Keep up to date with the latest news, offers and useful articles from the team at Castle Clinic…

Understanding peanut allergies & reducing risk

Peanut allergies are among the most common and severe food allergies, with an estimated one-in 50 children now affected in the UK. As with other allergies, they occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies peanut protein as harmful, triggering a range of symptoms from mild hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

What can be done to prevent peanut allergies?

There are many factors that are out of control that can influence the risk of developing peanut allergies, such as a family history of allergies, our age (young children are more susceptible) and being born prematurely. However, there are things we can do that may help reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies. These include:

1) Early exposure – research published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology last year identified that by introducing smooth peanut butter to babies during weaning (from six months and when they are ready for solids), can reduce the occurrence of peanut allergy cases by 71%. This contradicts the long-standing advice of avoiding foods that can trigger allergies during early childhood. It is advised that weaning starts:

  • from six months
  • when the baby can stay in a seated position
  • when the baby can hold their head steady, coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
  • swallow food, rather than spit it out.  

The quantity suggested is three heaped teaspoons of peanut butter per week, until the child is five. As peanut butter can be quite dry, it can be given with breastmilk.

2) Breastfeeding – supports the infant’s immune system, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, provides dietary allergens in a controlled manner and includes anti-inflammatory components. These factors collectively help in reducing the risk of all allergies in children, including peanut allergies.

3) Avoiding antibiotics – research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2020 found an increased risk of food allergies in children who had been prescribed any of the commonly administered antibiotics, and particularly if they had taken multiple types of antibiotics in their first six months of life. Whilst in many instances antibiotics are an essential tool in the management of childhood illnesses, this research highlights the importance in using these medicines only when absolutely necessary.

Management of allergies at Castle Clinic

Do you suffer from a peanut allergy? Speak to our allergy specialist, Sandra Shackleton to discuss how best to manage and treat it. Book online or call 01423 787800 to find out more.

Dealing with hay fever

Hay fever is an allergic reaction that occurs when the immune system overreacts to airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, or mould spores. These substances, known as allergens, trigger symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes.

Between mid-May until July it is the season of grass pollen, which most hay fever sufferers are allergic to.

Those of you who suffer with hay fever know how frustrating it can be. There are actions that can be taken to help reduce exposure to pollen and relieve symptoms naturally. Here is what we suggest:

Keep windows and doors shut

With the warmer weather it can be tempting to open the windows and doors, but pollen can blow in from outside and settle inside, triggering a hay fever attack.

Take a shower

If you’ve spent a long time outside, taking a shower or even just washing your hands as soon as you arrive home can limit pollen entering the home.

Washing clothes

Putting your clothes in the wash when you come home is another way of reducing how much pollen enters the home after spending time outdoors.

Washing bedding

Washing bedding weekly at a high temperature can help rid your sheets of pollen.

Use an air purifier

Air purifiers take in air and trap any floating particles, before expelling the clean air back out. Air purifiers with a HEPA filter can help remove small particles such as pollen from the air, meaning you breath less pollen in.

Health Kinesiology

This holistic, alternative therapy combines principles from applied kinesiology, energy medicine and traditional Chinese medicine with the aim of addressing imbalances in the body’s energy systems and promoting overall well-being. It can be used to help identify and treat specific allergies. Castle Clinic offers allergy testing and treatment of allergies with Health Kinesiology.

If you are suffering from hay fever or other allergies, you may want to consider our Allergy Tests to learn more about what your triggers are and how to treat it. Book online or call 01423 787800 to find out more.

Allergies in the 21st Century

With one in 3 of us suffering from asthma, eczema or hay fever, we could say that we’re in the middle of an allergy epidemic. Allergic diseases have risen significantly in the last 5 decades. Asthma, for example affected approximately 1% of the UK’s population in the fifties, yet today it affects close to 10%. An estimated 25-30% of people in the UK suffer from one or more allergies, including those mentioned above, as well as allergies to food and animals. In my early teens I myself developed an allergy to wasp stings (as well as an allergy to tidying my bedroom). Thankfully I grew out of the latter. Scientists around the globe are searching for the reasons why allergic diseases, something that used to be rare, are now part and parcel of our daily lives.

The reason for this allergy epidemic isn’t due to exposure to allergens, because humans have always been exposed to allergens. Neither is it due to genetics as some scientists have suggested. Whilst genetics have long been acknowledged to play a part in allergies, it takes thousands of years, not a few decades, to see such changes in our genetic makeup. Therefore it must be something in our environment (e.g., urbanisation) or lifestyle that is influencing the risk of allergies. When you consider that people living in the developing world have an incidence of allergies at levels less than 1%, there is weight to back up the theory that our environment and lifestyle are to blame. Studies also show that immigrants from the developing world, who have lived in the west for 10 years or more have a threefold increased risk of developing allergies, further supporting this theory.

But what is it in our environment or lifestyle that is causing the increase in allergies? The hygiene hypothesis first proposed in 1989, suggested that because our modern lifestyle meant improved levels of hygiene and cleanliness, children’s exposure to bacteria and viruses were reduced, therefore infections reduced, depriving the immune system of the training it needed to resist allergies, and gave birth to the idea that we’re ‘too clean’. However the experts have disproved this theory, as those urban areas where allergies are more frequent, also have higher levels of the infections that the hygiene hypothesis was referring to.

Immunologist, Professor Graham Rook has modified the hygiene hypothesis, believing it is a broad range of bacteria and microbes that are lacking from people’s lives, not childhood infections, thus predisposing us to allergies. And not because we are too clean, but because we are increasingly separated from nature, as we spend larger amounts of time indoors for both work and leisure. Even a generation ago, humans spent more of their lives outdoors, interacting with the natural world, exposing themselves to a range of microorganisms that we don’t encounter living in towns and spending our day in a car or in an office. It is suggested that because we aren’t exposed to a vast range of bacterium and microorganisms from an early age, our immune system doesn’t learn to tolerate and ignore them and so doesn’t learn what is not harmful. The immune system can then develop inappropriate responses to benign items such as eggs or dairy, where it overreacts, leading to a variety of symptoms such as itching and swelling, or in serious cases, difficulties breathing or a drop in blood pressure.

Most of the body’s bacteria is stored in the gut. In fact a healthy gut should contain more variants of microorganisms and bacteria than there are species in the Amazon, yet studies have shown that people in the developed world have a lower diversity of bacteria than in the developing world, where allergies are less common. Studies have also shown that in people with allergies, this bacterial diversity is even lower.  It is this understanding that bacteria is not just a cause of food poisoning and illnesses, but a vital component needed for the functioning of the human body. Whilst it can be difficult to stop allergies once they have started, exposure to a vast array of bacteria from an early age could help prevent the development of allergies in the first place. Here are some tips that can help you and your children achieve this, without living in a cave and getting your dinner by hunting antelope on the prairies or foraging for food in the forest. The following suggestions are especially important for children, but should be practiced by adults too: –

  • Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoiding processed food will help expose you to many strains of good bacteria.
  • Eat probiotic foods such as yoghurts and cheeses, as they can help replenish bacterial stores.
  • Spending time in parks, woodland and the countryside means you’ll interact with a wealth of bacteria. If you’re with children, or you’re a big kid yourself, hunt for insects under rocks and encourage climbing trees.
  • Spend time with other animals, whether it’s house pets or farm animals. Studies have shown that allergies are much rarer in the farming community, perhaps because of the time spent with livestock. This doesn’t mean you need to buy a family pet or move to a farm, but when possible, try and spend time at the homes of those friends who do own pets.
  • Avoid taking antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary. Antibiotics can decimate our bodies of our good bacteria, and whilst they remain a very important drug, it’s important they are used mindfully and only when necessary, especially in the first year of life.
  • Continue maintaining hygiene in the home, such as wiping down surfaces, washing your hands after using the loo and before handling food. This will help to protect you from contracting illnesses from bad bacteria.
  • If you are expecting a baby, consider, the benefits of breastfeeding when possible. The mother passes lots of good bacteria to her baby when breastfeeding.

In summary, the problem is not that we’re too clean, rather that we’ve avoided getting dirty for too long. Humans are not plastic creatures sent from outer space, plonked onto a world to live separate from it, we grew up and evolved from this world and should continue to interact with it. Now go and climb a tree and eat an apple…

If you are suffering from intolerances, sensitivities or allergies, you may want to consider our Allergy Tests to learn more about what your triggers are. Book online or call 1423 787800 to find out more.

20 years of Castle Clinic!

This April, Castle Clinic celebrates 20 years since it first opened! The brainchild of one of our acupunturists, Janice Miller, the clinic has gone from strength to strength since it opened. We have assembled an experienced team of therapists who will treat you holistically. Join us in this piece of nostaliga as we look back at some pictures of our first 20 years!

Luxury scented candles – made with earwax

Our clinic’s audiologist, Zanib Iqbal has introduced an innovative twist to the candle industry, using a novel ingredient that is both sustainable and aromatic: earwax. For years Zanib has been removing earwax from patients with blocked ears using micro-suction technology, the gold standard practice according to NICE guidelines. But instead of disposing of the removed earwax, she saw potential in repurposing it into something useful and environmentally friendly.

“After years of discarding up to 500g of earwax after a day in clinic, I started to think of ways of utilising the earwax in different ways. My first thought was wax crayons as my daughter uses them a lot. But I love scented candles, and with the high price of quality scented candles I thought I could make them more affordable”.

Zanib ensures that the earwax she used in her candles is sanitised and processed to meet safety standards. She then combines it with locally sourced, organic beeswax and essential oils to produce a range of unique scents from soothing lavender to invigorating pomegranate. So far, the best seller is lime, basil and mandarin.

These candles not only offer a luxurious aroma, but also a cheaper and sustainable alternative to traditional candles, retailing at £8 per candle.

Our customers have praised the candles for their long-lasting burn and subtle, natural scents.

“I was initially skeptical about the idea” admitted Margaret Bolt, a regular customer. But after trying one Zanib’s candles I was pleasantly surprised. They smell amazing and only cost £8.”

If you would like to purchase a candle, or if you are having hearing issues and would like to book an audiology appointment with Zanib, contact Castle Clinic at or on 01423 797800.

Protect your children’s hearing when they’re gaming

Parents have lots to worry about when keeping their children safe when gaming, be it ensuring they’re playing age-appropriate games, that they’re not being groomed by other online gamers or that they’re not racking up huge bills with in-game purchases. Now there is something else to consider, and it is very important… Their precious hearing.

A research paper published yesterday by the BMJ reviewed 14 studies, which involved over 50,000 people in total, suggests that gamers regularly play for long periods of time (with or without headsets) with volumes beyond safe limits. Some of these studies found correlations between gaming and irreversible hearing loss as well as tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Part of the issue is the volume, with shooting games in particular ranging from 88.5 – 119 decibels (dB), the other issue is the length of time spent gaming with sound at these levels. The WHO guidance for adults is that they can safely be exposed to 80dB for 40 hours per week, to only listen to 85dB for a maximum of four hours a week, and 90dB for one hour and 15 minutes per week, with thresholds for children being even lower.

Our advice is to discuss this with the gamers in your house, and regularly monitor the volume of the headsets and the length of time spent gaming.

If you are concerned about you or your loved one’s hearing, we have our in-house audiologist who can assess the ears, hearing levels and provide practical advice and treatment for any issues or concerns. If you would like to book an appointment, you can do so here or call on 01423 787800.

Sunshine: Hero or villain?

I don’t know anyone who complains about the sun shining, but for my fellow pasty northern folk this usually means either lathering ourselves with SPF to protect oneself from the sun’s harmful rays or turning as pink as a mole’s nose and as sore as a belly flop from the top board. The former is for a fear of developing skin cancer and an attempt at preventing ageing of the skin, the blokes usually favour the latter as they stupidly think wearing sunscreen is as macho as synchronized swimming. The sun however isn’t all evil. Its UV rays allow our bodies to manufacture potent supplies of vitamin D, a substance essential for bone health. Without these UV rays our body is prone to a vitamin D deficiency, because unlike other vitamins, no matter how many greens or oily fishes we eat, our bodies cannot produce enough vitamin D without the sun’s rays.

It’s long been known that a lack of vitamin D leaches muscles and bones of calcium, leading to pain, weakness, osteoporosis and fractures, but research published contradicts the long-held belief that avoiding UV radiation will reduce the risk of skin cancer. In fact their findings suggest that avoiding the sun leads to an increased risk not only of melanoma, but of any other cause of premature death including other cancers. The researchers conclude that a lack of vitamin D from too little sunlight is to blame for adverse health effects seen in their trial. It is thought that 50% of white skinned, 90% of dark skinned and 25% of British children display vitamin D deficiencies. And if you think how sunny Yorkshire is, this shouldn’t be happening in our region!!!

In my opinion the problem is a combination of two factors. Firstly, people have taken scientists’ advice to the extreme over the last 30 years, and rather than limiting sun light exposure, people have avoided it all together by keeping their heads and bodies covered at all times with clothes and/or sunblock. Secondly, the fact that over the last 60 years we have migrated indoors as we spend more time inside our offices, homes and shopping centres, means we are kept away from the sun all year round. Computer games and TV have been blamed for a resurgence of rickets, a problem last linked to Victorian poverty, as children no longer play outside.

With all this conflicting information you’re probably wondering what the solution is? Scientists are yet to precisely advise how much sunlight is healthy. I would suggest using common sense. I think that old saying ‘everything in moderation’ applies well. We should try and take in the sun’s rays little, but often and not binge on the sun. Taking in the sun’s rays without protection for about 15 minutes in the morning, or late afternoon & evening is safer than during the intense midday sun. Opportunities to practice this throughout autumn and winter, whilst more difficult, should be seized. It is still important to wear sunscreen, cover up and find shade on the days when you need to be out for long periods on a sunny day because it is essential that you avoid burning. In summary the sun is our hero, essential for our health, but equally, if misused, it transforms into a villain!

In the company of…

This week we featured in The Harrogate Advertiser’s feature ‘In the company of’. Our director and osteopath Seb Contreras was quizzed about a range of things from what we do at the clinic, what motivates him and who inspires him. You can read the full article here.

Supporting patients with Long Covid

Yesterday our clinic and Charlotte featured on the BBC News. They were covering the story of a young woman suffering with Long Covid and how she felt osteopathy had made a significant impact on her recovery, particularly her breathing. Watch the news feature here:

Lockdown 3.0: We are open

Following the latest announcement, we can confirm that in line with public health guidance we will remain open and continue to provide care and osteopathic treatments. Unfortunately at present, Filipe our Sports Massage Therapist is not permitted to offer face to face appointments, however he is still leading online Pilates classes. With the NHS under extreme pressure our osteopaths continue to play an important role in supporting the health and well-being of our community as safely as possible.

We will continue to apply our robust infection control procedures to ensure your safety at all times. These include:

Pre-appointment screening questionnaires.
All persons entering the building must be wearing a face covering and observe social distancing.
Temperature measurements.
Full PPE worn by practitioners.
Regular anti-viral fogging of treatment rooms and reception.
Full sanitisation of treatment rooms in between appointments.
Regular sanitisation of touch points throughout the day.
If you would like to book a face to face or online appointment, you can do so here.

You remain safe in our hands.