Why we have allergies
It’s always exciting during the Spring when the weather starts to warm up and everything starts blooming. But, if you’re one of those people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you likely dread the season change because you know it will bring on your itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and other irritating symptoms.
But there are ways to combat seasonal allergies so that you don’t have to suffer through each season change.
Allergies are an over-activation of our immune system, this is, in part due to mast cells.
When someone with a sensitized immune system comes into contact with an allergen, histamine is released into the bloodstream from our mast cells. Histamine is a chemical mediator that activates an immune response to fight the “pathogen.” It does this by increasing blood flow into the area which then creates inflammation. This is helpful for getting rid of potential pathogens & infections in the body, but sometimes our immune system is overreactive to certain things it shouldn’t be, such as pollen or ragweed.
So why does this happen?
There are many different factors that affect whether a person has seasonal allergies, including genetics & environmental factors.
Research has now shown that some of these environmental factors can start from birth, such as being born via C section, not being breastfed & using antibiotics commonly in childhood. Additionally, being indoors more often and more frequent hand washing has also been linked to an increased risk of allergies.
Conversely, some of the things that have been shown to decrease the risk of having allergies include a vaginal birth, breastfeeding, playing in the dirt more often, and having pets.
What these things all have in common is they affect the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and immune system. Exposure to certain microbes early on that are friendly & beneficial help teach the immune system when it should & shouldn’t be reacting to the things that we come in contact with.
But, as many of us can’t change the way we were born or whether we grew up with a pet, rest assured there are ways to combat seasonal allergies regardless of your genetic status & your environmental history.
How to combat seasonal allergies
About 60% of our immune system is found in our gut, so keeping our gut lining healthy & ensuring we have a diverse microbiome (healthy bacteria) is important for keeping our immune system under control and not overreacting to some of these environmental substances.
How can we do this?
- Ensuring we have a healthy, whole foods diet low in refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Keeping stress under control
- Limiting certain medication & antibiotic use which can affect our gut health
- Limiting alcohol use
Supplements that can help
There are also some supplements that can be useful in helping to combat seasonal allergies. It’s important to always contact your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any new product.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. Probiotics have been shown to be helpful, as certain strains can help to balance the cells in our immune system.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in foods such as apples & berries. Quercetin works for allergies by inhibiting the release of histamine from our mast cells & supporting a healthy immune response.
Vitamin D is a hormone our bodies naturally produce & a fat-soluble nutrient that can be taken in by the diet. Vitamin D is very important for our immune system & it has been shown that sufficient levels in our blood are optimal for immune function & mast cell stability
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of fat that we must obtain from the diet. They are typically found in fish oils and certain vegetable/nut oils. Omega 3 fatty acids have specific anti-inflammatory compounds that help to support our immune system
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in many food sources including citrus fruits, broccoli & peppers. Vitamin C has been shown to lower histamine production in response to allergens.
Resveratrol is a plant compound and potent antioxidant found in red wine, red grape skins & mulberries. Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit mast cell release, reducing histamine production
Stinging nettle is a plant used for many different medicinal properties. It has been shown to reduce symptoms of allergies, most likely by reducing histamine production
If you need help managing your seasonal allergies, let's get in contact so I can help you develop a plan to make it through allergy season unscathed!
Dr. Samantha Allen, ND