If you, a family member, or a friend suffer from an allergy, you will understand how frustrating and stressful it can be. From the simple itchy eyes and the runny nose to more severe symptoms of difficulty breathing and life-threatening anaphylaxis, allergies can severely impact a person’s life.
With modern diets, overexposure to antibiotics, damaged gut bacteria and a constant bombardment of toxic chemicals, there is no wonder why allergies are becoming the fastest growing chronic condition within today’s society.(1) It is estimated that more than 30% of adults and 40% of children in the United States suffer from an allergy such as asthma, food allergies, allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis.(2)
An allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a substance that is often harmless to most people, enters or comes in contact with the body. In a classic allergic reaction the immune system produces IgE antibodies, which initiate the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals, which produce allergenic symptoms that range from mild to life threatening.
Natural interventions including vitamins and herbal medicines have long been used safely in the treatment and management of allergies, as well as restoring proper function to the immune system. Natural therapists and functional testing can also help you to identify the cause of your allergens, which is key to recovery.
What is often harmless to most people can also be the trigger of an allergic reaction for those who suffer from allergies. Allergens can be almost anything that is touched, inhaled, eaten or injected into the body including fur, pollen, dust, food, cigarette smoking, insect bites, medicines and mold. The duration, frequency and potency of exposure can also determine the extent and severity of an allergic reaction. Genetics and family history are also considered to play a role in the development of allergies.
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Difficulty breathing
- Itching of the throat or eyes
- Sinus symptoms such as headaches, aching teeth and tenderness of the cheekbones
- Skin rashes or hives
- Swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue or throat
- Itching of the throat
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Nutritional Guidelines For Healing
- Reduce or Remove Exposure to Allergens: Identifying and removing your allergens is by far the most important step in relieving allergy symptoms. If you are unsure of what may be causing your allergic reactions, we recommend keeping a symptom diary to record the food you eat and the products you are exposed to in your daily life. Products include make-up, shampoo and conditioners, body wash and moisturisers, washing detergents, cleaning products as well as animal contact, dust, pollen and mold. Common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, corn, shellfish, wheat, some fruits, seeds, chocolate and artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Functional testing is also available.
- Swap Processed and Packaged Foods for Wholefoods: Foods that are packaged and processed have a suppressant effect on the immune system and also contain hidden ingredients that may be contributing to allergic reactions. By swapping to a wholefood diet, you are able to keep a careful eye on the foods you eat.
A wholefood diet should include:
- Good quality protein sources such as tempeh, free-range eggs, grass-fed poultry, nuts and plant-based protein powders. Eating organic meats is also recommended to avoid antibiotic residue.
- Good fat sources such as avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed butter.
- High fiber food sources such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods: Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, fermented salsa, yogurt and kimchi are rich in probiotics and help to balance gut bacteria. With research suggesting that disruption in gut bacteria is linked to an increased risk of allergies, it is important to make friends with these fermented foods.(3)
- Antioxidant Superfoods: Sip on green tea, munch on berries and be sure to eat a wide variety of bright and colorful fruit and vegetables. These foods are rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids and phytonutrients, which help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Studies suggest that a diet low in antioxidant-rich foods correlate with an increased risk of allergic conditions.(4)
- Hydrate with H2O: Drink at least 2 liters of filtered or spring water per day. Histamine, which is released during an allergic reaction, controls water in the body. When dehydrated, histamine increases, contributing to allergy symptoms.(5) You might want to add a pinch of sea salt to each glass of water (or ¼ teaspoon in 1 litre of water), as unprocessed salt is a natural antihistamine.
Herbal, Superfood & Supplement Therapy
- Vitamin C: Take 250 to 2,000 mg of Vitamin C per day. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps support the immune system, lower histamine levels and combat free radical damage. Studies suggest that vitamin C has demonstrated the ability to prevent the onset of allergy symptoms by reducing histamine (triggers allergy response) levels in the blood.(6)
- Quercetin: Take 250 to 600 mg three times daily 5 to 10 minutes before meals.Flavonoids such as quercetin exhibit high antioxidant properties and have demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of allergic conditions.Research suggests that quercetin exhibits significant anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting initial processes of inflammation and histamine release.(7)
- Vitamin D: Take 1,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day or expose your skin to 10 - 20 minutes of midday sun.(8) Along with calcium and bone metabolism, vitamin D is also involved in immune regulation. Studies have indicated that vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various immune conditions including allergic diseases.(9)
- Anti-allergy Herbs: With the guidance from a herbalist, take anti-allergy herbs such as Perilla and Albiza. Both Perilla and Albiza are mainly used to treat allergic rhinitis, asthma and hives and work by suppressing allergic responses and inflammation.(10)(11).
- Probiotics: With approximately 70% of the immune system located in the gut, a healthy gut forms the basis of a healthy immune system. Probiotics help to maintain healthy gut flora and can help protect the body against allergens. In particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) has been shown to be beneficial in promoting immune regulation and suppressing allergy responses by strengthening gut barrier function.(12) Take 20 billion CFU of LGG daily with food.
- Reduce Stress: As stress inhibits the function of the immune system, it important to take time out each day for relaxation and leisure. To support a healthy immune system, engage in practices that reduce stress such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness.
- Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with or without essential oils can be beneficial for respiratory symptoms associated with allergies. Air purifiers can clean the air by removing allergenic substances such as dust, fur and smoke. Be sure to choose high quality, organic where possible, essential oils. We recommend essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree for allergy sufferers.
- Keep your Space Clean: As dust can cause allergy symptoms, we suggest keeping your daily living and working spaces clean to help minimize dust build up.
- Fresh Air and Exercise: As some allergies are caused by air pollution, it is important to have access to fresh unpolluted air. If you live in a big city, take time out on weekends to head out of town to more natural landscapes such as the rainforest or the beach, where the air is cleaner. If allergies flare up when outside due to pollen exposure, swapping the outside for indoor activities such as yoga may be more beneficial. If you do choose outside activities ensure to take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after exposure to pollens.
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At Food Matters we believe that education is an essential aspect to any healing process. The more we know, the more we are empowered to make change and understand how to decode the messages our bodies are telling us. Here are some suggested resources for you to check out to support you on this journey.
1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation Of America
2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation Of America
3. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013 Dec; 10(12): 7235–7256.
4. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 May;133(5):1237-44; quiz 1245.
5. Endocrinology, Volume 136, Issue 5, 1 May 1995, Pages 2189–2197
6. University of Maryland Medical Center - Allergic Rhinitis
7. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33805. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033805.
8. Cancer Council Australia - Vitamin D
9. Nutrients. 2015 Jul 27;7(8):6088-108. doi: 10.3390/nu7085271.
10. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Mar;229(3):247-54.
11. Int Immunopharmacol. 2011 Nov;11(11):1766-72. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2011.07.003. Epub 2011 Jul 21.
12. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2012 Jun; 5(6): 655–664.
This article is provided for your general information only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional advice, particularly medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek medical advice from a qualified health practitioner which takes into account your personal circumstances, general health and medical conditions.