Ah-choose! To Overcome Your Allergies: Common Sense Treatments
It’s that time of year again. Pollen season in the northwest has arrived; if you suffer from seasonal allergies it can really be a miserable time of year.
In sensitized individuals, allergens in our environment such as pollen trigger the production of IgE antibodies. These immune molecules cause mast cells and basophils to release histamine and other allergy-mediating molecules which lead to itching, swelling, mucus production and inflammation of the nasal passageways and eyes.
What natural steps can you take to reduce symptoms? First of all, do what you reasonably can to reduce exposure. This can involve using HEPA filters in the home, showering before bed, changing your clothes twice daily to reduce contact with pollen, washing your linen more frequently, and using nasal irrigation with a neti pot.
Next, you can look at diet, since it has a direct effect on immune system function, and can directly affect levels of inflammation and histamine in our body. Oftentimes, allergic responses are exacerbated when the body is overloaded with triggers, and diet is an obvious place to start decreasing that burden. Eat a ‘clean’ diet as much as possible. This means avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, especially those high in sugar, processed ingredients and food additives. Home cook your meals as often as possible. When purchasing an ingredient, read the label and use this guideline: If you cannot explain what an ingredient is to a four year old child, do not purchase that product. You don’t know what maltodextrin, yeast extract and FD & C blue No. 4 is? Don’t put that food in your body.
Further, avoid trigger foods. For some individuals, seasonal allergies can be triggered or exacerbated by certain foods, especially dairy. You might consider a 6-week dairy elimination, or a full elimination diet, which removes a broader array of common food allergens. Blood tests offered by most alternative practices are extremely helpful in identifying offending foods. Peanuts, eggs, soy, nuts and shellfish are examples of foods that commonly lead to histamine responses. Elimination of these foods make it much less likely that pollen will trigger the same reaction.
- Include in your diet an abundance of colorful vegetables that are high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids and antioxidants. Find dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as wild salmon, flaxseed, or chia seed. Regarding salmon, be persistent when inquiring about the source. “Wild” salmon and “Wild-caught” salmon are not identical. “Wild-caught” implies the use of sustainable harvesting methods and may include wild salmon, but mixed in the fish yield may also be farmed salmon that were previously released and were caught in the “wild”.
- Target specific anti-histamine foods. Specific foods also contain quercetin or anthocyanins, which have anti-histamine or mast-stabilizing properties. Quercetin-containing foods include apples, broccoli, citrus, fennel and red onion. Anthocyanin-containing foods include berries, cherries, grapes, red cabbage, red onion and wild rice.
- Keep yourself properly hydrated. You should aim to consume about half your body weight (lbs) in fluid ounces, spread throughout the day. Proper hydration reduces the histamine response.
It is also possible for allergy symptoms to have an infectious etiology. The biotoxins produced by mold, for example, can cause a wide range of symptoms including those associated with allergies. These biotoxins are both pernicious and persistent. A person who has been exposed to mold in their house, for example, may still suffer from the exposure for years after leaving the house. This is because the biotoxins tend to be stored in the fatty tissues of the body and their presence triggers a chronic cytokine storm, or flood of inflammatory compounds that easily trigger a histamine release. Testing is available that can identify either the presence of these biotoxins in the body or the degree of exposure in the household.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic on 1012 E. Jackson St. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.