According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States being the 5th leading cause of chronic disease. Allergies and asthma are more prominent in Western countries where pollution is more prominent vs. developing countries. Thus, both genetics and the environment play a role in the incidence of developing allergies.What exactly are allergies? An allergy is a hypersensitive reaction to a normally harmless substance like pollen, animal dander’s, mould, dust, foods, air pollutions and perfumes. In normal circumstances, the immune system is designed to protect against these harmless foreign substances, but when the immune system goes into overdrive, it reacts unnecessarily. Now you may be wondering how can your immune system go into overdrive? Well, toxins like air pollution, pesticides, and household cleaners overwhelm our immune system through constant exposure, increasing the overall toxin burden.
There are four types of hypersensitivity or allergic reactions.
Type I: Immediate hypersensitivity
Includes allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma and acute skin reactions. These happen right after coming into contact with something you are allergic too and involve histamine release, producing all those unwanted, uncomfortable symptoms.
Type II & Type III: Autoimmune reactions
Autoimmune reactions in which the body is reacting to itself
Type IV: Delayed hypersensitivity
These reactions do not happen right after coming into contact with the allergen but manifests in hours to days. An example of this would be a food intolerance.
Some allergies can cause just respiratory symptoms, like stuffy/runny nose, sneezing, red/watery eyes. Others cause diverse symptoms like a headache, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, dark under eye circles, stomachache and vomiting. Allergies can be chronic or seasonal. Seasonal allergies, like hay fever, tend to be caused by pollen, so symptoms recur the same time every year, usually when the plant is blooming. Chronic allergies, on the other hand, are caused by factors that are present in the environment all year round like animal fur, dust or feathers.
Here is a step-by-step process on how to treat your allergies using alternative means:
1. Identify Allergens
Identify the allergens that are causing the problem and try your best to decrease exposure.
2. Identify Food Sensitivities
Identify food sensitivities. Decreasing the immune reactivity in one area of the body can help to decrease the overall allergenic load in the body. Both food allergies and environmental allergens contribute to this load and can both manifest as allergenic rhinitis. The top five foods that can lead to sensitivities are wheat, dairy, soy, eggs and corn.
3. Manage your Gut
Your gut microbiome plays a big role in the development of allergies. 90% of your immune cells are made in your gut! So it is important to keep your gut balanced and healthy. Probiotics can help to improve digestion and also limit the absorption of food allergens.
4. Avoid Histamine Foods
Avoid foods that are high in histamine and Tryptophan --> Cheese, wines, fish, cottage cheese, peanuts and turkey. At the same time, include foods that are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids like, blueberries, blackberries.
Consider nutritional supplements. These can help to decrease inflammation and decrease histamine levels to help with allergenic symptoms.
- Bioflavonoids, like Quercetin – Anti-inflammatories that can decrease allergic symptoms
- Calcium and Magnesium are important to help relax an overactive Nervous System
- Essential fatty acids like those found in cod liver oil help to regulate the anti-inflammatory response
- NAC is a great mucolytic agent that helps to thin the mucous membranes. It also helps with liver cell regeneration to aid the body in getting rid of toxic wastes
- Nettle can be very helpful for drying out the sinuses
- Butterbur (Petasites Hybridus) is a herbal extract used to help with symptoms like rhinorrhea, itchy eyes and red eyes
Last but not least, Acupuncture on the 4 gates can help to calm the Nervous System
Remember, the earlier you intervene and treat your allergies the sooner you will start to feel better! So if you suffer from seasonal or chronic allergies, speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to see can they help you!
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2017