Is your nose running and your eyes itching? Are you wheezing? Coughing? You are in good company. It’s allergy season already. Pollen allergy is one of the most common chronic diseases. Respiratory allergies affect 35 million Americans. Hartford often makes the list of the top ten worst cities in the United States for spring allergies. To make matters worse, you may be surprised to find out that many seemingly unrelated health problems can actually contain an allergic component: chronic sinusitis, IBS, gastric reflux, inflammatory arthritis, migraine headaches, ear infections, ADD, and eczema, among others.
It’s not easy to understand why you react in such a wild way to your own environment. Underneath the visible reactions is a complex matrix of genetic predisposition and resulting immune and metabolic dysregulation, all triggered under certain environmental conditions. These triggers include airborne, food and water contaminants (tobacco smoke, pesticides, heavy metals, pet and pest dander, food allergens), infectious agents (viruses, molds), and stress. Under these conditions certain immune cells are over stimulated relative to others, resulting in an imbalance between Th1 dominant and Th2 dominant immune responses. Th2 dominance leads to an immune dysregulation marked by a heightened allergic response and a proliferation of inflammatory cellular mediators (e.g. cytokines, interleukins, leukotrienes). Inflammation involves excess mucous production and other irritating symptoms we call allergies.
The first reactions in the spring are usually to trees. In Connecticut that means that in March (though it seems earlier every year) the trees start blooming and continue producing pollen until sometime in June. It’s not the ornamental trees with brightly colored flowers that bother most allergy sufferers. Instead it’s the common plain looking trees that cause the greatest allergy symptoms. Some of the top allergy producing trees in Connecticut are Oak, Birch, Cottonwood, Maple (begins in February), Hickory, Sycamore, Walnut, Beech, and Elm.
The worst days are the sunny bright days when the gentle breeze brings fresh spring air… and pollen. Pollen grains are tiny, easily carried by the wind up to 10 miles away from their source. Humid or rainy days are usually easier for pollen sensitive people because the moisture accumulates on the pollen grains in the air and they become heavy enough to fall to the ground. Mornings can be better because of the moisture in the air but the plants like this time too. They produce more pollen in the morning that will be more easily blown around as the day warms up.
The medical treatment for pollen allergies is either several years of allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots), or medications that include antihistamines, decongestants, and leukotriene inhibitors. The more serious medications include steroids, bronchodialators and mast cell stabilizers
Sometimes the treatments are worse than the problem. Unfortunately these efforts merely mask the symptoms but do nothing at all to treat the cause. Natural medicine provides a better way to alleviate your symptoms.
Natural Allergy Support
The first step is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. If there is less inflammation in your whole body, your immune system will be less reactive. Eat a colorful plant based diet. Avoid high-fat meats, fast food and packaged, baked goods that are high in trans fats and saturated fats that are pro-inflammatory. Processed meats and processed foods in general will create inflammation. Meat, dairy and eggs contain arachadonic acid that may exacerbate inflammation in large amounts. A grain based diet may trigger inflammation in some people. Focus on eating whole foods – lots of vegetables, whole grain (consider gluten-free) and lean meat and fish for protein.
Specific foods can either help or harm. Eating foods that have similar proteins as your primary allergen may make your reactions worse.
Birch pollen is interesting because there is a very strong cross-reaction between birch pollen and several foods, especially apples but also plum, carrot, fennel, cherries, walnut, pear, potato, peaches and wheat. These birch related foods are the foods most commonly associated with oral allergy syndrome. OAS is described as isolated oral symptoms caused by labile proteins in fresh fruits and vegetables that share homology with proteins in pollens (the initial source of sensitization). That means that your mouth itches and even swells when you eat certain foods. Several clinical associations have been described (birch pollen with fruits, ragweed with melon, and mugwort with celery). The number of foods reported to be involved in the syndrome is ever increasing. Cooked forms of the foods are typically tolerated.
- Pollen from alder trees can cross-react with apples, cherries, peaches, pears, parsley, celery, almonds and hazelnuts.
- Cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye, and oat) share homologous proteins with grass pollens and each other.
- Foods commonly reported to cross-react with latex include banana, avocado, kiwi, chestnut, potato, and papaya.
- Ragweed allergies may cross react with certain seeds (sunflower), fruits (bananas, melon) and vegetables (cucumbers, zucchini) as well as the herbs echinacae and chamomille.
- Individuals with grass pollen allergies may have difficulty eating melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes, celery and sometimes wheat.
This list can’t include all cross reacting foods as there are just too many. What you need to know is that food sensitivities can make your pollen reactions worse, and vice versa.
Some foods can help your reactions.
- Red Wine, Apples and Onions contain quercetin, a flavonoid that helps the body fight against allergic inflammation by inhibiting the release of histamine. It is also found in berries, red grapes, black tea, broccoli and the white pulp of citrus fruits.
- Flaxseed, Walnuts and Salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that may help alleviate allergies by reducing inflammatory chemicals in the body. Other sources of this essential fatty acid include canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and cold-water fatty fish.
- Green Tea is rich in catechin, a polyphenol (antioxidant) that inhibits the enzyme that converts histidine to histamine. For maximum benefits, use loose tea leaves instead of tea bags and pair with fruit or vegetables high in vitamin C.
- Rosemary contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a polyphenol that is believed to suppress allergic reactions and inflammation. Try adding rosemary to roast potatoes, marinades, and tomato sauces.
- Tumeric boasts anti-inflammatory properties. A central ingredient in curries and other Indian dishes, it can be taken in capsules for maximum benefit. Add a little black pepper to make it work better.
- Sunflower Seeds, Brazil nuts and Tuna are among the best sources of selenium which stimulates immune function. The sunflower sees are also high in vitamin E, an anti-inflammatory.
- Local Honey and Bee Pollen are helpful for some people. It’s thought that bee pollen works by desensitizing your body to the pollen. With small daily doses, your body builds up its defenses to fight off the allergens and avoid reaction in the future.
- Fermented foods provide pre-biotics and probiotics to keep the microbiome in balance and help decrease the body’s inflammation. Add keifer, sauerkraut, kim chi, and other fermented foods to your diet daily.
Immune System Balance
Immune system balance is the key to allergy relief. Balance, or homeostasis, is the result of every choice you make towards health. The healthier you are, the fewer symptoms you will experience. When you do need symptom relief, any of these suggestions may help. Acupuncture helps long term because it balances the body but an acupuncture treatment can provide significant relief. Homeopathy, both constitutional remedies and low potency combination remedies, can be useful. Many people do well with botanical medicines. Nettles, butterbur and ginger can all help the symptoms.
Imagine never taking another pill for allergies, or even better, imagine forgetting that you’ve suffered from allergies in the past. No more sniffing, sneezing, wheezing or itching! Allergy desensitization can be accomplished painlessly and rapidly using Advanced Allergy Technique. There are several allergy desensitization treatments available, most notably Nambrudipad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) which is the root of the current technologically sophisticated AAT treatments.
Advanced Allergy Technique recognizes that your allergic reactions are a mistake in the information that is carried in the brain, the cells, the tissue, the body and the energetic field. We continually process information in the form of food, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. Each cell speaks to its neighbors and to distant cells. Each cell is an elaborate bio-chemical computer that holds memory. The body’s over reaction to food, pollen or perfume is a damaging and damaged memory. The amazing thing is that we can repair the body’s memory by giving it the correct information as a wavelength using AAT. Elimination of the allergic reaction is achieved by stimulation of acupuncture meridians along the back along with transmitting the correct information to the body. Clearing for a specific sensitivity helps to rebalance the body’s response resulting in a marked decrease or complete resolution of symptoms. The idea that correcting the energy flow helps heal is older than acupuncture and is the basis of a myriad of healing techniques. AAT combines this ancient understanding of the human body with advanced technology to correct the body’s reactions. Most patients respond, many remarkably. Almost all experience an improvement in their overall health as well as elimination of their annoying allergic reactions.
Submitted by Anne Mitchell, ND of The Life Center with locations at 2 Broadway, North Haven, 203-239-3400 and 1007 Farmington Ave. 7A, West Hartford.
In the past 20 years, Dr. Mitchell has worked extensively with people with allergies and autoimmune disorders in addition to her general family practice. She uses a specific allergy desensitization treatment that is highly successful and is now introducing a technological advancement to make eliminating allergic symptoms easier and even more successful. Many problems which may not be thought of as allergies have an allergic component or are aggravated by inappropriate immune reactions that may be relieved with this treatment. Live Life Allergy Free. Learn more at www.aarct.com.