According to Dr. Z, one of the biggest misconceptions people have about asthma and allergies is that there’s nothing they can do except take medication to manage their symptoms. “The truth is that there are ways to ‘turn off’ asthma and allergies and send them into remission—I know, because I did it,” says Dr. Z. In fact, it is Dr. Z’s own experience with asthma as a child that inspired him to become a functional allergist.
In his book, Allergy Free with Dr. Z: Understanding Allergies, Asthma, and Much, Much More, Dr. Z writes about how asthma allergies defined much of his childhood, until he met a doctor who was “ahead of his time” because instead of just treating Dr. Z’s symptoms, he was able to determine and treat the underlying cause of his asthma, inflammation.
Q: Tell us about your experience growing up with allergies and asthma.
Dr. Z: I had really bad asthma as a kid. I was at the doctor’s office nearly every week, I was often hospitalized for asthma, I was on prednisone all of the time… I had such bad side effects from it that kids used to make fun of me because I had swollen cheeks. Colds always went to my chest, and I missed a lot of school. As I got older, I missed out on a lot of social activities because I was always sick. I didn’t have the stamina to do sports because exercise triggered my asthma.
Q: At some point things changed for you. What happened?
Dr. Z: I was fortunate enough to start seeing an allergist who was way ahead of the game. He was big on clinical studies, and he had me on treatments that weren’t available to a lot of people at the time. He is the reason I wanted to become a functional allergist.
In my twenties, I went to Colorado and my asthma improved dramatically because there weren’t any dust mites there. For the first time, I wasn’t suffering from allergies and asthma, I was running 6 miles at a time without an asthma attack, and colds didn’t go to my chest. When I moved back to New England and started my practice, I started myself on allergy shots—or allergy immunotherapy—and that got my asthma under control. Now my asthma’s in remission. I used to be allergic to dust mites, pollen, and pets—now I have a dog and a convertible!
Q: What is allergy immunotherapy and how does it work?
Dr. Z: Allergen immunotherapy comes in the form of allergy shots or allergy drops, called sublingual allergen immunotherapy because you put the drops under your tongue. Each dose contains a small amount of the allergen and it works by allowing the body to build up immunity to it over time. Ultimately, the allergy gets switched off and you no longer experience symptoms.
Q: What is the difference between allergy shots and allergy drops?
Dr. Z: Allergy shots require a trip to the doctor’s office to be administered, but the sublingual allergy drops can be taken at home. It’s a more convenient way to treat the allergies and asthma because it’s a home treatment.
It’s worth noting that our practice is unique in that AAPRI is the only one in Rhode Island that offers sublingual immunotherapy, which is a great option for kids and anyone with a busy lifestyle. My asthma went into remission because of the allergy shots, and now I’m on the sublingual drops for maintenance.
Q: What role has functional medicine played in your own treatment?
Dr. Z: Even after I was able to get my asthma into remission, I would still get miserable sinus infections because I had pansinusitis. Using what I’ve learned with functional medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, I’ve gotten the pansinusitis under better control.
Watch Dr. Z talk about his experiences growing up with asthma and how he got his condition under control.
Interested in learning more about immunotherapy? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Z or any of our other dedicated team members at the office location of your choice.