With our hectic lifestyles and our increased exposure to toxic substances that overload our immune system, more and more people are living with chronic allergies that significantly impact their health and quality of life. Seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever or rhinitis, affect more than 50 million Americans and are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
Your immune system is designed to protect your body from what it does not recognize as “self”. When your body comes into contact with a foreign invader (by being swallowed, inhaled, injected, or coming into contact with your skin, eyes, or airways), your immune system becomes activated, triggering a process that results in the release of histamine. This leads to a mess of symptoms, including nasal congestion, runny or itchy nose, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, coughing, skin rashes, swelling, and more.
The complex functions of your immune system effectively protect your body against parasites and pathogens, but they can also mistake harmless substances as dangerous invaders and cause an overreaction. When you combine seasonal irritants (like pollen) with the collection of environmental toxins we encounter every day (mold, dust, animal dander, air pollution, insect venoms, beauty product ingredients, certain foods, etc.), we’re left with the perfect formula for an aggravated immune system and intensified allergy symptoms.
In order to effectively treat the root cause of your allergy symptoms, we start by addressing the most common lifestyle factors that have been found to intensify immune reactions. Here are some tips you can begin working on at home to help lessen your allergy symptoms.
Tip 1: Heal Your Gut
60% of your immune system is located in your gut. When inflammation allows undigested food particles to leak past your intestinal barrier and into your bloodstream, the gut-associated immune system is exposed to a wide variety of metabolic toxins. This activates a histamine-releasing immune response. If you are experiencing this “leaky gut” phenomenon and, as a result, increased histamine levels, your immune system is on high-alert and will continuously overreact. There are steps you can take to help heal your digestive system and experience allergy symptom improvement.
- Avoid food triggers. Seasonal allergies can be exacerbated by food sensitivities or allergies. Your nutritionist may suggest completing an Elimination Diet, which involves removing common food allergens for a short period of time, and then carefully reintroducing them to identify any allergy culprits.
- Eat “clean” as much as possible. Reduce or avoid pro-inflammatory foods, like sugar, flour, gluten, processed foods, and food additives. Choose organic options to reduce pesticide exposure.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Include lots of colorful vegetables that are high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids or antioxidants. Choose wild or grass-fed animal foods, find dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and use lots of herbs and spices.
- Eat anti-histamine foods. There are many natural foods that contain Quercetin or Anthocyanins, which have anti-histamine or mast-stabilizing properties, such as apples, broccoli, citrus, fennel, red onion, berries, red cabbage, wild rice, parsley, turmeric, and ginger.
- Support your intestinal barrier. You can read about how to repair and support your gut lining in our blog post on Leaky Gut.
- Hydrate. Proper hydration reduces the histamine response. Aim to consume about half of your body weight (pounds) in fluid ounces throughout the day.
Tip 2: Support Your Immune System
If you have allergies, your immune system is experiencing dysfunction, and you may need extra support. Research shows certain nutrients may help with allergic responses:
- B Vitamins
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
You can purchase these supplements at both our Boise and Meridian locations or through our website.
Tip 3: Limit Allergen and Toxin Exposure
Sometimes the best defense for minimizing allergies is to simply reduce your exposure to the offending substances. Many of our patients participate in an Elimination Diet to identify the food allergies or sensitivities to remove from their diet, but we need to limit exposure from external sources as well.
- Keep you doors and windows closed in allergy season
- Avoid artificial fragrances from cleaning products or air fresheners
- Shower when you come inside at the end of the day or before to remove pollen, especially from your face or hair
- Wash your pajamas and bed sheets more frequently
- Keep up with the maintenance on your HVAC system and filter your indoor air using a HEPA filter
- Research the personal hygiene products you use on your skin, hair, or teeth to ensure they do not contain toxic chemicals. You can reference the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to search for non-toxic hygiene products.
Tip 4: Manage Stress
Stress, even “perceived” stress, can drive allergy flares and raise histamine levels. Work with a health coach to find stress management tools that work for you:
- Deep Breathing
- Develop supportive relationships
If you are experiencing allergy symptoms and making these lifestyle changes has not helped, you may need to be tested for bacterial overgrowths, viruses, yeast, parasites, or mold. FMI is here to partner with you to identify the root issues, create an individualized treatment plan, and guide you on your healing journey. Start making positive changes towards optimizing your health today!
- Karen Callagy, PA-C
- Institute for Functional Medicine