This year the onset of seasonal allergies in the Bay Area was earlier than it’s usual time frame of late March to early April. Many of my patients, were caught off-guard and rushed for various combinations of over-the counter anti-histamines, supplements, homeopathic remedies, nasal sprays in a desperate attempt to seek relief. The common symptoms of seasonal allergies such as headaches, uncontrollable sneezing, post-nasal drip, sore throats, itchy eyes & runny nose, and fatigue are a source of major discomfort for many people and frequently result in low productivity or even time-off from work and school. The rates of occurrence for allergies has been steadily increasing and in the US, nasal allergy symptoms are known to affect about 6.1 million children and 20 million adults.
Have you ever wondered why you experience these symptoms while others such as your colleagues (and maybe even your boss!), friends and family members cruise through spring without so much as a sneeze or sniffle? Why do even the best of medications seems ineffective in some years and force you to find a new source of relief? What could you do to prevent these symptoms from returning each year, other than take pills for symptom relief?
The answers to those questions may be inside you...in your gut.
For me, as a naturopathic doctor, investigating the digestive system is part of treating the whole person. It provides an ‘inside-out’ picture of the system which is the primary source of our sustenance. It holds answers to the underlying cause of multiple health issues including seasonal allergies.
Connection between seasonal allergies and the digestive system
Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation and an allergic response to environmental triggers such as pollen. Studies have also tried to investigate whether there is a correlation between the intensity of inflammation in the GI tract with hay fever symptoms. In my practice, I am yet to see a case where allergies are not linked to the GI tract.
Treating the underlying GI inflammation results in a corresponding decrease in the severity of allergic symptoms. Based on patient feedback, their need for allergy medication and supplements decreases over time, and becomes limited to days with a high pollen count rather than all throughout the change of season. The sustained GI inflammation often causes the person’s immune system to remain in an up-regulated or over-stimulated state. Once this immune activation is addressed, the inflammation decreases and can lead to a higher threshold for allergies to environmental triggers.
To be clear, safe and effective allergy medications such anti-histamines, and supplements such as quercitin, vitamin C, nettle extract, should definitely be used when needed for an allergy attack and for immediate symptom relief. However, after years of chronic use, most people report the need to change the type of medication, increase the dose of the medication or change in the combination of allergy shots that they have been receiving, as the previous combination of treatments starts to seem ineffective. Therefore, when the underlying overactive immune system is addressed, a lower dose of these medications may still be effective, when used on an as needed basis.
Causes of inflammation in the gut.
The inflammation in the GI tract can stem from one or more of the following, and each factor needs to be addressed in order to lower the inflammation:
On a side-note, the concept of ‘histamine-intolerance’ is being investigated by researchers. Some people have a genetically reduced ability to breakdown histamine and may need anti-histamine medication on a regular basis to keep their allergies at bay. More research is needed to support this idea. Also, as already established research indicates, genes are not your destiny. They can be turned on and off with changes in the cellular environment, which in turn can be affected by a myriad of factors, including your microbiome and overall, gut health.
In conclusion, keeping your gut healthy by eliminating common food allergens and attending to other gut health factors, can have a tremendous impact on your tolerance to the seasonal increase in pollen,mold and other environmental triggers. You do not have to suffer from allergies! To take control of your health, initiate the first step and begin the healing your gut inflammation. As your gut/GI inflammation improves, you may actually become that person who gets through allergy season without a sneeze or a sniffle!
If you have any comments or questions regarding treatment of allergies at our clinic, please post them in the comments section or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you an allergy-free spring!
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4) Ho MH1, Wong WH, Chang C. Clinical spectrum of food allergies: a comprehensive review.Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2014 Jun;46(3):225-40. doi: 10.1007/s12016-012-8339-6.
5) Muir AB1,2, Benitez AJ3, Dods K1, Spergel JM2,3, Fillon SA4,5. Microbiome and its impact on gastrointestinal atopy. Allergy. 2016 Sep;71(9):1256-63. doi: 10.1111/all.12943. Epub 2016 Jun 23.
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