Allergy season is fast approaching and many of us allergy sufferers will spend most of spring and late summer sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, rubbing our eyes, and relying on daily antihistamines and puffers. But did you know that you don’t have to go through this? The immune system contains cells called mast cells, which secrete the molecule called histamine in response to an allergen, and it is the release of histamine which causes and determines the severity of these your symptoms. Mast cells are highly unstable and very sensitive in those who suffer from allergies.
Ragweed, pollen, mold, cut grass are very common allergens, however any substance has the potential to be an allergen, depending your exposure and the health of your immune system. Allergies can cause familiar symptoms listen above, but also can aggravate existing conditions, especially eczema and asthma. Many of my patients do not get the runny nose, itchy eyes, etc., but can see a flare up in their skin, or have trouble breathing during allergy season.
Conventional treatments for allergies include the use of anti-histamines (prescribed or over the counter), OR in more serious cases, can include the use of anti-inflammatories, such as corticosteroids, or allergy shots. These therapies can be very effective, slightly effective, or start off very effective, with the favorable effects diminishing over time. This is because they are used only to reduce symptoms, and the cause remains left untreated. This leaves you completely reliant on the medications with no real end of use in sight.
The health of the immune system is based on the health of the whole body. More specifically, if we can keep our digestive tract and adrenal glands healthy, our overall immune system will be healthy! The digestive tract houses of largest parts of the immune system. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol, a hormone, which if secreted at high levels, can depress our immune system.
Here are a few tips to help reduce your allergy symptoms this season. To get the more effective result, it is best to start improving your health 6 weeks before allergy season:
1) Make sure your digestive tract is healthy. Getting a daily dose of fibre ensures proper elimination patterns, provide food for your natural probiotic flora and stabilize blood sugars, all of which are essential for a healthy immune system. For fibre, I always recommend having at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily, as well as 2 tablespoons daily of ground flax seed, chia seeds, hemp hearts and/or psyllium fibre.
2) Time-proven remedy – eating natural, unpasteurized, local honey daily can inoculate your body with small doses of pollen. This can help your immune system become accustom to small doses of pollen. Honey is also a great demulcent, soothing the mucus membranes of the throat and respiratory tract.
3) Stay away from dairy products. Dairy has been linked to aggravating symptoms of allergies, and other atopic diseases such as eczema and asthma. Current studies show a strong link between early exposure to dairy in infancy and the occurrence of atopic disease in children. It is best to stay away from all dairy products (especially milk) before and during allergy season.
4) Using a probiotic supplement provides the right amount of probiotics to keep your digestive tract healthy, and allows you to avoid relying on dairy-based yogurt to get your daily probiotic dosage.
5) Decrease stress. Our adrenal glands secrete an increased amount of cortisol levels which in turn will depress our immune systems. Practicing stress-relieving techniques can help you decrease your daily cortisol response.
6) Vitamin C is excellent at strengthening the immune system, and also improves the health of your adrenal glands. Daily dosage of vitamin C is around 2000mg daily and you can also obtain vitamin C through your 5 servings of vegetables daily – vegetables most rich in vitamin C include leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, broccoli) and bell peppers.
7) Netipots can help clean out your sinus tract, alleviating congestion, and reducing your susceptibility to sinus infections.
8) Guidance by a naturopathic doctor is used in those who have tried these simple methods, but still have symptoms of allergies. It may take deep investigation by a trained medical professional to assess the complexities of immune system imbalances. There are a number of effective naturopathic treatments I have used in order to decrease allergy symptoms, help people wean of their medications, or, in many cases, help alleviate allergy symptoms all together. Treatments are completely individualized, tailored to your symptoms and how your allergies affect you.
Tanya Lee, BSc (Hons), N.D.
Dr. Tanya Lee, H.BSc., N.D.
572 Bloor St . W Suite 201 (Above Herbs and Nutrition)
Toronto, ON M6G 1K1
Health Centre of Milton
400 Main S. E Suite 210
Milton, ON L9T 1P7