Spring is just around the corner and while many of you are looking forward to the beauty of blooming flowers and budding trees, those of you that suffer with allergies are dreading this time of year. You aren’t alone!
Researchers believe about 50 million people in the US are affected by seasonal allergies. The most common outdoor allergies are to tree, grass and weed pollen. When a predisposed person inhales an allergen like pollen, there is an immune reaction that triggers the production on IgE antibodies. Those antibodies then migrate to mast cells lining the nose, eyes and lungs and histamine is released. Histamine causes the typical symptoms associated with seasonal allergies such as sneezing, increased nasal congestion, coughing and/or wheezing, as well as itchy and watery eyes.
So, how can you decrease your misery this spring? Preparation! The most obvious is to decrease your exposure to the allergens. Spend limited time outdoors when pollen counts are elevated, keep your windows closed and leave your shoes outside to decrease the level of allergens coming into your home. Using a netti pot and or saline nasal spray can flush out allergens from the nasal cavity and decrease ongoing exposure. Showering after being outdoors is another great way to diminish symptoms. You may also want to invest in an air filter for your home.
Gut Health & Diet
Next, improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract. Since 80 percent of your immune system is located in the gut, improving gut health can be very helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms during allergy season.
Eliminating common food sensitivities to foods that contain gluten and pasteurized dairy can be a great start. Many have found that reducing or eliminating grains and sugars during allergy season can be extremely helpful in reducing the severity of their symptoms. Interestingly, patients that suffer with seasonal allergies can also have food triggers that exacerbate their symptoms. If you are allergic to ragweed, you may have cross-sensitivity to zucchini, melons, bananas, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, dandelions, chamomile, and echinacea. If you have a grass allergy, you may also react to celery, tomatoes, melons, peaches, and oranges.
There are many helpful foods that can improve allergy symptoms as well. Foods that contain quercetin, which is a bioflavonoid that has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, can inhibit histamine. Quercetin is found in apples, onions red wine, grapefruit, black tea and less so in green leafy vegetables and beans.
Improve your gut flora and fix a leaky gut. A study in January 2016 published in The Lancet discovered that low diversity of gut bacteria, reduced Clostridales and increased Bacteroidales was associated with adults with allergies. Therefore, taking probiotics and rotating the specific strains of bacteria is prudent in managing allergy symptoms. Adding traditionally fermented foods is another way to support your microbiome. Supplements that contain glutamine can help heal the gut lining and reduce allergic response to your environment.
Nutritional supplements can be very helpful in managing symptoms during allergy season as well. Stinging Nettle inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways related to allergies by blocking histamine, inhibiting prostaglandin formation and inhibiting degranulation.
Bromelain is a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme derived from the stems of pineapples. It is known to reduce swelling in the airways.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased incidence of all allergies, so have your level tested and start supplementation with Vitamin D3 if needed.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant and causes an inhibitory effect on histamine release from mast cells.
Butterbur has been shown to inhibit leukotriene and prevent or relieve an allergic reaction. It should not be used however in patients that suffer from ragweed allergy.
NAC has also been identified as a potent anti-oxidant and since part of the mechanism of allergy is oxidative stress, it has been shown to play a key role in reducing inflammation.
Essential oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, basil and tea tree oil have also been beneficial in reducing allergy symptoms.
Lifestyle modification and supplements can drastically improve your allergy symptoms, however, if needed, conventional treatment can also be considered. At CentreSpring MD our providers can partner with you to create an individualized plan that is right for you, so that you aren’t stuck indoors all season long!