A large portion of our immune systems and ability to filter out unwanted and harmful chemicals is in our intestines. There is a condition of weakness called “leaky gut.” This is a situation of increased intestinal permeability caused by ingesting harmful chemicals (artificial ingredients), overeating sugar and refined carbohydrates, antibiotic and other drug use, and even emotional stress. These conditions allow food particles to pass through the walls of the colon and enter the systemic circulation. This may result in allergic reactions to both new items and existing food allergies to worsen. Holistic/integrative medicine treats leaky gut in a multi-faceted approach. Besides avoiding toxic harmful foods and drinks, such a soda and sugar, white flour, aspartame, food coloring and other artificial additives, a proactive remedy is taking a quality pro-biotic (acidophilus). Probiotics are stains of good bacteria essential for gut health and proper digestion along with creating a milieu for a strong immune system. Several studies show that probiotics reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies by enhancing immunity. Life-style measures at reducing the reaction to stress such as aerobic exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, vacations etc. are recommended. Supplements that boost adrenal function are remarkably helpful. These include licorice root, ashwaganda, rhodeola, valerian, passion flower, hops, magnolia and others. L-theanine is a wonderful supplement that boosts serotonin and thereby lowers stress response. These all help reduce allergies and asthma, similar to taking cortisone(prednisone).
As much as possible we should not be exposed to air pollution. Traffic exhaust, diesel fuel exhaust especially, increases production of antigen-specific IgE and histamine. Using air filters at home and in the car is helpful.
In the home, as mentioned in the first part of this series, things like dust mites found in the sheets and pillowcases and old mattresses should be killed and avoided. Indoor building materials such as paints, stains, carpeting and carpet padding, should be avoided. Phthalates from plastics can cause allergies and asthma. Dry cleaning chemicals can be harmful. A recent surprising study showed that feather pillows and bedding actually accumulate less dust mites than synthetic ones – contrary to what the allergist told my mother when I was a child.
In any environment toxic molds can wreak havoc on the immune system setting up a cascade of allergies and asthma symptoms. So it is critical to consider mold especially if the area had been exposed to water like after a flood or leak.
Several recent controlled randomized clinical trials showed that acupuncture significantly reduced asthma symptoms and reduced the use if inhaled steroids. In another study a randomized trial of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis responded favorably to acupuncture treatments.
The inflammation that results from chronic allergies triggers long-term changes in the structure of the affected organs and in their function. Any measure taken to reduce inflammation would be beneficial. Omega 3 fatty acids, turmeric, boswelia, and especially nettle leaf are all recommended. Nettle leaf extract inhibited several key inflammatory events responsible for seasonal allergy symptoms. In one double-blind randomized study subjects taking nettle leaf reported relief of most symptoms and 48% rated nettle leaf as being more effective than over-the-counter medications. Another herb tested in several randomized controlled studies is butterbur extract.
Meds like Claritin block leuketienes which stop allergic response. The bioflavonoid quercetin not only blocks leuketrienes but also inhibits histamine, which are responsible for the early phase of the allergic reaction. Quercetin also suppresses activation of eosinophils, the main type of cells called to action during the late phase of an allergic reaction. Vitamin C along with quercetin consistently show an improvement in allergic symptoms.
Xclear is a sinus care nasal spray. It is a combination of xylitol, saline and grapefruit seed extract. It gently cleans sinus and nasal passages, washing away pollutants and other airborne substances such as pollens and molds. It is remarkably effective at reducing sinusitis and asthma.
Besides acupuncture and acupressure and reflexology chiropractic spinal adjustments also improve allergies and asthma symptoms. Adjustments both prevent symptoms and alleviate them once they begin. Any stress release action of course is helpful, whether taking a walk or swimming or meditating or listening to relaxing music, all are recommended.