By Dr Erin Wiley
Spring has sprung, and for many people the thrill of the gorgeous weather is tempered with itchy water eyes and a runny nose. While you may see your allergies as an annoyance, they are also a reflection of the status of your overall health.
An allergy by definition is an inappropriate immune response. Your immune system attacks allergens (like pollen) the same way it would attack a foreign bacteria or virus. Over-stimulating your immune system can lead to increased frequency and severity of allergies, and a tired immune system does not have the same time and attention for fighting infection and repairing damaged cells. An integrative approach to your immune function and your overall health can help you develop a healthy lifestyle plan that will not only decrease your allergy symptoms but also improve your overall health.
An integrative approach offers you the ability to focus on the treatment modalities that are right for you, as an individual. Working with your Naturopathic Doctor can help you develop a plan that is sustainable and meets your overall needs. Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Histamine is responsible for the inflammatory symptoms associated with allergies: redness, itching, and swelling. Histamine is released by our immune cells when they are irritated by an allergen. Certain natural remedies can help prevent the release of histamine by making our immune cells more resilient under stress. These substances are often referred to as stabilizers and can be taken during allergy season to decrease your symptoms.
Avoiding your individual triggers to allergy will decrease your symptoms, calm your reactions and strengthen your overall immune system. The first step is to identify to the source or sources of your allergies. Seasonal allergens (tree, grass, and ragweed), dust, cat, dog and mold can be tested by your Naturopathic Doctor. Additionally, food sensitivities can also be tested. Food sensitivity elimination will also calm inflammation and improve your overall immune stability. Once you know to the sources of your allergies, a plan can be put in place to help you avoid your triggers.
Examples of allergen avoidance include:
- Rinsing allergens away with a netti pot
- Using dust covers and removing carpet
- Keeping your windows closed when pollen is circulating
- Using Hepa-filters on vacuums and air filters
- Avoiding scented products, including candles, laundry detergent, soap, air freshener and anything with “fragrance and perfume”
- Following a hypoallergenic diet
The Digestion- Immune Connection
Your digestive system and your immune system are intimately connected. Your immune system lines your digestive tract, scanning everything that comes into your body and labeling it as either safe or unsafe. Food sensitivities, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, drugs, pesticides and other chemicals irritate your immune system and the ecology found inside the bowels. Gut bacteria are very important to both bowel and immune health. A healthy balance of bacteria will calm the immune system and down-regulate the allergic response. Taking probiotics, consuming a healthy diet and heaving healthy bowel movements are the first step to improving immune health and addressing the root causes of many allergy symptoms.
Detoxification and Immuno-toxicity
Unfortunately, we live with a great deal of exposure to chemicals that are toxic to the immune system. As the level of exposure and the body burden of chemicals increase, so does immuno-reactivity. The immune system recognizes these chemicals as foreign and mounts a chronic inflammatory immune response.
Working with your Naturopathic doctor you can learn how to avoid chemical exposures and how to support liver, kidneys and bowel with toxin elimination. Supplements can also be used to lower the chemical burden on the immune system. Your ND can also test your body burden of toxic chemical such as pesticides, volatile solvents, BPA, phthalates, parabens and more. Resources are also available for identifying allergens and immunotoxic compounds in your cosmetics and personal care products through www.ewg.org and the Sate Cosmetic Database (add link to http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/).
Getting the Support You Need
Taking charge of your allergies and supporting your overall immune health requires a great deal of education and the right support. Lifestyle changes can be challenging, but your Naturopathic doctor can help. Treating the root cause of your symptoms is the key to feeling great and promoting long term health. Perhaps the most powerful tool you have is developing a strong relationship with your health care provider. Should you have questions about an integrative approach to allergies our team is here to provide answer and help you achieve your individual health goals. We hope to see you soon!
Dr. Erin Wiley is the Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute. IHI operates as a true integrative medical team where clinicians interact and communicate directly about their clients care. In her practice, Dr. Wiley has a special interest in digestive health, endocrinology and hormone balance with a clinical focus on fertility, menopause, anxiety, depression, healthy weight loss, detoxification and environmental medicine.