By Bob Condor

Here’s one reason why the Daily Health Blog exists: A new federal report reveals that Americans spent $11 billion on doctors' bills and prescription drugs for allergies in 2005.

Note that was more than two years ago. The outlay of dollars is almost double the $6 billion spent in 2000. Do the math and the 2008 cost is probably going to top $14 billion.

It probably won’t surprise you that about two-thirds of the $11 billion in 2005 went to prescription drugs.

Important to note: Not all over-the-counter synthetic drug remedies “for treatment of allergic rhinitis” are even included in the statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, though popular medications Claritin and Zyrtec are part of the numbers because they were prescription-only in 2005 and 2000.

On the other hand, lots of over-the-counter antihistamines aren’t counted. You know the brand names and maybe even popped a few now and then.

I will admit to doing just that back in the early 1990s while running from meeting to meeting as sports editor at the Chicago Tribune during the first three title years for pro basketball’s Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan. The capsules kept my nasal passages clear and seemed a small expense to eliminate the nuisance of a runny nose and scratchy throat. There were games to cover and raves to publish about Jordan’s spectacular feats.

Then my wife, bless her, convinced me all that nose and throat activity was a signal from my body to my mind, as in, “hey, you, something’s not right here.” She referred me to a reflexologist, Larry Clemmons, who turned out to be a founder of national reflexology certification organizations and one gentle soul.

Larry set out a simple treatment plan. Give it six sessions over six

weeks. He would work and manipulate my toes and feet as a sort of nerve panel for the body. “You might drain a lot in the day or two after your visit,” he said.

In other words, it might feel like I was getting worse instead of better. That turned out to be true, but only after the first couple of sessions.

“Just don’t take anything [antihistamines] to mask it,” said Larry.

Larry’s clinical work made me practically eject of my chair when he was working my toes. Reflexologists work on the premise that certain areas of the foot energetically relate to organs and body parts. The toes, especially the big ones, are connected with sinuses.

One other suggestion from Larry, who is a lifelong friend even though we live 2,000 miles apart these days: “Stop eating dairy products or drinking milk for now. You can reintroduce them later.”

The treatment worked. I tossed out my remaining packs of OTC remedies and stayed off milk (went to soy) for maybe a year. I didn’t worry much about cheese, though I don’t eat a lot of it anyway, always asking restaurants to easy on the cheese on pizzas and burritos. I did eat plenty of yogurt and when I went back to milk (for my cereal and occasional lattes) I stuck to hormone-free and organic when possible.

I don’t miss those allergy capsules. The six weeks of treatments with Larry cost me a whole lot less than my drugstore bill would have been in the last two decades.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”