Practical Allergy Tips and Interventions to Calm Inflammation and Prevent Autoimmunity
by Erin Porter
For many, allergies are not solely reserved for the springtime, but rather a maddening part of everyday life. To make things worse, people who have food allergies and/or asthma, are more likely to have both indoor and outdoor allergies. If you have visited my Eat Pray Get Well website, you know that my daily ritual used to include taking Benadryl, Tylenol Sinus, boatloads of Afrin as well as over-the-counter decongestants, and antacids. I was willing to try just about any drugstore remedy that promised relief. While these medications can be extremely useful to calm short-term symptoms, they are not good for your long-term health if you have thyroid and/or other medical conditions.
Like many of you, I was allergy tested early on when I first began having multiple and persistent health symptoms. The testing revealed that I was allergic to 60 outdoor plants and trees as well as too many foods to count (including many healthy foods). Needless to say, life was pretty miserable back then, but, unfortunately, allergies were the least of my problems; I was battling many other chronic illnesses as well. (You can read my full story here.)
Thankfully, today I am thrilled to report that all of my allergies are now a distant memory, but it wasn’t those over-the-counter medications that got me there. Before I get into how I went about healing and overcoming allergies, first let’s talk about what allergies are and what factors can cause them to occur in the first place. With a basic understanding, we can then sort out how to get to the “root” of why the immune system is malfunctioning and causing us allergies in the first place. Bottom line? If your body is not working right, you can become allergic to just about anything.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is our immune system reacting (or overreacting) to a substance that is usually harmless. In very severe cases, this reaction can even be fatal. When the body identifies a substance as foreign, it creates antibodies for it. Then, the next time you come in contact with that same substance–this can be food, dust, pollen, or anything really–your body is ready for the “invader” and releases a chemical called histamine. Johns Hopkins Medicine has stated that allergies are the result of an overactive immune system.
Some interesting facts about Allergies:
– Children who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms and asthma.
– Adults with allergies have a different gut microbiome than those without allergies according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health.
– A 2013 study by JAMA showed that people in the United States were more likely to develop food allergies than those in other countries.
Autoimmune Disease and Allergies
Autoimmune diseases are other immune system disorders where the immune system attacks itself. Examples of autoimmune diseases are Hashimoto’s, Lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune diseases are relevant to the allergy discussion because allergies and allergic inflammation have actually been found to trigger autoimmune issues in the body. Both allergies and autoimmune issues involve the activation of T cells of the immune system. While allergies trigger a response of Th2 cells–immediate allergic inflammation, autoimmune diseases trigger more activation of Th1 cells which are responsible for a more delayed inflammatory response. When the exposure to the allergen is chronic, like with an environmental toxin, the response is both immediate AND delayed, so hypersensitivity and chronic allergy symptoms can then occur, sometimes even in the absence of the initial trigger. It can become a cycle of inflammation that never ceases, making the sufferer sicker and sicker.
A study done at Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington states that allergic and inflammatory diseases may actually trigger autoimmune diseases by relaxing the controls that normally eliminate newly produced, self-reactive B cells. Further, the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Autoimmunity Institute says, “People who have environmental or food allergies may have a higher risk of developing autoimmune disease.”
What Does Gut Health Have to Do With Allergies?
Patients with allergic or autoimmune diseases are at higher risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders (such as IBS) according to research published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. People with gut issues are also more likely to have autoimmune diseases and allergies. Are you following this? It’s all connected. The health of your gut has everything to do with the health of your immune system which directly affects how your body responds to allergens. So then, how can we go about building a healthy, well-functioning immune system? You have to address both environmental factors and your gut health because the two are interconnected.
Simple Allergy and Gut Interventions
– Start by rebuilding and restoring your body! Most of us Americans have done some hefty damage to our bodies by consuming the Standard American Diet. Sugar, bread, alcohol, and processed foods are the enemy to both your immune system and healthy gut flora. I also want to mention it’s these very foods that feed fungus and yeast. Junk foods have been linked to asthma, allergies, and a host of other diseases.
– Eat more food in its raw state. During the cooking process, many enzymes are destroyed and therefore are not ingested into your body from the foods you are eating. Low levels of enzymes in the gut mean proteins and fats are not completely digested or absorbed which then wreaks havoc on the immune system which, in turn, can then cause food allergies.
– Eat more greens and fiber. Without proper gut flora, we cannot be healthy–immunity starts in the gut after all! Fiber and raw greens are the main food source for healthy gut flora.
– Clean your liver and support your adrenals. When the body is lacking the nutrients it needs, the thyroid and adrenals do not get the building materials required need to produce hormones. Some say cleaning your liver “a.k.a. your body’s filter” is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Along with filtering out daily assaults such as chemicals, processed foods, and pesticides, the liver is responsible for making glucose, amino acids, and produces interferon which kills germs. This is only the tip of the iceberg on what the liver is responsible for; an overworked and sluggish liver certainly will make your overall health suffer. For adrenal support, Micro Balance Health Products makes a product called CellTropin, which promotes cellular recovery and healing, especially for people who have been compromised by mold. Its formula provides pituitary, circulatory, and DNA support.
– Tackle any mold in your home. Mold test plates are a wonderful tool to detect the presence and amount of mold in your environment. If mold is present at elevated levels and is not at a level of needing professional remediation, there are products that can be used to address the mold in your home or office space. Leaks and water intrusion should be dealt with promptly as mold can disrupt your immune system and create chronic inflammation. Micro Balance also has wonderful products to rid your clothes, furniture, and even your pet of mold spores.
– Be careful about the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are a wonderful tool when used for life-saving infections, but they do destroy gut flora. I estimate I had been on well over 100 courses of various antibiotics for chronic sinus infections before I discovered that the cause of my sinusitis was not bacteria, but actually fungus. Some gut-healing interventions are as follows:
(Note: Click here if you would like to read in more detail how I healed my gut.)
Probiotics – It is important to add good bacteria to your intestines especially after a course of antibiotics.
Fermented foods – Foods such as sauerkraut, cultured yogurt, and Kiefer (plain no sugar added) support healthy gut flora.
Address fungal overgrowth issues – If you suspect you have an issue with candida or fungus, natural antifungals such as CitriDrops Dietary Supplement, oil of oregano, caprylic acid, and garlic, can be helpful.
Additional Allergy-Fighting Supplements and Tips
– Vitamin C can help inhibit inflammatory cells from releasing histamine.
– Omega 3 fatty acids are inflammation fighters.
– There are antihistamines naturally found in foods such as almonds, broccoli, apples, onions, and blueberries, to name a few. Incorporate them into your diet whenever possible.
– Remove clothing and shower after you have been outdoors to remove pollen and other allergens and help prevent you from tracking allergens inside and spreading them around your home.
– Invest in a quality HEPA filter, especially for your bedroom, to help remove allergens, mold spores, dust, and other particulates from your breathing space.
– Rinse your nasal passages using a Nasopure Nasal Wash System to keep your nose free of allergens and mold. Inhalation is the main path of entry to the body for environmental allergens, so you want to do what you can to keep your nasal passages clean. I like to use CitriDrops Dietary Supplement in my nasal wash solution. CitriDrops Nasal Spray is also a homeopathic solution for environmental allergies that also helps to decongest. It can be used frequently throughout the day and when you are away from home.
– Sinus Defense is another homeopathic product that can help your body learn to fight allergens and other invading pathogens more efficiently. Homeopathics provoke the body to heal itself and to become more resilient. With environmental allergens, this is especially helpful because we are constantly encountering them in daily life. A more resilient immune system is a smarter immune system, and a smarter immune system makes us healthier in the long run.