Dr. Katie Weststrate, MScCH, RYT, ND www.ahimsanaturopathic.com
Roughly one quarter of all Canadians suffer each year with allergic rhinitis (AR), an inflammatory disease of the nasal mucous membranes caused by an overreaction of the immune system to a substance you’ve inhaled. When this happens, your immune system releases a substance called IgE, along with inflammatory mediators such as histamine into the bloodstream and nasal cavity causing the typical ‘allergy’ symptoms so many are familiar with.
Seasonal allergies are triggered by outdoor allergens from pollens (ragweed, hay, etc.) and mold. It’s also possible to have perennial AR, which often lasts year round and commonly triggered by dust mites, pet dander, smoke, smog/pollution and/or interior mold.
AR is associated with fatigue, impaired work and day-time productivity, poor sleep and decreased quality of life with more than 60 per cent of sufferers reporting that allergies significantly impact their daily lives. Common symptoms include: stuffy/runny nose, sneezing, post-nasal drip, red, itchy, watery eyes, swollen eyelids, itchy mouth, throat, ears, and/or face, sore throat, chronic dry cough, headaches, sinus pressure, change to hearing/smell/taste, fatigue and dark circles under the eyes.
Allergies are typically tested using a scratch/skin test or blood test for allergen specific IgE antibodies (RAST). Treatment commonly involves avoidance of allergens and use of pharmaceuticals such as antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays, inhalers and/or decongestants.
These therapies aren’t the best answer for everyone. If you are an allergy sufferer, here are some other options to consider for relief.
Vitamin C and D3: Ascorbic acid has been shown to reduce histamine levels and is a potent antioxidant. Studies suggest it may modulate the development of bronchial asthma though it’s inhibition of oxidative damage to the respiratory tract. Multiple studies also show benefit of Vitamin D supplementation in both adult and pediatric bronchial asthma.
Quercetin: Polyphenol rich quercetin, found naturally in onions, broccoli, certain fruits, herbs, tea, and wine is known for it’s antioxidant activity and anti-allergic histamine suppressing properties. Quercetin has been shown to be effective for treatment and prevention of both bronchial asthma and AR.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT): The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states that SLIT, the process of administering a minute dose of allergen under the tongue to enhance tolerance is a “relatively safe and effective for the treatment of rhinitis and asthma caused by allergies to dust mites, grass, ragweed, cat dander, and tree pollens.” Emerging evidence shows positive results in treating eczema and for preventing the progression from rhinitis to asthma in children, too. SLIT is considered an alternative to allergy shots for many and can be administered by your allergist or naturopathic doctor.
Lifestyle modification: Avoiding/minimizing contact with allergens is a crucial part to minimizing AR symptoms. Consider keeping pets out of bedrooms, using an air conditioner instead of open windows (depending on source of allergen), using a HEPA air filter in the bedroom while sleeping and eliminating carpets and drapery from your home as these hang on to dander and dust.
Dietary modification + GI health: Approximately 80 per cent of our immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Our gut is a primary site of interaction with our external environment — breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, balancing bacteria, preventing pathogens and undigested food particles from entering the bloodstream. One of the key ways to reduce seasonal allergies is to support immune system regulation by addressing any issues with your gut. Consider speaking with your naturopathic doctor or primary care practitioner on how to identify and eliminate food sensitivities and support gut health.
First appeared in the May issue of Hometown News.