This time of year is oftentimes one of suffering for many people. This fact is even more of a shame for the “fitness” crowd that looks to the Spring as the time to shake off the inactivity of the winter and get outside and get moving; whether that is in the form of exercise or other outdoor activities like gardening or hiking. The allergy section of drugstores are chock full of supposed solutions for seasonal allergies. In fact, this is one of the biggest selling categories in the store… and, of course, you can’t watch primetime television without seeing a myriad of allergy commercials this time of year. The problem with all of those medicines is that they are only treating a symptom of an underlying issue. And merely turning down the volume on what the body is saying with these allergy symptoms is only serving to get the body to talk in louder and louder terms. The underlying condition that the body is trying to communicate about is that there is an imbalance in inflammation – allergies are nothing more than an over-zealous inflammatory response to a minor trigger. The immune system has complex ways of dealing with invaders from the outside world. With allergies, after an initial exposure, the immune system is primed to protect against that specific invader, so the next time exposure happens, the immune system kicks into action. Specifically, upon exposure, mast cells will release histamine, which, in turn, causes some particular physiological changes – designed to allow the body to fight off the invader, and repair and rebuild if necessary. (Note: Histamine is a very important neurotransmitter that is responsible for sleep regulation, appropriate response to stress, acid production in the stomach, how memory and learning work, and even erectile function in men). These changes may include dilation and increased permeability of blood vessels in the local area. This is the root of the typical allergy symptoms of runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. However, for many people, what should be a minor nuisance is treated by the body like a life-threatening event… and this is the over-zealous inflammatory response referred to. The reason people may be geared towards this over-reaction is because of an imbalance of fats in the diet. There are fats that are pro-inflammatory (omega-6’s) and fats that anti-inflammatory (omega-3’s)... and nature intended for there to be a certain balance in consumption of these fats. Up until probably 100 years ago, we got these fats in our diet in a ratio of somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1, pro- to anti-inflammatory. With today’s Standard American Diet (SAD), that ratio is more like 20:1… and this is the underlying reason why the body is geared towards inappropriate or over-zealous inflammation. This fact is one of the major underlying reasons for the development of all chronic diseases, including allergies! So the way to fix this is to work to lessen pro-inflammatory fats in the diet, mostly from vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or canola, and to increase intake of anti-inflammatory fats from fish. The result of this will be a relaxation of the inflammatory response… and the body will respond to minor triggers like minor nuisances, not like life-threatening events. Another contributing factor to allergies in the diet is dairy. The milk from cows commonly contains a form of casein that is often an allergen in humans. Milk from other animals can also be an issue because when pasteurized, the enzymes to properly break down whatever proteins are available are destroyed. Ingesting casein from dairy can led to all sorts of upper respiratory congestion; laying the groundwork for worsening allergic responses. Stress and sleep also can play an important role with allergies in how these affect immune function. Constantly elevated cortisol levels, as a result of chronic stress and lack of restorative sleep, contribute to immune dysfunction – ultimately causing unbalanced or over-reactions of the immune system. Likewise, lack of exercise has a similar effect on immune function. There are various supplements that may be helpful for avoiding and/or treating allergies. For changing the underlying environment that can lead to suffering from allergies, here are the important supplements to take…
- Fish Oil – this is vital in balancing the inflammatory response by correcting the lack of anti-inflammatory fats. Fish Oil products can vary drastically in quality and potency and I believe that WholeMega by New Chapter is the highest quality product available.
- Probiotics – people that take good bacteria formulas during the allergy season have been shown to have lower levels of the antibodies that trigger allergy symptoms. Probiotic by Healthy Origins is a great product.
- Vitamin D-3 – it is a known and accepted fact that vitamin D-3 affects immune function and allergy sufferers have been shown to have lower blood levels. 5,000 iu daily during the allergy season can be tremendously helpful.
- Well Being's Aller-7 Support is the perfect mix of these ingredients along with anti-inflammatory herbs like Turmeric and Ginger.
- Natural D-Hist and D-Hist Jr. by Ortho Molecular are great formulas in capsule form.
- Aller-Res-Q by Natura Health Products uses similar ingredients along with Wasabi and Mauka Honey.