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For some people, a beautiful garden in full bloom is a feast for the senses. For others, however, that same garden can trigger sneezing, headaches, congestion, and general misery.
These reactions may be the result of sensitivities or intolerances, but they’re often blamed on “hay fever” or allergy – medically speaking, “an immunoglobulin E (IgE) histamine response to a substance.” In a true allergy, the sufferer usually feels “stuffiness” or other symptoms almost immediately after exposure to an allergen.
In contrast, a sensitivity or intolerance is the result of an immunoglobulin G (IgG) response, which can result in anything from hyperactivity to headaches or seizures. Unlike an IgE response, an IgG response may take hours or even days to appear. Without proper testing, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of the reaction.
An antihistamine drug can bring quick relief to an IgE allergic reaction, and in the extreme case of anaphylactic shock, certain drugs can be life saving. However, in most cases, there are natural ways to minimize the effects of allergies and sensitivities.
Natural supplements can reduce or even stop the histamine reaction of seasonal inhalant allergies. Preparing for allergy season by taking vitamin C in the form of mixed ascorbates ahead of time can be helpful, as can quercetin with stinging nettle and bromelain. HEPA filtration systems can reduce the level of indoor allergens. Even washing pets more often, wiping their paws, and removing your shoes to avoid tracking substances into the house can make a big difference for those with environmental allergies or sensitivities.
In both allergies and intolerances, the process leading to the unpleasant effects is the body’s immune system – the innate healing system – reacting to a substance that it believes is an intruder. Whether that substance was inhaled or ingested in food or drink, the inflammation, sneezing, and other symptoms are attempts by the immune system to reject the intruder.
A properly nourished immune system is less likely to react excessively. Healthful diets, rich in the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in many fruits and vegetables, and containing the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as found in wild, pastured, or grassfed animal products, help the immune system react appropriately. On the other hand, consumption of too many omega-6 fatty acids, dietary sugars, and starches, as well as alcohol, can suppress the immune system and promote inflammation.
As our consumption of unhealthful fast foods and processed foods increases, our immune systems become more prone to inflammation. At the same time, we are constantly exposed to ever-increasing amounts of environmental pollutants and toxic substances. It’s no surprise, then, that the number of allergy sufferers seems to be increasing as well.
Everyday we're exposed to toxic pollution that causes toxic build-up in the body. Avoid toxin build-up by avoiding inflammatory foods such as sugars and omega-6 fats. Everyday we're exposed to toxic pollution that causes toxic build-up in the body. Avoid toxin build-up by avoiding inflammatory foods such as sugars and omega-6 fats.
If the body’s natural detoxification systems are not working properly, it can become overloaded with those ingested or inhaled toxins, resulting in environmental illness or multiple-chemical sensitivity. Avoiding pesticides, herbicides, detergents, chemical cleaners, and chemical-laden personal care products may sound like a simple fix, but even walking down a supermarket’s laundry aisle or shopping at a lawn and garden center can easily result in harmful exposure. For some people, even minimal exposure to such products can cause severe reactions.
Since the liver and kidneys are major eliminatory organs, their health is an important factor in detoxification and allergy relief. Herbal or homeopathic liver and kidney support products can help balance the organs, but according to PPNF Vice President David J. Getoff, CCN, CTN, these must be used with caution. Intense detoxification can result in headaches, skin problems, or fatigue – indications that treatment should be stopped until such symptoms subside. Starting with a lower dose that is gradually increased is safer than undergoing rapid cleanses or flushes, which can overwhelm the system and actually makes things worse. In the case of homeopathy, he recommends professional assessment, since treatment is “extremely individualized, and a specific remedy might work for one person and not work for another.” Homeopathic remedies and natural supplements take longer to work than typical over-the-counter drugs, but are used with a view toward improving the health of the patient over the long term.
Leaky gut and digestion
Digestive problems can play a major role in the development of IgG food sensitivities. Individuals with leaky gut syndrome (where food particles enter the bloodstream through microscopic holes in the intestines and trigger an immune response) can achieve short-term relief just by removing problem foods from the diet and by helping digestion with probiotics. Repairing the leaky gut through proper diet and nutrition – a long-term process – usually resolves the food intolerances.
Any type of allergy or sensitivity causes stress, and the adrenal system is the body’s chief mechanism of reacting to stress. Therefore, proper adrenal function helps the body handle the stress of allergies, and taking tinctures of adaptogenic herbs can positively affect the endocrine system as well as the immune system and general emotional health.
To be truly effective, allergy treatment must deal with the cause rather than just the effects. The key to long-term natural allergy relief is healing the body from within, allowing the body’s natural systems to react appropriately and function properly.
For more information, see “Relief from Seasonal Allergies,” an interview with PPNF Vice President David J. Getoff, CCN, CTN, FAAIM, in the Spring 2013 Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing.