April showers bring May…..ALLERGIES!?!?
Allergy season is a challenging time for more than 25% of adults in the US. The constant onslaught of sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, headache, and congestion can make daily life a struggle. Between late winter and early summer, with a peak in the spring, your immune system is working hard to fight off allergens such as pollen, dust, and mold spores, which can trigger allergic reactions.
The immune system is the body's natural defense system, and it plays a crucial role in protecting us against infections, diseases, and allergens. However, it can become overwhelmed and thus weakened during allergy season, making us more susceptible to illness and other health issues.
Therefore, it's important to take steps to support and protect your immune system during allergy season. Let’s explore some practical tips and strategies to help you better manage your allergies so you can enjoy the season to its fullest.
Allergies are a common condition where the immune system reacts abnormally to a harmless substance. There are several types of allergies, including:
Understanding your allergy symptoms is essential to managing your allergies effectively. Common allergy symptoms include:
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, allergies can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. It's important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, including difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, and a rapid heartbeat.
By now you may have heard that 70-80% of the immune system is located in the digestive and gastrointestinal tracts (henceforth known as “the gut”). The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi (the microbiota), and it plays a crucial role in the immune system in several ways:
Feed your gut microbiota – the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in your gut are hungry bugs! They require a wide variety of fiber in abundance and are especially fond of fermented foods.
Focus on nutrient rich foods – Certain foods contain compounds known to improve allergy sumptoms such as bromelain, curcumin, and quercetin. Vitamin A, C, and E are especially important to the maintenance and balance of the immune system. Stock your fridge with:
Avoid ragweed cousins – If you have a ragweed allergy, the following foods may trigger an allergic response and should be avoided:
Avoid foods you are sensitive to – some foods may worsen allergy symptoms by triggering an allergic reaction or causing inflammation. Common food sensitivity triggers include:
Food sensitivities can be hard to pin down, as the symptoms usually occur one to three days after the consumption of the trigger food. Be on the lookout for any of these symptoms:
If you suspect a food intolerance, begin keeping a food journal. Write down all the foods you eat in addition to how your body is feeling. After a few weeks, you may be able to see a pattern emerge. If you would prefer a food sensitivity test, ask your functional medicine practitioner to recommend a reliable test.
By now I believe we can all agree that exercise, sleep, and stress have an influence on just about every aspect of health, including your experience of seasonal and environmental allergies! How you ask?
Exercise: Regular exercise helps to reduce inflammation in the body and increase circulation, which can help to reduce allergy symptoms. It has been shown to boost the production of antibodies, which are essential for fighting off allergens.
Sleep: Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and allergens. It also causes the body to release more histamines, the chemicals responsible for symptoms such as itchy eyes and runny nose. Additionally, lack of sleep can worsen allergy symptoms by causing fatigue, irritability, and congestion.
Stress: As with sleep deprivation, chronic stress can weaken the immune system and worsen allergy symptoms by causing inflammation and increasing histamine production.
There are several types of supplements that may influence your experience of seasonal allergies, including:
It is important to note that supplements have a profound effect on our systems – that is why they are so effective. That is also why they must be taken with care, preferably under the guidance of your functional medicine practitioner.
Some supplements may be inappropriate under certain conditions (such as high/low blood pressure or pregnancy) or may interact with certain medications.
The recommended dosages for supplements may vary depending on the specific supplement and individual needs. It's important to consult with your functional medicine provider for personalized recommendations.
With seasonal allergies, your immune system is already on overdrive. Help it out by reducing the antigens in your environment:
Dust and vacuum regularly: Dust and vacuum your home regularly to remove allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap allergens and prevent them from circulating back into the air.
Take off your shoes: Keep allergens from being tracked throughout your home by taking your shoes off right when entering.
Wash bedding and curtains: Wash your bedding and curtains in hot water to remove allergens. Use hypoallergenic bedding and dust mite covers.
Use an air purifier: An air purifier can help to filter out allergens from the air, reducing your exposure to them. Make sure to choose an air purifier with a HEPA filter for the best results.
Keep you’re A/C clean: Change return air filters at least every 3 months, but more often if needed. Consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned every several years.
Close your windows: While I recommend opening your windows often during most times of the year, keep your windows closed during peak allergy season to prevent pollen and other allergens from entering your home.
Avoid fragrances: Items like scented candles, air fresheners, and perfumes can aggravate allergies.
If you are still struggling with seasonal allergy symptoms, please feel free to reach out to me so we can discuss other options or potential underlying causes.