Spring is a beautiful time of year with trees bursting forth in fresh, green growth and flowers blooming in a rainbow of colors. For many of us, though, spring means excess mucus, itchy eyes and skin, and frustrating symptoms related to allergies.
As a child, I had plenty of challenges with allergies, including frequent breakouts in hives, swollen lips, and the more common runny nose and itchy eyes. No fun!
Interestingly, the modern hygiene hypothesis suggests that our use of antibacterial products which reduce our exposure to environmental microbes actually deprives our bodies of immune stimulation, disrupting normal immune development and thus increasing the risk for allergic disease.
You’ve heard of probiotics and the bacteria in your gut? Mucosal surfaces on your body, including your lungs and nasal passages, are colonized by a distinct group of microbes. Far from causing harm, these microbes “teach” your immune system to tolerate dietary proteins and other harmless allergens in the environment.
Studies suggest that exposure to a diverse array of microbes early in life effectively “trains” our immune system, teaching it which substances in the environment are harmful (pathogenic microbes) and which are harmless (friendly microbes, dietary proteins, and many environmental allergens).
We weren’t aware of these microbes during my childhood, but extended immunotherapy with allergy shots helped to calm my immune system. Now we know of other effective approaches, such as:
- Take probiotics and/or eat fermented foods to help bring the microbiota and your immune system back into balance.
- Eat plenty of fermentable fiber such as plantains, cassava, or sweet potatoes which are fermented by gut bacteria, resulting in the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that regulate the immune system.
- Get tested for food sensitivities which cause delayed immune response and cause low-grade inflammation. I offer a simple blood spot test that can get you started.
- Try a low-histamine diet which can often reduce the severity of allergy symptoms. Foods high in histamine include aged cheese, citrus fruits, fish, shellfish, avocados, spinach, and cocoa. Consider taking quercetin (a natural antihistamine) or diamine oxidase (the enzyme responsible for breakdown of histamine), and use antihistamine herbs like thyme and holy basil in cooking.
- Try local raw honey for your seasonal allergies. Raw honey contains both beneficial bacteria and trace amounts of pollen picked up by the bees from local plants. Consuming raw honey produced in your area can help to “educate” your immune system to tolerate these local environmental allergens.
You don’t have to rely on pharmaceutical remedies when the symptoms of allergies are keeping you from functioning at your best. Natural supplements and foods can support your physiology and help to retrain your immune system so that it is more tolerant.
Tired of the same symptoms week after week, whether allergy related or not? Perhaps it’s time to talk with me to see whether a Consultation would be beneficial. Schedule a call to explore your options.