Are You Suffering From Allergies?
An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from spring allergies associated with trees, grass, and weed pollen. Airborne pollen is the most common cause of seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis.
An allergy is a damaging immune response by the body in reaction to a substance, such as pollen, dander, mold, a particular food, chemicals or dust, to which it has become hypersensitive.
After a person is exposed to the allergen, a series of events create the allergic reaction:
- The body produces an antibody called IgE to bind the allergen
- The antibodies attach to mast cells, which are abundant in airways and the GI tract, making these areas more susceptible to allergen exposure
- The allergens bind to the IgE, which is attached to the mast cell, causing the release of histamine, the main chemical that causes most of the symptoms of an allergic reaction
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to inhaled or skin allergens include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy, runny nose
- Feeling tired or ill
The conventional approach to allergies is typically palliative and symptom-oriented:
- Allergy shots
Some side-effects of these medications can include: drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, stomach upset, blurred vision, or dry mouth/nose/throat.
There are a number of evidence-based alternatives
While the results for acupuncture are mixed, there are some studies showing benefits, and the empirical results noted by hundreds of patients and practitioners cannot be discounted.
In a study in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, thirty subjects were randomly assigned to two groups, real or sham acupuncture for four consecutive weeks. Subjects were assessed by various criteria before, during and after the treatments. The results indicated that acupuncture is an effective and safe alternative treatment for the management of seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in onions, red wine, and green tea. It acts as a potent polyphenol antioxidant and immune system modulator.
Quercetin has been shown to have a number of properties, including:
- Anti-Histamine and Anti-Allergy
- Cardiovascular Protection
Probiotics may have an important role in the prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis through the modulation of cytokines by specific white blood cells. In other words, there is an anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating effect.
The intake of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C has been inversely associated with allergic rhinitis.
The Mediterranean diet, which has a high antioxidant content due to its high content of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grain cereals, is associated with a decreased incidence of allergic rhinitis.
In addition, a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. fish, flaxseed, hemp seed, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables) is associated with a decreased risk of allergic sensitization and allergic rhinitis.
A compound in green tea (EGCG) blocks a key cell receptor involved in producing an allergic response.
Nasal Saline Irrigation with a Neti Pot
Saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia within the nose so that they may more effectively remove the allergens and other irritants that cause sinus problems.
Inadequate sleep can evoke a stress response that results in the non-specific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This leads to chronic low-grade inflammation, and can produce immunodeficiency, both of which have detrimental effects on health and one’s ability to deal with allergies.
Stress and Allergic Disease
Current research has elucidated anatomical as well as physiological evidence of communication between the nervous system, endocrine system and immune cells in allergic diseases. There is an enhancement of the allergic inflammatory response with stress exposure.
Optimal management of allergic disorders must involve a multi-faceted approach including psychological interventions.
Summary of an Alternative Allergy Protocol
- Acupuncture: 2x/week for 4 weeks
- Quercetin: 500 mg 2x/day
- Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids: 500 mg of each 1-2x/day
- Fish oil: 700 to 1,000 mg of EPA and 200 to 500 mg of DHA daily
- Consume an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet (Identifying and eliminating food allergies can reduce the total load on one’s immune system, thereby augmenting immune function)
- Drink green tea
- Daily nasal saline irrigation with a Neti Pot
- Get adequate sleep (7-9 hours)
- Stress management (e.g. 15 minutes of daily meditation, social interaction, yoga, and quality family time)