Seasonal Allergies, Diet & Quality Supplements
Many of us (around 10%) suffer from the irritating symptoms of seasonal allergies. While they are more common in the Spring, Fall, and Summer and less common in the Winter, there are common medications you can easily get from your health-care provider, even over-the-counter. However, alleviating these symptoms may also be achieved through changes in diet and supplementation.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies, or hay fever, is a collection of allergy symptoms related to environmental cues to your body during certain times of the year. They typically result when outdoor molds release their spores, and trees, grass, and weed release pollen particles into the air in order to fertilize other plants. These symptoms may be alleviated by reducing or eliminating exposure to the allergens or by taking medication.1
While some people are unaffected, people who are allergic to these mold spores or pollen have immune systems that target these particles as invaders, releasing chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream as defense, in turn causing allergy symptoms. Identifying whether symptoms are caused by an isolated event or seasonal changes can be identified by tracking their onset, specifically looking for a seasonal pattern to the emergence of the symptoms and continue as long as the allergen is present in the environment. Some symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Itchy nose and/or throat
- Nasal congestion
- Clear, runny nose
- Itchy, watery, and/or red eyes
The Pathology of Allergies
The symptoms of allergies are enabled by the body's pro-inflammatory reaction to its exposure to the allergen, specifically regulated by a family of transcription factors called NF-kB, which regulate the genes responsible for the inflammatory response.2 Reducing the causal factors beyond the symptoms themselves requires addressing and reducing the overall inflammatory response. Histamine is a compound released by cells in response to encountering allergens and inflammatory reactions, and interacts with the balance of helper T cells, the cells responsible for almost all adaptive immune responses and activate a chain of cells to eventually kill the target cells. 3,4 Specifically, histamines affect the balance of helper T cells Th1 and Th2. Achieving a balance helps the body to recover from allergic symptoms. Mitigation of the initial histamine release reduces the inflammation, the core of the allergic symptoms.
One means of achieving this mitigation is through diet. Addressing what is causing the seasonal allergy is the first step, followed by analyzing how environmental and food allergies are interacting with the severity of the allergic symptoms. Cultivating an immune-boosting diet plan to cleanse the body can help to alleviate allergic symptoms by making the body better equipped to handle the allergens coming into the system and aid recovery.
GI Issues and Allergens
There is a significant correlation between the incidence, duration and severity of seasonal and environmental challenges caused by allergens and the body's ability to fight off the invader, supported by an immune-boosting diet. Food allergies and intolerances, sometimes not even known by the individual, as well as dysbiosis play a part in most gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and diseases, making the allergen symptoms worse. The primary construct of creating an immune-boosting diet is eliminating or reasonably reducing all allergen contact and consumption to reduce allergic symptoms.
What is leaky gut?
Inside our bellies is an extensive intestinal lining consisting of more than 4,000 square feet of surface area that forms a tight barrier to control the passing of particles that will get absorbed into the bloodstream. A gut lining that is unhealthy may have large cracks or holes, which allow non-approved particles (partially digested foods, toxins, and bugs) to pass into the bloodstream unchecked and penetrate the tissues beneath. This passage can trigger an inflammatory response and negatively impact our healthy gut flora (normal bacteria) and can hurt our digestive processes and more.
Studies are suggesting that disrupted gut flora and inflammation may play a role in the development of a variety of common chronic diseases (celiac disease, Chron's, and irritable bowel syndrome). While genetics may play a role in developing leaky gut in some instances, studies show that a primary source of its development arises from the standard American diet that is low in fiber and high in saturated fats and sugar. Harvard Health advises removing foods that can be inflammatory and promote negative gut flora manipulation, such as alcohol, processed foods, and foods causing personal sensitivity or allergic reactions. Even foods that may have not previously caused reactions can be negatively harming your health as your body accumulates exposure to smaller quantities, developing a sensitivity.5
What Immune-Boosters Should You Introduce?
Our world is filled with natural, whole foods that our bodies were intended to eat without agitating our health and wellbeing. Many immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are common in our daily diets, and seeking out more of these foods can not only improve allergic symptoms but also fuel our body with its desired nutrition to enhance our health in many other ways. There are also some immune-boosters that are less common in our diets, and these can be boosted through the help of supplements.
Vitamin C is popularly known as an immune-boosting antioxidant, however, it is also hailed for its ability to lower histamine levels in the bloodstream, which in turn can prevent the onset of allergies. Vitamin C achieves this by making the histamine break down faster once it is released, and studies have shown that a Vitamin C deficiency can cause blood sugar and histamine levels to significantly escalate.
Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables. Major contributors to the American diet that contain Vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes, as well as red and green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, brussel sprouts, and kiwi. Supplemented Vitamin C can be found through dietary supplements of ascorbic acid, which has an equivalent bioavailability to naturally occurring Vitamin C in foods. Other forms include sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, and ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids.6
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and enables normal mineralization of the bone to maintain density and strength, and Vitamin D is also known as an anti-inflammatory vitamin. Further, studies have demonstrated that Vitamin D supplementation may help to prevent seasonal allergies and make symptoms disappear more quickly, while reducing the inflammatory response. There is also evidence to show that Vitamin D3 can activate certain regulatory immune system cells that prevent the release of chemicals that cause and worsen allergic diseases, as well as help to heal a leaky gut.
Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods beyond the flesh of fatty fishes (salmon, tuna, and mackerel). Some foods in the American diet are fortified with Vitamin D, such as the U.S. milk supply, however not in sufficient amounts. Vitamin D can most effectively be absorbed through the sun's UV rays (however, excessive exposure can generate other problems like skin cancer) and through Vitamin D supplements.6
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism and immune function. The body does not have a specialized storage for zinc and, therefore, requires a maintained daily intake. Due to its abilities as an immune-booster, there is some evidence that zinc may also be helpful in alleviating symptoms of colds and respiratory infections.7
Where Can I Find It?
Because zinc is so necessary to sustain our bodies and wellness, it is fortunate that it is so common among a wide variety of foods. The majority of the zinc provided by the American diet originates in red meat and poultry, but it is also common in food sources like beats, nuts, certain seafoods (crab and lobster), whole grains, and dairy products. Zinc is also available in supplement form if you are concerned you are not getting adequate levels and there are no known differences between the absorption, bioavailability, or tolerability of the different forms of zinc.8
The Bottom Line
Seasonal allergies plague many individuals across the country and world, and the symptoms are the result of the body's immune and inflammatory responses that result from the histamine production. Mitigating the inflammatory reaction and equipping your body to withstand and fight efficiently and effectively through an allergen attack can be accomplished through adjustments to the diet, specifically by eliminating personally allergenic and sensitive foods, processed foods, and foods that negatively hard your healthy gut flora. Further, arming your body with critical nutrients that allow the immune response to be more powerful and direct can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the response to the invader and nourish your body as well with foods and supplements containing Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and Zinc.
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