on sneezing, snotting, the whole histy megillah. She felt so awful she had to leave church to go find medicine. She and I both took four-hour naps this afternoon. I don’t think either of us have ever slept for so long on an afternoon, absent having the flu.
A church friend said he thinks we have mold in our apartment, even though it’s new construction. When Julie related that to me, I told her I had a clear and strong reaction to cut grass in the neighborhood. She said if there is mold, maybe it’s making my immune system weak, and vulnerable to other allergens. Well, I guess. I have an autoimmune disorder called Raynaud’s syndrome, which might play some role.
Anyway, here’s what I wanted to tell you, and ask if you have any idea what this could mean. Julie had to run errands tonight, and when she returned, I was in the kitchen cooking hamburgers for the little kids, who aren’t observing the Apostles Fast. Our priest today advised Julie to modify her fast for this or that reason, so she decided to have a hamburger patty. Two minutes after she began eating it, her nasal passages opened up, and she felt much better.
“This is one of the strangest things that’s ever happened to me,” she said, astonished. You could hear how much better she was.
What could have happened to have caused that reaction? There was nothing added to the meat, except salt. It was ground beef from Whole Foods.
The relief lasted from 45 minutes to an hour, then Julie was back where she started. Still, it was something else to see how quickly a plain hamburger relieved serious allergy symptoms. Why?

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Erin Manning

posted June 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

My guess would be that it’s the same reason chicken soup helps with a cold, which is: eating (or drinking) something hot helps clear nasal and other sinus passages, and the addition of salt gives a boost to this effect. A study I remember reading a while ago on whether chicken soup, tea, or plain hot water helped a cold most discovered that the temperature of the liquid was the biggest factor, but the saltiness of the soup also helped and gave it a slight edge over tea or hot water–I can’t remember exactly why, but I think it had to do with the way salt pulls water from swollen membranes. Of course, the study authors pointed out that you can’t consume too much salty soup hoping for this effect, but suggested alternating the soup with tea and other hot, non-dairy beverages. The real reason chicken soup gets associated with colds is probably its immune boosting effect, assuming we’re talking about homemade soups cooked with the immune boosting ingredients onion and garlic.
You don’t mention whether Julie added anything to the hamburger, but I’m assuming she didn’t eat it with something spicy or with raw onions, which could also explain the effect–but are pretty obvious.
If you made the hamburger and she was able to eat it right away, I’m guessing it was pretty hot. The consumption of truly hot food is sometimes, alas, a rarity for a mother with young children, as getting the meal on the table, assisting the children with their food etc. gives the food plenty of time to cool off–at which point any effect on congestion from eating something hot would be pretty well diminished.

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thomas tucker

posted June 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Beware the fallacy of “post hoc ergo propter hoc.”snippet

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posted June 13, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Why? WHY? Is that all you can worry about?
Go make her another burger!
Sheesh… husbands.

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kevin s.

posted June 14, 2010 at 12:30 am

Eating requires a great deal of mental energy, and digestion requires a heavy dose of physical energy. For one suffering an allergic attack, those are energies that would otherwise be spent constricting muscles and (consequently) passageways.
Think about what a sneeze is. It is a nearly automatic response to irritating stimuli. Someone suffering from allergies is doing quite a bit to encourage irritation, be it by crinkling his or her nose or rubbing it with a tissue.

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posted June 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

new construction? maybe it was made with those wall boards from China that are making everyone sick.

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posted June 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

I dunno but I recommend you find a way to patent this.

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Anon prof

posted June 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm

If she had been fasting, it could be that eating upped her metabolism. In the spring I suffer from dreadful pollen allergies. When I go to the gym and exercise, it clears right up and stays clear for about an hour or so. Maybe the boost from eating helped. Next time she has an attack, see if she can jump on a treadmill (or whatever kind of exercise equipment you might have) for a 30min jog and see what that does…

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Charles Cosimano

posted June 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

There is nothing that cannot be cured by a good hamburger, unless it is a condition so serious as to require two.

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posted June 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

could it be protein? I know that upping protein before surgery helps the healing process move along quicker. Could it be that Julie was protein deficient?
That really is an interesting story and I would get out of that apartment quick!

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posted June 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Do your kids have any symptoms at all?
Do you feel better at work than at home?
If either of these are true, you should definitely look at your indoor air quality. It could indeed be mold.

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Brett R.

posted June 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm

To paraphrase Homer of Springfield, “Beef– the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
CAPTCHA: “Khrushchev shimmied”. Hope it was captured on film!

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posted June 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

If it’s generally true that Julie feels better after eating meals high in amino acids (meat, tofu, peanut butter), I suggest looking into hypothyroidism as the cause. Chronic rhinitis/sinusitis is a major symptom, along with higher susceptibility to infections. These symptoms are easily confused with those of allergies.

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posted June 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Possibly it was simply the atmosphere – steam and vaporized grease. When I was in college and had a job at the snack bar, I always worked the grill when I had a cold. Steamy, greasy air – nature’s best decongestant.

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posted June 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I take if from your comment about the kids not observing the Apostles Feast that you and your wife are. It took some digging, but apparently that means that you started restricting your protein intake about two weeks ago. And now you’re feeling run down. I think that’s part of the point of a fast.

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Broken Yogi

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Even stranger, I found that cannabis knocks my allergies out. I too get truly terrible hay fever from grasses in the springtime, and it hits me like a ton of bricks, such pain I want to die. A friend gave me some cannibis brownies to help with the pain, and I probably took to much – the high was actually kind of uncomfortable – but the next day, I woke up with no symptoms at all. Since then I’ve found that for some strange reason cannibis really does knock out my allergy symptoms, or at least knocks them down to a minor irritation. I’ve never heard of this use of cannabis before, but I told a friend about it with similar problems, and they also got major relief. I know have a medical prescription for this (I live in California) and it makes a huge difference around this time of year. If I get bad symptoms I take a big brownie before bedtime, and wake up both sober and symptom free in the morning. Who’d of thunk?

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Rod Dreher

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm

No, I’ve been feeling run-down and allergic for two months now — which coincides with the grass-pollinating season in this area, I learned over the weekend. I have only felt my usual self when I’ve gone out of town for a couple of days. Julie is far more susceptible to allergies than I am, and she’s been back and forth with these things as soon as spring started. I’m sure the fasting hasn’t helped, though.
[Captcha: bayou be — that’s exactly the state I’ll be living in tomorrow!]

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posted June 15, 2010 at 5:48 am

I have the same allergy to grass pollen (I am sniffling as I type this despite multiple does of anti-histamines) but find that by far the worst room in the house for me is the kitchen – can think of no rationale for this at all as I keep all the doors and windows firmly shut from May to July – and this being England the only air conditioning is a electric fan.
On the other hand my hay fever has undoubtedly worsened since I became a vegetarian – back in my meat-eating twenties it was hardly a problem, but since I took up vegetarianism in my thirties it seems to have become more debilitating every year.
So there may indeed be something in the suggestion that your fast is screwing with your immune systems: evidently no physical pain – no spiritual gain.
As cultivating medicinal cannabis seems unlikely to be your solution of choice I can only suggest you migrate to the North Sea island of Heligoland which has been a refuge of choice for German allergy sufferers for many years….
Less radically while I am sceptical about adding grease, breathing in hot steam does offer me temporary relief – if I could afford to build a hermetically sealed sauna I’d spend the whole hay fever season laired inside it.
Failing that a kettle or pot full of boiling water, a bath towel and a couple of cloves or dab of Vick helps.
(You can also buy face steamers but I found these were never hot enough to clear the bronchial passages).
Then you can try a damp flannel VERY CAREFULLY heated up in the microwave and dropped onto the face – if nothing else it opens up the pores wonderfully and is a great pre- and after shaving regime (which is why old fashioned barbers used to have those little cabinets that they steamed towels in).

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Fr. Raphael

posted June 15, 2010 at 7:00 am

I just joined the Neti Pot cult. I’ve had hay fever since I was a teen. Now, I am not cured….but what relief!

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David J. White

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

When I was in college and had a job at the snack bar, I always worked the grill when I had a cold.
No offense, Lisa, but I think I would stay far, far away from a restaurant if I knew that the person working the grill had a cold!

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posted June 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Two months seems like a looooong grass pollination season. It makes me miserable, too, but doesn’t last nearly that long. (Might be because there are fewer grass species out here, assuming the long time is a function of different species with different schedules.)
I seem to recall you saying you avoid the doc and the allergy tests. GO TO THE DOC. The test isn’t that bad and the knowledge can help.
Been there, done that, cut down the acacia.

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