This is the time of year where the weather is happy, but many of us are miserable! Seasonal allergies affect millions and cause everything from sneezing, to runny noses, to watery eyes, to headaches. People cursed with allergies often times resort to antihistamine meds that can make them groggy, hyper or just plain loopy. Now, I don’t know about you, but Spring time seems like a crummy time to be drugged out and not able to enjoy all this season has to offer.
What you have to consider is that allergies are directly related to your body’s immune system. 2/3 of your immune system is located in your G.I. (Gastrointestinal Tract), which means that the health of that system effects EVERYTHING else; including allergic responses.
Allergens, which are what cause allergic responses (certain foods, chemicals, or contact allergens such as poison oak) are primarily proteins that cause a hypersensitive immune response in which antibodies, or immunoglobulins are produced. Antibody’s are proteins in the blood that identify and neutralize foreign objects and they help to remove pathogens from the body.
Since most allergic reactions are stimulated by proteins, there is a lot of confusion about allergies as a whole. A true allergy involves the immune system, or IgE (Immunoglobulin E) versus an “intolerance” which is a metabolic response, not an immune response. So, with that being said, I will list the top most allergenic foods:
Food for thought: people who are “lactose intolerant” may or may not have an “allergy” to milk. There are two parts of milk to consider; the casein (protein in dairy products) and the lactose (which is the sugar in milk products). Some people cannot produce lactase, the enzyme which breaks down lactose, making them “lactose intolerant”, while others have a true immune response because they cannot handle the breakdown of casein. This also rings true for wheat or gluten, which is the protein in wheat. Celiac Disease is a true gluten allergy. This means that if this person has wheat, the gluten will have a dramatic effect on their immune system…anything from swelling, to diarrhea, to anaphylaxis (severe rapid allergic response).
So, I am guessing some of you are like me. I never thought I had allergies, but I have developed them over time, which is extremely common. Your body will have an immune response to an allergen, which remember is a protein, which causes a reaction and the formation of pathogenic microorganisms, or antigens, which the body recognizes as “not self”. It will then form a specific antibody and forever recognize it as something foreign and raise hell on it the next time that foreign substance enters the body. If your immune system is compromised at any time, this can make you vulnerable to becoming sensitive to certain allergens.
If you are unsure as to what or if you are allergic to, you can try an elimination diet, which is a method for identifying a “trigger” food. This involves giving up these certain foods for a period of about 1 month, seeing if symptoms disappear and then reintroducing the food back into the diet to see if symptoms reappear. This is a bit time consuming, but would give you a pretty good idea if you were allergic or sensitive to a certain food. You may also want to remove that food for another month and reintroduce it again to be sure. There are other methods to try to identify allergies, but some can be quite costly, which include blood tests and those can run hundreds of dollars and can also show false negatives or positives. The elimination diet is the most clear cut way to find out. It just takes time.
So, what can you do to combat allergies naturally? One bioflavanoid could really help a lot…QUERCETIN. When antibodies are formed, they are free floating within our blood stream and they then become attached to mast cells which line our white blood cells and basophilis (a type of white blood cell). Allergic antibodies allow these cells to leak histamine and serotonin into our bloodstream, causing allergic symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing and whatnot. Quercetin has a special relationship with mast cells and basophilis, and actually stabilizes their cell membranes, preventing them from leaking their allergy-causing histamine and serotonin into our bloodstream!
Bromelain is another natural remedy for allergies. It goes hand in hand with Quercitin because it is a protein digesting enzyme found in pineapples which helps the absorption of Quercitin.
You will often see Quercetin/Bromelain supplements because the combo of the two set you up for success.
Buffered Vitamin C also acts as a mild antihistamine. Buffered Vitamin C has an acid-alkaline buffering action that can help to control the increased acidity (BAD) associated with allergic reactions. I will get into pH and acid vs alkaline another time, but let me just say that your body likes a more alkaline environment.
Here is a list of some decent natural remedies:
Respir-All by NOW Foods http://www.nowfoods.com/?action=itemdetail&item_id=3001
Allercetin by Source Naturals http://www.sourcenaturals.com/articles/3518/
Sinuplex by Metagenics http://www.metagenics.com/products/detail.asp?pid=248
Other natural recommendations include Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and Nettle Root.
Using a Neti Pot is another cheap and easy way to combat allergies. Neti has been used for centuries and it is a process of cleaning out the nasal passages with warm water and saline. It’s a little uncomfortable the first time you try it, but once you get used to it, it can be quite relaxing. Ideally, nasal irrigation should be included in your every day ritual as preventative care for sinuses, but with all our busy lifestyles, it can fall by the wayside. For more info on Neti pots and nasal cleansing, see http://www.healingdaily.com/exercise/neti-pot.htm
Many supplements may contain a combo of the remedies listed above. I have tried Allercetin and it seemed to work pretty well. I don’t suffer from severe allergies, so personally, I would rather try the natural route first. I also use my Neti pot on occasion and it works great! Of course if you have dramatic reactions to foods or environmental toxins, see your doctor to come up with the best plan of action for you.