Spring is the time when people are most aware of the affect exposure to allergens can have on our body (cue the thoughts of the layer of pollen that coats everything outside) BUT allergies affect us all year long and can cause a slew of problems that we may not even recognize as an allergic response.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is a body’s over-response to something that would normally be considered harmless. Allergy testing is the best way to determine which allergens trigger your reactions, but common allergens are: house dust, mites, molds, animal dander, grass, tree or wood pollens, certain foods, drugs, dyes, and perfumes.
When exposed to allergens through inhalation (breathing), ingestion (eating), or skin contact, you may experience a range of symptoms. Common reactions are sinus or nasal congestion, headaches, watery or itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, cough, skin rashes, or asthma. Depression, fatigue, hyperactivity, blood sugar problems, hypertension, joint pains and digestive problems may also be a result of exposure to allergens. Your body’s immune response to an allergen can even be symptomless, but cause a hidden stress on your health!
What causes allergies?
Modern science is still struggling to nail down why some people have allergic reactions to things, while others don’t. Genetic factors play a role but environment and nutrition also greatly affect allergies. 70-80% of your immune system actually comes from the lymph tissue in your gut! Intestinal health plays a huge role in your wellness reaching far beyond digestive function, including immune response.
The state of your intestinal health can have a huge effect on your immune system. If your intestinal tissue is under strain due to poor nutrition, exposure to food allergies, certain prescription medication use, or stress, your immune function can be impaired. Impaired immune function very often presents in the form of allergies.
Can allergies be cured?
Allergies cannot necessarily be cured, but allergy symptoms can be treated and controlled. This very often requires a change in environment and behavior. Also, taking steps to improve the function of your immune response by supporting a healthy gut, ensuring proper nutrient intake, and controlling stress can reduce your allergy symptoms.
The “rain barrel” theory of allergies suggests that the symptoms of particular allergies are a result of your entire allergic burden. Consider your body as a rain barrel. Your body deals with many stressors (allergens, sensitivities, stress) without giving you any symptoms until you are overburdened. Then, like a rain barrel, as more water (stressors) pour in, it spills over. You may only notice symptoms of allergies when your body is overburdened like the water spilling over the rain barrel. If you ease your body’s total overall stressors, your symptoms of seasonal allergies will often improve.
How to treat allergies?
First and foremost, reduce exposure! To avoid what you are allergic to, you have to KNOW what you are allergic to. Allergy testing is a valuable tool in determining your individual allergies. Food allergies and sensitivities are often hard to determine through tests, although the most effective way to illuminate a food allergy or sensitivity is through an Elimination Diet. Enhanced Medical Care offers food sensitivity testing and coaching through Elimination Diets (contact us for more information). Check out our tips to reducing exposure to inhalant allergens!
As we said before, improving intestinal health can improve immune function. Appropriate nutrition is vital to proper gut health. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet of nutrient dense plant based foods, healthy fats, adequate protein intake and limited refined carbohydrates and sugar will optimize intestinal function and overall health. Also, new research links the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies. Maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in our gut promotes intestinal health. Contact us to discuss whether taking a probiotic will improve your gut health, or visit our supplement store to get your high potency probiotic supplement.
As with all aspects of wellness, limiting other stressors on your body will improve immune function. Proper sleep hygiene, managing stress, and staying active with exercise all will keep your body healthy and happy.
If you have any questions about allergies, allergy testing, or if you would like to speak to Dr. Costa directly about your personal allergies, please feel free to contact us!
To your health!