With spring in the air, many people are likely stressing about the upcoming allergy season. By definition, allergies are your body’s reaction to allergens, a sign that the immune system is working overtime. Allergens are particles your body considers foreign, which forces your immune system to respond to it – sometimes too much of a response! Sometimes they can affect us suddenly for no apparent reason. One can go for years experiencing no symptoms at all, and out of nowhere become affected. There are many factors that can cause someone to suffer from allergies. Common triggers are environmental factors (pollen, mold, etc), food, and animals.
Airborne pollen is the most common cause of seasonal allergies, often referred to as hay fever. Sometimes, when we experience a mild winter, the allergy season can arrive earlier due to high levels of pollen in the air, and can often linger for weeks. Other triggers for allergies include dust, pet dander, environmental chemicals, cleaning products, and food. Allergens are different, as not one person is affected the same way – and one can become sensitized at any time .
As a naturopath, I feel strongly that gut health is a huge factor when it comes to allergic reactions. We know that 70 % of our immune system is in our gut, so it is easily understood that food we do not digest well can contribute to or counteract immune function.
According to Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University, “When undigested proteins enter your blood stream, these substances are antigenic and allergenic, meaning they stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies against them. This is what sets the stage for the occurrence of allergies and other autoimmune disorders.”
Allergies can lead to other health issues, including muscle aches and pains, fatigue, and inflammation. This is why I like to address allergies as they present themselves by looking at diet and lifestyle. There are many over the counter remedies that claim to help with allergies, but all they do is provide momentary relief. This includes antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, and allergy shots. Some say that they feel even worse taking these products as they all can cause side effects. We know that treating the symptoms does not address the root cause of the problem. Sometimes momentary relief from your symptoms is what you need – but what if we went straight to the source of your allergies?
Supporting your digestive health by staying away from processed foods, refined sugar, grains and dairy would make a significant difference in your immune system and its response to disease including allergies.
Here are some tips on how you can change your diet to help alleviate allergies
- Up your intake of vitamin C (a natural antihistamine!) by including more fruits
- Dark leafy greens all have immune-enhancing properties
- Inflammatory foods are the enemy! These include dairy, wheat, refined sugars and carbohydrates
- Pay attention to how you feel. Bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea are all signs that your digestive system is struggling a bit!
For short-term help with allergies, and if you are currently suffering from allergies, you can try acupuncture and irrigating your sinuses with a neti pot, as well as over-the-counter allergy medicine! Other foods and herbs that can help with immediate relief are hot peppers or horseradish (natural decongestants!), Quercetin, which is available in supplement form, or found in apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, and eucalyptus oil.
Remember, aim to educate, not medicate!