It’s that time of year again when seasonal allergies kick into high gear. The number of Americans suffering from allergies, asthma, and hay fever (allergic rhinitis) has risen dramatically over the past twenty years. Some possible reasons include increased stress on the immune system due to poor lifestyle choices, higher chemical pollution in our air, water, and food supply, earlier introduction of solid foods to infants, food additives and preservatives, and genetic manipulation of plants resulting in food components with greater allergenic tendencies. There are other reasons which contribute to allergies, but these are some of the most common triggers which increased the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms. It is currently estimated that at least 25 percent of Americans suffer from asthma and other allergy-related syndromes. Natural remedies and lifestyle measures may reduce the allergic threshold and help to prevent acute symptoms or a more severe allergic reaction.
WHAT IS AN ALLERGY?
An allergy is an exaggerated immune response or reaction to substances that are generally not harmful. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, bee venom, pet dander, or foods. In a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, it releases chemicals such as histamines, which fight off the allergen. This causes allergy symptoms. Your immune system also produces substances known as antibodies. Some of these antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause a bacterial or viral infection. When you have allergies, your immune system produces antibodies that identify your specific allergen as something foreign or harmful to the body. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system reaction inflames your skin, sinuses, airways, or your digestive tract. People who have allergies are often sensitive to more than one thing. Milk, dairy, wheat, corn, nuts, and shellfish, such as shrimp, are prevalent culprits in many people who suffer from chronic health issues caused by allergies.
COMMON ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
Generally speaking, there is a cluster of symptoms that can be associated with allergic rhinitis and asthma. Alphabetically, symptoms may include: abdominal pain, anaphylaxis, burning teary eyes, cough, dermatitis, ear infections, eczema, fatigue, hay fever, headaches, hives, increased colds, itchy throat, mucus production, rash, runny nose, shortness of breath, sinus infections, sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat, throat clearing, and wheezing to name a few. The symptoms you experience because of allergies are the result of several factors. These include the type of allergy you have and the severity of the allergy. If you are taking any medication before an anticipated allergic response, you may still experience some of these symptoms, but they may be reduced in severity.
FOR FOOD ALLERGIES – Food allergies can trigger swelling, hives, nausea, fatigue, and even anaphylaxis in severe reactions. It may take a while for a person to realize that they have a food allergy or food sensitivity. If you have a severe reaction after a meal and you are not sure why, see a medical professional or specialist immediately.
FOR SEASONAL ALLERGIES – Hay fever symptoms can mimic those of the common cold. They include congestion, runny nose, and swollen or puffy eyes. Most of the time, you can manage these symptoms at home with natural medicines, nutritional supplements, or OTC (over the counter) remedies.
WHAT CAUSES AN ALLERGIC REACTION?
Doctors don’t know why some people experience allergies. Allergies appear to run in families and can be inherited. If you have a close family member who has allergies, you are at a higher risk of developing allergies. Although the reasons why allergies develop aren’t known, some substances commonly cause allergic reactions. People who have allergies typically are allergic to one or more of the following: pet dander, bee stings, certain foods, certain medications (penicillin, for example), aspirin, certain plants, pollen, or molds.
HOW IS AN ALLERGIC REACTION DIAGNOSED?
Your doctor can diagnose allergic reactions. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, your doctor will perform an examination and ask you about your health history. Your doctor may also want to order tests in an attempt to determine what’s causing your allergies. The most commonly ordered tests for allergies are skin tests, challenge (elimination type) tests, food allergy tests, and specialty blood tests with immunoglobulins.
CAN YOU USE NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ALLERGY RELIEF?
What we have seen through the years is that each type of allergy has a host of natural remedies that may help to prevent the onset or speed up recovery. Many times, people find symptomatic relief by starting with nutritional supplements and herbal medicines that target allergens. Typically, the severity of the allergic reaction, whether it is mild, moderate, or severe, will dictate which therapeutic approach is best to implement.
Standard medical practice includes prescription medications like antihistamines, corticosteroids, and other prescription inhalers. These medications can improve allergy symptoms, but also carry significant side effect profiles. Many allergy sufferers have experienced dramatic improvement by combining lifestyle and behavioral changes such as avoidance therapy, including avoiding areas out in nature where exposure may be higher. Also, food allergy awareness, keeping a food allergy journal, and maintaining a healthy plant-based or Mediterranean diet to boost immunity has demonstrated improved results. Many people who have tried science-based, pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements have experienced tremendous relief once dosing and therapeutic blood levels are established. Here are some of the tried and true supplements and some of my personal favorites:
- ALLER CALM – This is a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and herbs, which is very effective at supporting the immune system and providing a natural antihistamine effect. Key ingredients such as quercetin, stinging nettles, ginger, turmeric, and MSM provide symptomatic relief of allergy symptoms regardless of the cause.
- PROBIOTICS – Taking a daily probiotic containing lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can balance good bacterial counts in the digestive tract. 70 percent of your immune cells reside in the gut, so it is easy to understand why probiotics should be taken by everyone with a history of allergies and for good general and digestive health.
- OMEGA 3 FISH OILS – Substantial evidenced-based clinical studies have documented the value of consuming adequate amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids to alleviate mild to moderate allergic reactions or allergy symptoms.
- VITAMIN D3 – A recent study from Stanford University showed that Vitamin D3 is very effective at enhancing the immune system and helping to combat viruses, bacteria, as well as reducing inflammation in the body.
- ZINC – This trace mineral is generally thought of in the context of helping men with prostate issues; however, it is well known to help reduce symptoms associated with allergies, including throat irritation, taste and smell, and head congestion.
- TURMERIC – Curcumin in therapeutic doses has shown to have tremendous anti-inflammatory properties to help with sinuses, nasal membranes, and lung-related symptoms from allergies.
- VITAMIN C – People often think they get enough Vitamin C from their diet. However, the truth is that 90 percent of adults are nutritionally deficient, and that includes not getting enough fruits and vegetables. Today, 1,000 – 2,000mg of Vitamin C should be part of everyone’s daily regimen.
While most allergies are not life-threatening, allergic rhinitis or allergies may trigger an asthma attack, which can be more serious. An acute anaphylactic reaction can also occur if you eat a food item you are highly sensitive to or allergic to (shellfish like shrimp, for example).
Knowing that people who are prone to allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing opens the door for using natural remedies as first-line therapy in many cases as a preventive or for general maintenance of allergies. Natural health can play a significant role in improving the quality of your life by helping to identify the underlying trigger or root cause of your symptoms. Targeted nutritional supplementation can be an effective solution to minimize and control the various symptoms linked to allergies.
Because everyone is biochemically unique and different, the decision whether to use traditional prescription medications or natural solutions should be determined on a case by case basis and discussed with your physician or health care professional. Regardless of which treatment you choose as your first-line therapy to combat the symptoms of allergies or an allergic reaction, just know that sometimes blending the best of both traditional medicine and natural health might be your best option.