Allergies, spring, what are allergies, testing for allergies, allergy treatments, antihistamines, MSG(monosodium glutamate), cortisol and stress, homeopathy, immune system
Spring has officially arrived and the sun is finally beginning to shine. The change of season often brings excitement and new beginnings. But for allergy sufferers, it’s an all too familiar story—one that begins with sneezing, mucus production, sniffling, itchy and watery eyes, and has no happy ending.
What are these pesky allergies? Allergies come about when your immune system mounts an antibody response to substances such as pollen, dust and spores that it should recognize as harmless. These antibodies migrate to mast cells lining the nose, eyes and lungs where they stimulate the release of histamine to flush the harmless substances from the body. This whole process results in irritation and swelling of the airways and mucosa leading to allergy and hay fever symptoms. Hay fever is typically caused by trees in spring, grasses in summer and ragweed in fall.
Testing is typically done to find out which substances are causing problems. The skin prick test is commonly done as a first step. It is done by administering a small amount of a substance into the skin and then seeing how much of a wheal is created by the substances–the greater the wheal, the greater allergy. The test result can be positive to peanuts, eggs, milk and environmental allergies. If the test results only show up with environmental allergies like dust, pollen and spores then what options do we have? There are simple helpful steps that can be taken: avoiding common high pollen count times from early morning to 10 am and still enjoying the afternoon sun, keeping your home as allergy-free as possible by possibly replacing carpets with wood or laminate flooring and regularly changing your sheets and pillowcases.
Treatments such as antihistamines, anti-allergy eye drops, nasal sprays and “allergy shots” are effective for many people, but not all. Antihistamines and anti-allergy eye drops work by blocking the action of histamine that has been produced during the immune response. Thus it helps in symptomatic relief but does not address the cause of the problem. Common side effects are difficulty concentrating; dry mouth, nose, and eyes; drowsiness; and slow reaction time. Immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots” is another treatment modality where gradually increasing doses of an allergen are injected into the skin to help the body develop tolerance over time. This treatment requires many years of visits to the doctor but may not be effective in treating every type of allergy. There is a lack of evidence for its use in atopic dermatitis, food allergy, latex allergy, urticaria(hives), and in children under 5 years. But “allergy- shots” are particularly effective for insect venom allergies. Steroid treatment is reserved for especially difficult to treat allergies but they have significant side effects.
Naturopathic medicine offers many interesting and effective treatments of allergies as well. The goal is to regulate the immune response instead of blocking it. The allergen is just the trigger, not the cause of the allergy. The problem is the immune system’s inability to recognize the allergen as harmless. The key is to help balance, strengthen and regulate the immune system instead of just treating the symptoms.
To start with dietary changes can be of great help. Foods such as dairy, wheat and eggs are surprisingly common food intolerances that may not show up on the usual allergy tests, but they still need to be investigated as a potential trigger and possibly eliminated from the diet. Another interesting study, done at John Hopkins Research center has shown that allergy sufferers that consume MSG(monosodium glutamate) and the artificial sweetener aspartame have higher levels of histamine; resulting in an increase in allergic reactions. So, eliminating these from your diet will also help to decrease the severity of your allergic reaction.
Another important aspect of treating allergies is cortisol and stress management. Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to physical and mental stress. If the stress is prolonged, then it can cause chronic elevation of cortisol levels in our body. Elevated cortisol has negative effects such as weaker immune function and increased inflammation in the body. So testing for cortisol levels can be done to evaluate whether it is a culprit for immune dysregulation and therefore allergies.
Homeopathy treatment of allergies is also a safe and effective option. Natural plant and mineral ingredients in specific combination stimulates the body’s immune system to have a more balanced and appropriate immune response. Homeopathic combinations are given in minute doses to relieve runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.
Enhance your immune function and prevent the change of season from getting the better of you. All these treatments discussed are especially beneficial if used together. Be ready for spring and breathe easy.