Chris Smith


Thoughts on life.

2 Crowdsourced Cures for Allergies

Photo credit Parrchristy on Flickr

Photo credit Parrchristy on Flickr

I’ve been troubled with cat dander allergies since I was a child.  I’d spend the night with friends who had cats and within hours end up with asthma, burning eyes and a pool of snot and tissues.

The worst memory I have is sleeping on the floor at a cousin’s house and waking up in the middle of the night wheezing as a shadow cat menaced over me.  This has deeply affected my perspective on the acceptability of cats as household pets (not to mention some data to back up my personal inclinations). 

Recently, I’ve gotten into the quantified self world and started troubleshooting some of my allergies. During the months of reading and iterating on ideas, I stumbled across two remarkable solutions to allergies. What is remarkable is that they were both crowdsourced in active online communities centered around health and found unintentionally as side effects from other personal health pursuits.

Option 1. Follow a ketogenic diet (from a reddit post in /r/keto)

A ketogenic diet is based on obtaining 70% or more of your daily caloric intake from fats 20% or so from proteins and 10% or less from carbs.  I don’t claim to be an expert and anyone interested can read more here.

Responses from reddit thread

Yes, I was about to have to have sinus surgery over it. This whole diet thing actually started out with me trying to starve some polyps with a candida diet (unsustainable in my case).  It has worked wonders, even my "normal" allergies seem to be much less. - CentexAwesome
yes I have, just started keto a month ago and typically have moderate seasonal allergies but haven't had any of my typical problems with them. Glad its working out well for you as well :D. - moyer
Yes! I am no longer allergic to cats! ( and have one as a pet) - captainloverman
Absolutely. Used to have horrific hay fever when all the pollens came around. I could fill trash cans up easily with discarded tissue papers of snot. Now, it's a minor nuisance until my body adapts to the pollens. Night and day difference. - Baggar11
I was just thinking about this the other day. I never had really bad allergies, but they were definitely noticeable during the spring/summer. Thus far, I too have not even had as much as a sniffle. I didn't even think it could be because of keto! - Stubbula
Mine have definitely calmed down a lot. I'm allergic to cats and moved into a house with one in late Feb. So far so good - Flabbo
When I started keto and stop eating grains I noticed my sinuses cleared up. Not right away, it took a week or two. I was smoking cigars at the time and I always thought my congestion was due to smoking. However, last weekend I smoked a few cigars and my sinuses are still clear.  In addition, usually this time of year my hay fever is killing me, but right now I can breathe problem free. - Dirtisgood
I am also experiencing this phenomenon. I love that I can get so much more done at work (and home) because I'm not stuck in the groggy allergy medicine haze!!! - Mom2Pug
Even in winter the last several years, I needed both a 24 hour Claritin and a Benadryl every 4 hours. A couple weeks into keto, I noticed that my symptoms weren't coming on at the 3.5 hour mark (about 6 hours in). So I stopped my Benadryl, and didn't have any symptoms that required it. A few weeks later, I decided to see if I could stop the Claritin. Sure enough, after 1 false start, I've been Claritin-free for at least 6 weeks now. - mag


Worked for me i.e. I don’t hate cats anymore

I tried the ketogenic diet and noticed numerous benefits with regard to well being, focus, and the amount of sleep that I need nightly, but most importantly for this blogpost, my cat allergies were reduced significantly.  I stayed at a friends place in Austin, TX recently with two cats.  

The last time I stayed in this house in 2013 it was miserable.  I could barely tolerate the runny nose, asthma and itchy eyes.  This time I experienced very few symptoms, some occasional sneezes (which often happen regardless of my feline compatriots) and a tinge of irritated eyes one day.  It was relatively excellent or rather, it didn’t suck as usual.


Option 2. Memantine - a prescription drug for the treatment of Alzheimers Disease (found on reddit post 1, post 2)

Some other redditor responses

Same. I suffered from rather severe allergic rhinitis and skin hives for 14+ years, blamed it on the changing weather, trees, pet dander, dust mites, laundry detergents etcetera, anything and everything would trigger it. After one round of memantine I've been completely allergy free, hasn't returned, and I'm off memantine now for 1.5 months. - kharmatica
I only get allergies during the spring and summer seasons. I've been on memantine daily since the winter. When spring rolled around I suffered from severe allergies for one day- stuffy nose, water/itchy eyes. Worse than anything I remember. After that my allergies disappeared. I think mementine caused a hyper allergic reaction which triggered some kind of tolerance or downregulation of my histamine receptors to where I no longer have allergy problems anymore. - sayitaintsoap

Whats more, memantine seems to actually cure allergies for some people:

I saw the same post and decided to try it. One 15 ml sample bottle from ceretropic cured my hay fever and cat allergies. - pisstola

I haven't tried memantine but the anecdotes speak for themselves.  Obviously, memantine is not an over the counter medicine and should be discussed with your doctor. Many people also experience adverse side effects.

How do these treatments work?

Well pending scientific studies we won’t know for sure but there are some speculations being made by people smarter than I.

For the ketogenic diet, people anticipate it is because of the reduced inflammation in the body allowing the body to better deal with allergens.

For Memantine it seems to be more related to upregulation of histamine receptors meaning you become less sensitive to the histamine response (study from image linked here


The Future of Medicine?

In conclusion, it’s interesting to see how mass interconnectedness and crowdsourcing allows for the origination of new treatments.  I wonder how many other unknown solutions to medical woes are out there lingering in the heads of the unconnected.  There will likely be many solutions like this in the future and someone ought to develop a structured data collection system for allowing for higher quality analysis and testing.

If you have miserable allergies and find that antihistamines aren’t your jam I hope this post helps you out.  Try at your own risk, I’m not a doctor and this isn’t intended as medical advice.  

What do you think? Know of any other remedies with strong anecdotal evidence? Please let me know in the comments below.

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