Leaf buds are emerging and shades of green are slowly returning to the lawn. For many these changes mean summer is getting closer. For those who suffer from pollen allergies it represents the approach of runny noses, sneezing, and itchy swollen eyes. It does not have to be this way. Seasonal allergies can be reduced and even eliminated by optimizing immune function.
The runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes of allergies are the body's effort to trap and eliminate pollen from the body. The histamine that drives this process is the result of the pollen triggering immune system to protect us from foreign invaders and irritants. Each subsequent exposure makes us more sensitive and reduces the time it takes to react to a pollen encounter. Of the multiple types of immune responses, the immune system builds up the cells and antibodies of the allergic response and is ready for a shock and awe scenario on a moments notice.
There are multiple factors that can contribute to getting us to this point. The one we have the most control over is the food we choose to eat. Certain foods can over-stimulate the immune system and cause chronic inflammation making us prone to pollen allergies. This allergic process can be set in motion while we are in utero. Studies have shown when a mother eats foods she is allergic or sensitive to while pregnant, it increases the likelihood the baby will develop allergies. By continuing to eat foods we are intolerant of after we are born, we perpetuate and exacerbate the immune system imbalance.
Obviously, foods a person is allergic to should be avoided. The not so obvious is avoiding foods we are sensitive to. Food sensitivities do not produce the immediate dramatic reactions found in food allergies. It is a different type of immune response than an allergy. Its effects are gradual and accumulate over time. Very often the person does not associate their growing symptoms with the foods that they eat their own life. Wheat (gluten), dairy, soy, corn, and eggs are the most common foods people are sensitive to. A simple lab test can confirm if someone has a food sensitivity. IgE antibody testing indicates a food allergy, not a sensitivity.
Sugar increases infection in the body and can contribute to an over active immune system. Starches, such as potatoes, rice, bread, pastas, cereals, crackers, etc. are turned into sugar during digestion. Eating table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soda, juices, grains, and foods made from grains very often are a factor in the severity of pollen allergies.
In addition to eliminating food allergies and sensitivities optimizing the health of the immune system requires proper nutrients. Eating vegetables and fruits of each color every day is better than taking a multi vitamin. Eating small amounts of healthy meats with meals not only provides protein, minerals, and B vitamins, but helps balance the adrenal glands. Omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish, pumpkin and flax seeds, walnuts, wild game, and grass fed meat reduction infection and balance the immune system. Cooking with ginger root, curcumin, and turmeric will also help reduce inflammation. Rotating foods and eating a wide variety will help prevent developing additional sensitivities.
Seeing the benefits of changing what food we eat takes time and persistence, which does not do a person much good in the middle of an allergy shock and awe response. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in onion skins that stabilizes mast cells, preventing the release of histamine. It works the same way as Benadryl. It can be found in capsule form in the supplement aisle of the grocery store. There are many additional nutraceutical, botanical, and homeopathic products and remedies that can be prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies, but this is not addressing the underlying source of the problem, the imbalanced immune system.
The food we eat is just one piece of the allergy puzzle. There are many factors that need to be evaluated. Every person has a unique story that led up to the symptoms of allergies. Taking something to ease the suffering of allergies is often needed, but does not resolve the source of the problem. The fact a person is having allergies is itself a symptom of a defect imbalance that needs to be addressed. To truly find lasting relief and healing, this is what needs to be resolved, not just the runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.