Allergies seem to be more common and cause more doctor’s visits than ever before. Research now tells us that allergies are likely linked more to your body’s immune system (especially your gut) rather than outside influences. Some allergic reactions can occur immediately, but others take years of exposure to allergens before manifesting any symptoms. Achieving natural allergy relief by using natural supplements can help you get through seasonal allergies and those pesky allergy attacks that seemingly come from nowhere.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are an immune system disorder that results in an abnormal reaction to substances we encounter in the course of every day life, most of which are normally harmless. We can be introduced to allergic substances, known as allergens, via a variety of sources. They may be present in the air we breathe, in certain foods we eat, or in a number of compounds that can cause allergic skin reactions.
It is estimated that up to 60 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy, and allergies are in fact the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Allergic conditions are thought to be responsible for the majority of lost work and school time in America. Allergies continue to be on the rise, most likely due to poor immune system health (gut related) that is caused by our propensity as a nation to eat poorly and avoid regular exercise and other healthful lifestyle choices like the plague.
The market is huge for drugs to provide allergy relief, and the pharmaceutical companies know it. Just think about how many ads you see regularly on television for allergy relief treatments. The drug companies love these allergy relief medicines because they are cheap to produce, leading to a high profit margin, and they usually just mask the symptoms. Many of these allergy relief treatments also create a dependency on the allergy relief drugs themselves. What more could the drug companies ask for other than a steady stream of customers that need to continue the use of their drugs with no cure in sight.
There are basically three factors involved in an allergic reaction:
1) The Allergens
There are many substances that people are allergic to. These include:
- Pollen: Wind-borne pollen is perhaps the most common allergen known to man. It is responsible for hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, as it is technically known. Ragweed pollen is responsible for about 75% of all pollen allergies, followed by various types of grass and tree pollen. Some pollen allergies affect people seasonally, but others are more chronic and occur year around. This type is known as perennial allergic rhinitis.
- Foods: Food allergies are also extremely common. Allergic reactions may occur immediately after eating a certain food, or they may exhibit a delayed reaction that is the result of exposure to a food repeatedly over time. The most common immediate reaction foods include eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and other nuts. The most common delayed reaction food allergens are milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus, and food colorings.
- Dust mites: These microscopic critters feed on house dust, which itself is often an allergen. House dust is composed of various fibers, animal dander, food particles, mold spores, bacteria, and bits of plants. It is the perfect medium for dust mites, which are often found in furniture, bedding, and carpets. They especially love warm, humid environments.
- Mold: Molds are parasitic fungi that emit microscopic spores that travel through the air. They can be found both inside and out, preferring damp areas and hot, humid conditions. They are often found in the bathrooms or basements of many homes.
- Animal dander: Dander is composed of pieces of dead skin combined with oil secreted by the skin of the animal. Many people are allergic to proteins present in these oils. Some folks are also allergic to proteins present in animal saliva as well. Sometimes it will take years for these types of allergies to manifest themselves. The symptoms can also linger long after the offending pet has been removed and the home cleared of dander.
- Latex: Rubber gloves made of latex are the main culprits here. Some individuals are allergic to the latex itself, but research has shown that many are exposed to the latex via the airborne powder particles from latex gloves with powder inside. This may actually be a bigger allergen than the latex itself.
2) Mast Cells
Mast cells are specialized cells of the immune system that are found mainly in the connective tissues of the body such as the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, lungs, intestinal tract, and on the skin and tongue.
3) Immunoglobulin E (IgE)
This is a type of antibody produced by the immune system during allergic reactions. They are geared to fight specific allergens, so there are many types of IgE that the immune system will manufacture. They are programmed to coat and surround the mast cells in the area affected by the allergic reaction.
In a nutshell, this is how it works during an allergic reaction. When a person who is prone to have an allergy to a certain substance, like eggs, for example, the immune system kicks into action when the person is exposed to eggs. Large amounts of “egg” IgE antibodies are produced, and they stimulate the mast cells to manufacture chemicals that cause the affected area to swell, become inflamed, engorged with blood, and can even cause muscle spasms. One of the most common of these inflammatory chemicals is called histamine.
In the case of a food allergy such as eggs, the affected area can be any or all of the following: mouth, nose, esophagus, stomach, and intestinal tract. Extreme reactions can cause difficulty breathing due to swelling and muscle spasms in the bronchial area (bronchospasms).
What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Reactions?
Symptoms are based mostly on the type of allergen, and the parts of the body that are affected. Typical symptoms include:
- Airborne allergens: Sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, runny and bloodshot eyes. Airborne allergens can also cause asthma, which is when the allergic reaction occurs in the lining of the lungs. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is an allergic reaction located in the lining of the eyes.
- Food allergens: Allergic reactions to foods can be some of the most severe of any type. Symptoms include swelling and itching of the lips, throat, and esophagus. Cramping and diarrhea can occur when the intestinal tract is involved. Hives are common too. These are an allergic reaction that is the result of allergens absorbed into the bloodstream. Blood borne allergens can cause systemic reactions that can involve the whole body. Rarely body organs such as the kidneys or brain can experience dangerous swelling and inflammation due to systemic allergic reactions.
- Contact allergens: These reactions take place on the skin, and can be from direct skin contact with an allergen (contact dermatitis), or through absorbing allergens via the air or gastrointestinal tract (atopic dermatitis). Typical signs include hives, swelling, itchy skin, and blistering.
- Injected allergies:These most commonly occur from insect bites, but can also be the result of allergic reactions to injected drugs. Since they go directly into the circulatory system, they have the potential to produce fast, hard-hitting symptoms that can be very dangerous.
The most critical allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. This severe reaction occurs when an allergen is introduced into the circulatory system and attacks the whole body. The muscles can contract and cause difficulty breathing. In addition, a person can develop very low blood pressure and go into shock. Anaphylaxis can result in loss of consciousness or even death in severe cases. A typical instance where this may happen is when person who is highly allergic to the venom of bees or wasps gets stung. Many folks in this situation will carry a self-injection kit containing adrenalin that can reverse the reaction, and possibly save their lives.
What Causes Allergies?
Most researchers conclude that the true risk factor for allergies is most likely immune system health. Individuals, and families, who are proactive about staying well, and careful about how they treat their bodies are much less likely to come down with allergies or many other of our modern diseases as well. A healthy diet that avoids junk and processed foods and is heavy on whole, natural foods that contain lots of antioxidants and other needed substances to keep the immune system healthy will seldom suffer from allergies and other autoimmune system disorders.
Adrenal Insufficiency – An Overlooked Cause Of Allergies
Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys. The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones, including cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone) which normally serves to prevent allergic reactions. Normally, when one is exposed to an irritating substance, the body increases its production of these anti-inflammatory hormones which prevents an allergic response from occurring.
When we are constantly stressed, high cortisol levels can occur causing other immune cells or white blood cells, e.g., mast cells and basophils, to release additional inflammatory substances that bring on an allergic response in sensitive tissues, for example, nasal and sinus passages (“rhinitis”), skin (“eczema”) and airways (“asthma”).
If you suffer from respiratory allergies to dust, pollen, grasses, pet dander or other environmental allergens, or if you have asthma that is difficult to treat, there’s a good probability that the real concern is insufficiently functioning adrenal glands. Often the concern is chronic and gets worse when you are fatigued, or under higher-than-normal stress.
The specific cause of adrenal insufficiency can be any combination of the following:
- Nutritional, or stress-depleted adrenal glands.
- Insufficient stimulation of the adrenal glands by the pituitary gland.
- Inadequate transport and utilization of adrenal hormones.
Your adrenal glands require vitamins A, C and E, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and specific amino acids in order to function properly. A deficiency, or imbalance of these essential nutrients, or toxic substances which block normal physiological functioning, can interfere with the synthesis and sufficient secretion of your adrenal hormones. If you live a notable stressful lifestyle, the requirement of these essential nutrients is definitely increased.
An often effective solution is taking extra quantities of the specific nutrients the adrenal glands need for optimal functioning as well as eliminating toxic substances such as heavy metals that severely interfere with ideal adrenal gland activity.
Some studies have demonstrated that psychological interventions such as stress and relaxation management training can influence the appearance of allergic disorders via the effects that stress levels and relaxation have on circulating blood cortisol levels or the immune response.
Natural Allergy Relief Suggestions
The most important step you can take is to adjust your diet and lifestyle by making healthy choices that lead to wellness and strengthen your entire body, including your all-important immune system. I highly suggest staying away from the multitude of prescription and over-the-counter “remedies” that are available for allergies. These only mask the symptoms, and in fact can sometimes make the concern worse by weakening the immune system in the long run (corticosteroids, for example).
Liver/Gallbladder/Colon Cleansing – Performing periodic digestive tract and liver/gallbladder cleansing is very effective for immune system support. The liver is the main filter of your body. Keeping it clean and supported will help your entire immune system to work more efficiently.
Probiotics – Using an effective spore producing probiotic such as Latero-Flora has been shown effective in children with allergies. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies have established that probiotic therapy can help treat several gastrointestinal ills, delay the development of allergies in children, and treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women. The friendly bacteria in the gut, making up 70% of our immune system, is responsible for fighting viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Literally, the health of the gut (digestive tract) will mirror the health of the individual.
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) – NAC may be one of the best expectorant/mucolytic agents. NAC can decrease the viscosity of mucus providing a mucoregulating action. NAC has also been used quite frequently in an assortment of lung conditions including COPD, bronchitis and asthma. NAC rebuilds glutathione which is one of your body’s most powerful antioxidants. 500-600 mg daily is the suggested dose for most people.
Vitamin C – (take in divided doses throughout the day) I recommend Vitality C because it is fully reacted, non-acidic, neutral pH and completely water soluble. It allows one to take high doses of Vitamin C without the gas, diarrhea, or stomach upset that usually happens with chelation strength dosing of Vitamin C. Vitality C also contains 2000 mg of GMS-Ribose that has been shown to enhance the uptake of Vitamin C to the cells. It comes in powder form to mix with purified water, organic juice or smoothies which makes absorption more effective. Always take to bowel tolerance.
Quercetin – 25% of the quercetin you ingest will go directly to the lung which makes it excellent for allergies and associated asthma. Quercetin is also found in the following foods: onions, garlic and tea. It should be taken as soon as symptoms of allergies appear at a dose of 400-600mg, three times per day, for the first 5-7 days and then 200-400mg can be taken as a maintenance dose through allergy season. It is suggested to take bromelain which will enhance the absorption of quercetin.
Wild Mediterranean Oregano Oil – Oregatrex – Several years ago my husband cleared up his long-standing allergies by using Wild Mediterranean Oregano Oil. He was elated to be able to get off long term allergy meds which really didn’t provide much allergy relief. Recommended dose is six drops in a veggie capsule with food 3 times daily or according to your healthcare practitioner. After six weeks, break for 2 weeks and then resume if needed.
Lactobacillus paracasei – A beneficial strain of bacteria, has recently been shown to help relieve allergies by supporting the immune system. Floratrex®, a superior blend of live and active cultures from 23 probiotic strains that support digestion and intestinal function as well as boost the immune system is the go to for lactobacillus paracasei. Remember that keeping adequate gut flora balanced is very important in helping the body’s immune system functioning properly.
Natural Allergy Relief for Home and Office Environment
Air Purification – Using ionic air purifiers in the bedroom, living area and office helps reduce allergens in the air. The Germicidal UV lamp is the best air purification method now available for destroying microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and mold.
Carpets & Flooring – Keep carpets vacuumed daily and if possible replace carpeting with toxin-free hard wood floors or ceramic flooring. Make sure that all new carpeting and flooring is made to current green standards and does not give off harmful chemicals.
Take off your shoes! – Make it a family rule that shoes are taken off before entering the house.
Green Plants – Placing green plants around your home and office will also help tremendously with air quality. NASA has done experiments by placing plants in rooms that contained chemical toxins. Within a 24-hour period most of the toxins had been eliminated by the plants causing the pollution levels to be reduced.
Clean Vents & Replace Filters Often! – Spray your air-conditioning/heater vents with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil to combat mold. Make sure that filters are changed monthly especially during pollen season.
Foods – Wash all fruits and vegetables (even organic) thoroughly and effectively. This can be done using a hydrogen peroxide bath of 1-capful per sink of purified water.
Cleaning supplies – Use cleaning products that are green and toxic chemical-free. There are many on the market today that are very effective yet do not contain harmful chemicals or give off toxic odors.
Natural Allergy Relief – In Conclusion
If you suffer from food allergies, it is a fairly simple process to determine which food or foods are causing the reactions, and eliminate them from your diet. Try eliminating all of the most common food allergens (listed above) for a period of two weeks. Then introduce one at a time, and if there are no reactions, try adding another after three or four days. This is called an “elimination” diet, and is very helpful at identifying specific food allergens.
If your main allergy concerns show up during spring and fall, it’s wise to begin preventative supplements at least a month before the season begins. However, if needed, you can also begin at the first signs of an allergy attack. The takeaway is to be prepared so that you’re not at the mercy of over-the-counter meds that can make you drowsy and zap your energy levels.
Make whatever adjustments you have to make to avoid or minimize exposure to known allergens for you and your children. This fixes the immediate concerns, but don’t forget to “see the forest through the trees,” and take a long-term perspective for allergy relief. Preparation and prevention are always the best strategy. Strengthening the terrain of your body, mainly your immune system (your gut), is the best answer to the root cause of allergies and many other health concerns as well.