“Bless you” season is almost upon us again. Some allergies can be seasonal and some allergies can be year-round. Your health care professional will diagnose your symptoms to be an allergy when it becomes obvious that your body is overreacting to things that don’t cause problems for most people. An allergy will last longer than a cold and usually show itself when you are around specific substances, called allergens.
Happily, there are some proactive and very easy steps you can take in and around your home to avoid and/or remove the substances that may be causing you problems. For instance, mop your floor and wipe down surfaces with a damp mop or cloth to remove dust. Or, when you vacuum, use with a machine fitted with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. These simple steps can decrease your exposure to those pesky particles, thereby lessening your symptoms and increasing your enjoyment of day-to-day life.
Food allergies, to a lesser degree known as food sensitivities, can manifest themselves in many ways, and most will not take long to become obvious. This is called immediate hypersensitivity. A more prolonged reaction that indicates an allergy to certain foods may manifest as acne, headaches or intestinal problems. Luckily, simple avoidance of these foods is usually enough to dodge an allergic reaction. We invite you to read further to find out how you can ease yourself through the allergy season and generally decrease your symptoms year-round.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES?
Allergies are conditions of the immune system that cause an overreaction to substances called allergens. An allergen is simply a substance that can cause an allergy such as ragweed, pollen, or peanuts. An allergic reaction can be described as your immune system’s vigorous response to a false alarm.
Scientists think both genes and environment can have something to do with whether or not you have, or develop, allergies. As easily as you might grow into them, you can also grow out of allergies.
Allergies are grouped by the kind of trigger, time of year or where symptoms appear on the body:
- indoor and outdoor allergies (also called “hay fever,” “seasonal,” “perennial” or “nasal” allergies),
- food and drug allergies,
- latex allergies,
- insect allergies,
- skin allergies (atopic dermatitis)
- hives (urticaria), and
- eye allergies (allergic conjunctivitis)
Allergies need not interfere with your day-to-day activities and people who have allergies normally live healthy and active lives with help from their health care professionals, medications and natural remedies. 1
The Allergic Response
An allergy, also called hypersensitivity, is an abnormally energetic reaction of
your immune system to something that, normally, would not bother others or initiate an immune response. The immune system begins to fight off the perceived threat that would otherwise be harmless to the body. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces IgE antibodies specifically designed to fight off the substance causing the allergic reaction (allergen). Those antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine (his-tuh-meen). Typically released during an allergic reaction, histamine then acts on a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract and
causes the symptoms of the allergic reaction. This is why anti-histamines are taken
for allergic reactions.
Immediate Hypersensitivity is an almost instantaneous immune response triggered by the release of a flood of histamine, causing the small blood vessels in the area to become dilated and leaky and is largely to blame for the best-recognized symptoms: runny-nose, watery eyes, itching, and reddened skin (hives). Most of these reactions begin within seconds after contact with the allergen and last about half an hour.
What is a Trigger?
The substances that cause allergic reactions in people are known as allergens. Antigens, or protein particles like pollen, food or dander enter our bodies through a variety of ways. If the antigen causes an allergic reaction, that particle is considered an “allergen” – an antigen that triggers an allergic reaction.
What Can Trigger Allergies?
These allergens can get into our body in several ways:
- Inhaled into the nose and the lungs – examples are airborne pollens of certain trees, grasses and weeds; house dust that include dust mite particles, mold spores, cat and dog dander and latex dust.
- Ingested by mouth – frequent culprits include shrimp, peanuts and other nuts.
- Injected – such as medications delivered by needle like penicillin or other injectable drugs, and venom from insect stings and bites.
- Absorbed through the skin – plants such as poison ivy, sumac and oak and latex are examples. 2
What Can Allergies Trigger? – Eczema, Asthma
Certain allergies, such as hay fever, tend to go hand in hand with asthma and eczema. For some, food allergies (cow’s milk, soy, eggs, fish, wheat, animal dander, rough fabrics and dust) may bring on or worsen eczema. The immune response releases substances that cause inflammation, redness, and itching. Some researchers believe that people who have eczema also have a reduced threshold for the itch sensation.
Many people with asthma have allergies that make their asthma worse. Seasonal allergies to allergens such as pollen can bring on asthma symptoms. Best policy is to know what you’re allergic to and avoid it if at all possible.
SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO ALLERGIES
Unless your health care provider has diagnosed you with a severe allergy, there are usually simple solutions to living with an allergy. Hopefully, you outgrow the allergy and then it is no longer a concern in your life!
Eliminating exposure to an allergen is sometimes enough to prevent allergy symptoms and you won’t need to take medications or go through other allergy treatments such as seasonal shots.
Here are some things that can help you avoid airborne allergens:
- Keep family pets out of certain rooms, like your bedroom, and bathe them if necessary.
- Remove carpets or rugs from your room (hard floor surfaces don’t collect dust as much as carpets do).
- Don’t hang heavy drapes and get rid of other items that allow dust to accumulate.
- Clean frequently (if your allergy is severe, you may be able to get someone else to do your dirty work!)
- Use special covers to seal pillows and mattresses if you’re allergic to dust mites.
- If you’re allergic to pollen, keep windows closed when pollen season’s at its peak; change your clothing after being outdoors – and don’t mow lawns.
- Avoid damp areas, such as basements, if you’re allergic to mold and keep bathrooms and other mold-prone areas clean and dry.
Medications such as pills or nasal sprays are often used to treat or control the allergy symptoms (such as sneezing, headaches, or a stuffy nose). Many effective medications are available to treat common allergies. You and your health care professional can work together to identify those that work for you.
Allergy shots are also referred to as allergen immunotherapy. By receiving injections of small amounts of an allergen, your body can gradually develop antibodies and undergo other immune system changes. These changes help block the reaction caused by the substance to which you’re allergic. 3
EFFECTIVE SUPPLEMENTS FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES
Acidophilus (a-sid-aw-full-us) One of the typical sites for allergic reaction is the gastrointestinal tract. Acidophilus is a powerful immune enhancer with digestive enzymes for improved digestion.
Reuteri promotes healthy digestion and intestinal integrity. It improves intestinal cell structures (longer villi and deeper crypts) for more efficient nutrient uptake and better health. Reuteri contains the “AGGH” protein that encourages colonization in the digestive tract.
Bee Pollen strengthens the immune system. Do not use if you are allergic to bees.
Calcium and Magnesium are helpful to reduce stress which can bring on some forms of allergies.
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid, may effectively treat and prevent asthma symptoms.
Boswellia works at the cellular level to reduce inflammatory and allergic responses.
Licorice Root has been found to help allergy sufferers by producing a hormone which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps restore normal breathing. Do not use for more than one month at a time.
Magnolia Flower has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to open nasal passage and relieve headaches associated with sinus problems.
Flora Allernon is a leading-edge standard extract of butterbur root, a natural solution to hay fever symptoms without drowsiness, fatigue or headache. Butterbur has a long and successful history in medician herbal therapy, dating back to 100 A.D. The extract was traditionally used to relieve inflammation due to fevers, headaches and respiratory conditions. Researchers are now discovering many of the plant’s therapeutic properties for a modern health concern: seasonal allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the lining of the nose).
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
Further Reading Suggestions:
1. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
“What is an allergic reaction?”
1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
3. KidsHealth, Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health