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Addressing Allergies: A Multi-Pronged Approach

Strategies for soothing itchy eyes and silencing sneezes

Much like the majority of chronic, and even acute, health conditions we may face, there are many approaches to the treatment of allergies. The immune system is one major focus, but the health of the gut, management of environmental triggers, correction of nutritional deficiencies, and the function of the adrenal glands are additional arms to consider when working with allergies. Fortunately, many natural tools for addressing allergies, without the side effects of steroid and other pharmaceutical treatments, exist.

Nutritional support for allergies

Eosinophils and mast cells are primary mediators of the allergic response. Mast cells contain histamine, which is responsible for the red, swollen, and itchy sensations associated with allergic reactions. Supportive agents which help to reduce the activation and response of these cells also can improve symptoms in individuals with allergies.

Vitamin C is something we oft think of for colds or illness prevention, but it can have a significant impact on allergies as well. Vitamin C positively impacts allergies from a variety of directions – it helps to stabilize mast cells,[1] supports histamine breakdown, promotes immune system balance,[2] and reduces eosinophilic infiltration into challenged tissues like the lungs and sinus membranes.

Vitamin D3 is often seen in the same regard, but in addition to supporting the function of the immune system for illness prevention, this sun-derived vitamin also improves the regulatory function of the immune system, balancing the allergic response as well.[3],[4]

Botanical balancing agents

Perilla (Perilla frutescens) leaf extract is commonly a basis of natural anti-allergic therapies, particularly in the practice of Chinese medicine, as the plant grows abundantly in regions of Asia. Luteolin, a flavonoid found at high levels in perilla leaf, has been shown to have stabilizing effects on the blood vessels as well as anti-histamine effects, inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells.[5],[6],[7] Compared to quercetin, another commonly used anti-allergic flavonoid, luteolin has been demonstrated to have higher anti-allergic potential with less pro-oxidant activity,[8] and thus may overall be a better selection. Luteolin has been shown to have a higher inhibitory effect on mast cell release of histamine than quercetin, being higher than all flavonoids tested in one assay of anti-allergic activity.[9]

Compared to quercetin, another commonly used anti-allergic flavonoid, luteolin has been demonstrated to have higher anti-allergic potential with less pro-oxidant activity.

Boswellia serrata, commonly known as Indian frankincense or simply boswellia, is a botanical well known for its impact on pathways of inflammation.[10] One of the anti-inflammatory mechanisms through which boswellia exerts its action is via inhibition of leukotriene synthesis.[11] Leukotriene inhibition is a well-studied mechanism of reducing allergic symptomology.[12] Boswellia extracts also have mast cell stabilizing effects, which may be another means via which they reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma.[13],[14]

Can’t escape the gut!

The health of the body begins in the gut – this statement is true for allergies as well. Reducing the intake of foods which cause inflammation, determined via testing or simply by avoiding highly suspect foods like gluten and dairy, can help to reduce the inflammatory response overall and thus mitigate allergies. Reducing the intake of high histamine foods may also help reduce the body burden of histamine and can have a significant impact on allergies for some individuals.

Foods such as dairy and gluten also can worsen mucus symptoms as the body responds in a protective fashion by increasing mucus secretions – thus, they are also often avoided when one has a cold or other mucus-related conditions. Additional tools such as small amounts of salmon DNA have been shown to reduce the body’s production of mucus and mucus viscosity (“stickiness”) as well as increase the clearance of mucus from the respiratory tract.[15],[16]

L. acidophilus L-92 has been shown to improve nasal symptoms, reduce medication use, and improve overall well-being.

Immunobiotics are certain strains of bacteria, often heat-killed, which have been demonstrated to impact the immune system function. Because they are heat-killed, they don’t populate the gut, but they still have the capability of impacting health systemically as much of the body’s immune response begins in the gut. Lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 is one immunobiotic that has been studied in the setting of allergies, particularly in Japan where it has been commonly used in fermented milk and other products since the 1990’s. In the setting of pollen exposure in individuals with a known allergy, L. acidophilus L-92 has been shown to improve nasal symptoms, reduce medication use, and improve overall well-being.[17],[18]

When’s the best time to treat allergies? Long before the pollens start!

When addressing allergies holistically, it is important to bring the body back to balance before the allergic storm hits. Nutritional deficiencies should be addressed well in advance, and the body’s overall immune response and inflammatory state are important to consider before the springtime pollens hit. This is true for anyone with allergies, but particularly important for those with severe allergies that often require medications. Many holistic practitioners work with allergies (it is unavoidable!) and can help guide the way to keeping you well in the springtime and beyond.

  

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