Picture by Indigo
It’s that dreaded time of year when my allergies start flaring up, and Pretty Birds, I know that I am not alone. Not to mention all the rain we’ve been receiving here in California, the plants and flowers are growing out of control. While nature may be magical and the ultimate source of inspiration, sometimes the accompanying allergy symptoms render its beauty a prickly inflamed mess. That being said, it’s time to start nursing our seasonal allergies. Here are some factors to consider.
First of all, it’s often difficult to distinguish between cold and allergy symptoms. Just recently my son and everyone else that set foot in my house got hit with nasty a cold, which left me counting the days ‘till I also fell victim to its wrath. Finally, when I started to experience an itchy throat but no other symptoms occurred, I realized that my seasonal allergies were in arrival.
Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to an external factor, may it be food, a toxin, change in the environment or in this case, the increase of pollen in the air. Your immune system responds to that substance, or allergen, by releasing histamines into your blood, hence causing those explosive symptoms you experience during an allergic reaction. Seasonal allergies – aka hay fever – are mostly triggered by mold spores or pollens from grass, trees, and weeds which we see an abundance of during the changes of seasons. Spring culprits are most likely to be birch, cedar, alder, horse chestnut, willow and poplar. The common signs and symptoms to look out for are sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion, fatigue and itchy eyes, mouth, nose, or throat.
In addition to pollen, the root of seasonal allergies may lie within you. Admittedly, there are several factors that influence seasonal allergies which are out of our control, such as the weather, where we live, humidity, and rainfall amounts. We can however control how our body reacts to allergens by maintaining our gut health. About 80 percent of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. Therefore, the gut microbiome – the trillions of microbes that populate our digestive tract – has an influence on the balance and performance of our immune function.
When our guts are healthy and flourishing so is our immune function. A healthy gut keeps a balance of good and bad bacteria. The friendly flora produces antimicrobial substances and acids that get rid of the bacteria that make us sick. We also tend to have a strong intestinal barrier that protects from any external factors reaching our blood stream. Our antibodies are at an increased level because beneficial bacteria promotes antibody secretion, especially immune-boosting antibody levels. Just as our gut microbiome plays a role in how immune system treats real threats (viruses and harmful bacteria), when there isn’t enough good bacteria in the gut, it is difficult for the immune system to distinguish between what is healthy and what is harmful for your body leading to extreme reactions (i.e. allergies).
Having a poor diet, high stress levels, or increased toxin exposure can create inflammation and an imbalance between good and bad bacteria. When our immune system is compromised due to poor gut function, our line of defense might not adequately defend us from the bacterial attackers. Our bodies therefore overreact to these substances, even though they are technically not dangerous, as in the case of seasonal allergies. It is automatically mobilized to produce antibodies to defend itself from those external factors that triggered your system in to reaction. These antibodies thus cause us to experience watery eyes, runny noses, and itchiness. So while certain allergy medications offer relief, some symptoms are persistent because the gut is what actually needs attention. Fortunately, there are alternative remedies that focus on the gut and help to alleviate allergy symptoms.
By now, my kitchen cabinets are packed with adaptogens for all my woes – there really seems to be something available for any issue you may be facing. Case at hand, red ginseng has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to rebalance the gut. It has also been found to combat the specific allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, and nasal inflammation due to its anti-allergenic properties. Other adaptogens that have shown to be immune boosting are Holy Basil, Astralagus, and Ashwaganda.
Stinging nettle also contains anti-inflammatory qualities that affect some key receptors and enzymes in allergic reactions. Histamine production in the body is what causes our reactions to related allergies. The leaves from the stinging nettle plant contain histamine and studies have shown that using histamine in allergy treatment can lower hay fever symptoms. It may seem strange to use histamine to counteract histamine, but the research demonstrates its effectiveness.
Honey is another powerful remedy in fighting allergies. One of the reasons it works it that it contains bee pollen which has been shown to ward off infections, allergies, and even boost immunity. To break it down, the bees living in your area go from flower to flower, thus collecting the exact same pollen that is causing your suffering. Eating local honey can help you build up your immunity to local pollen. Not to mention it is jammed pack with enzymes and antioxidants that support your overall immune function.
Additionally, simple steps such as upping your intake of probiotic rich foods and supplements can enable your gut to heal. Enjoying probiotic rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, kimchi and even bone broth – rich in collagen – can all help an inflamed gut. Also, if you have suffered from years and years of an inflamed gut, probiotics should become your best friend. Finding a good probiotic supplement will replenish your microbiome
In addition to the mucus membranes located in our gut, our sinus are also covered with biofilms – thin films of bacteria. When there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria wreaking havoc on these films, it may result in a runny nose or other sinus problems. Effective ways to rebalance your biofilms include probiotics and prebiotics. Likewise, digestive enzymes that help break down biofilms or colostrum supplements can also promote healthy biofilms.
While nursing your gut back to health may take a while, even up to 1 to 2 years, some relief may be felt with just these minor adjustments. Pay attention to any changes you experience and see how they impact your allergy symptoms. Curing your allergies from a wholistic approach may be the solution to enjoying the change of seasons free from all the allergy drama.