What are allergies?
When a person's immune system reacts to substances in their environment (allergens) that are harmless for most people this is an allergic response. One person’s allergen may not be another’s – everyone reacts differently. The possibility of developing allergies is increased if it is part of a person’s family history.
Hay fever, usually a reaction to wind pollenated plants such as grasses and trees, is associated with Spring and affects eyes and sinuses. However this condition can occur any time of the year due to environmental allergens such as pet fur, moulds, dust and the work place can cause “sick building syndrome” due to the recycled air which could be considered a chemical stew.
Other symptoms can be:
- Skin – eczema or hives
- Lungs – asthma or wheezing
- GIT – abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhoea
Herbs and allergy management
Herbs offer fantastic protection against allergies and have been traditionally used for thousands of years to combat allergy symptoms and modulate the body’s immune response to the allergens.
Here are four great herbs and plants for allergy management:
- Echinacea – The number one herb for any immune condition is Echinacea, this wonderful herb helps lower inflammation and modulates the overactive immune system.
- Peppermint – Peppermint is an herb you might find in your grandparents’ garden. It’s excellent for hay fever and clearing of the respiratory tract.
- Thyme – Thyme is a common herb found in cooking but did you know is packed full of antimicrobial phytochemicals? The constituents in Thyme help fight off any nasty bugs that may be causing your allergic reaction (Hammer et al. 1999)
- Ginger – Ginger is a great herb that can be consumed as a tea or added to smoothies for its amazing ability to clear nasal discharge and help lower inflammation caused by allergies.
Using a combination of these dried herbs, with the inclusion of cinnamon bark and liquorice root as an infusion, will provide a soothing and clearing action for the upper respiratory tract, easing a sore throat caused by coughing and post nasal drainage, relieve congestion and clear a blocked nose.
Used long term this herbal infusion should not only relieve symptoms but create better immunity. With the addition of honey this creates an extra demulcent effect and may improve the flavour for some as well.
Usually use anti-histamines?
Why not try these natural options instead? Many people turn to anti-histamines for allergy relief, but did you know that many nutrients can be used to reduce the symptoms of allergies such as congestion, itching and hives? For example:
- Zinc – A daily dose of 10-25mg of elemental zinc a day may reduce your allergy symptoms by inhibiting histamine release from basophils – a white blood cell that causes inflammation in response to being exposed to an allergen.
- Vitamin C – Eating fruit rich in vitamin C may reduce wheezing symptoms associated with allergies.
- Quercetin – Quercetin found in fruits that are dark red or blue and vegetables such as red leaf lettuce, raw red onions or kale stops the production of histamine that causes allergy symptoms such as runny nose and watery eyes.
Let’s get to the guts of the matter
Gut health can be implicated in an individual’s immunity and resultant allergy symptoms.
Two aspects that are significant when down regulating an over active immune response via the gastrointestinal system are the gut microbiome and the interior structural integrity of the intestinal lining.
The micro biome generally consists of several thousand different species of beneficial bacteria. It is these bacteria that are responsible for the breakdown and assimilation of nutrients from food. If there the levels of diverse microbiome are minimal then the ability to digest and utilise all potential nutrients is reduced. And put simply decreased levels of essential nutrients results in decreased immunity.
You may have heard the term “leaky gut” which is essentially just that. The interior structural integrity of the intestinal wall is not sufficient to stop that which should be on the inside of the gut from migrating to the outside of the gut causing an over reactive immune system.
How to identify allergens
There are numerous considerations with regard to allergies particularly the identification of what is triggering the allergic response. The food elimination diet is effective in identifying food intolerances. Other methods include blood tests, skin pricks (RAST) with of which identify environmental allergens and the 500 hair test which include food groups, bathroom, and laundry and kitchen products. The elimination diet involves identification and exclusion of suspected/offending foods. A food/symptoms diary is filled out detailing the severity of symptoms experienced, time after ingestion the symptoms occur and how long they last after intake of food to determine an allergy or intolerance. Removing the suspected food allergen causes a reduction in inflammation and immune responses allowing the gut to heal and repair.
Simple ways to lessen allergens
- Lifestyle – Treatment of allergy symptoms are supported by lifestyle changes, especially the changes that reduce the impact of stress on your immune system. Removing known allergens from diet or environment is a great start.
- Dust free – Keeping a dust free and pet fur free household especially in bedrooms is paramount. Moulds can also trigger allergic responses inside. Air the rooms frequently and use exhaust fans to lessen the airborne irritants. Maintain a hygienic air conditioner by having it cleaned and serviced regularly.
- Healthy habits – Removing stress from your immune system by keeping healthy personal habits probably goes without saying. A healthy diet and sleep hygiene, keeping a positive outlook, regular exercise and mindfulness activities are known to make your immune system resilient.
Hay fever and allergic response is a complex condition and a holistic treatment approach is effective. A visit your nearest Wellnation Clinics to address those individual factors that cause allergies for you. Your practitioner will be able to design a treatment specific to your condition and support you to wellness.
- Fisher, C 2009, Materia Medica of Western Herbs 1st edn, Vitex Medica, New Zealand.
- Hammer, K, Carson, C, Riley, T 1999, Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts, Journal of applied microbiology, viewed 12 Oct 2016.
- Maret W & Sandstead HH 2006 ’Zinc Requirements and the Risks and Benefits of Zinc Supplementation’, Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, vol.20, no.1 pp.3-18.