Spring into Action: Reducing the Effects of Allergies|
Allergies - one of the world's most common chronic conditions -- afflicts even more of us at this time of year as we add seasonal allergies to the list of environmental, food, pet, and other allergies and chronic conditions that affect millions all year round.
At least one in ten Americans find themselves sneezing through the spring season and in some sections of the US, where pollen levels have soared, that number may be even higher.
The immune system has very sophisticated mechanisms for locating and eliminating anything in the body that is deemed to be 'foreign' or'not self.' Allergies are the result of your immune system overreacting to otherwise harmless substances. These can be pollens, pet dander, dust, mold, food, and any number of substances in our environment.
Seasonal allergies are triggered when the body inhales pollen and it becomes trapped in the mucus layer of the nasal passages. The body overreacts to the presence of pollens by sending out too much of the antibody immunoglobulin, which in turn, triggers the body to pump out histamine --causing runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing, itching... well, you get the picture.
Interestingly, there is genetic component to allergies. When one parent has allergies, there is a 1 in 3 chance that their children will too. If both parents have allergies, the chances increase to 7 in 10. At least 3 genes are believed to be responsible for allergy, but only one has been identified. People who are 15 to 25 years of age are the most allergy prone, but allergies can develop at any age.
Dr. D'Adamo writes in his book, Allergies: Fight Them with the Blood Type Diet. that hay fever appears to be more specific to people with Blood Types O and B (specifically, grass pollen in B's). And, regardless of type, being a non-secretor heightens the risk of allergies and other inflammatory conditions.
Camels and Straw
What are allergies? Well, in a simplified sense, an allergic reaction is an adverse or inappropriately amplified immune system response to something that many other people find harmless. The most common manner this response expresses itself is with headaches, fatigue, sneezing, watery eyes, and congestion.
A useful way to think of allergies is by way of a metaphor of "total load." What do I mean by "total load"? Well, in a simple sense, we are all like camels. We can carry a certain burden without our backs giving way and collapsing. Thinking in these terms is often quite useful in terms of dealing with seasonal allergies. What are the burdens we carry? Well, they include shared burdens like environmental pollution and toxins. They might also include individual burdens like poor diet, stressful relationships or jobs, lack of sleep, over or under exercise, or our current health status. What happens if the total load we are supporting is well below our ability to endure and we add some seasonal pollen onto the camel's back? Actually not too much happens. The camel keeps on going along on its merry way, still able to continue effortlessly since its burden is within its capability of enduring. But on the other hand, what happens when we are already carrying a load that puts us close to our limits and we add some seasonal pollen onto our camel's back? That's right; it collapses.
While physiologically allergies are quite complex, from a real world perspective the model above is actually quite useful in dealing with this challenge. Did you know that many allergy sufferers notice significant and sustained improvement in symptoms when they switch to the appropriate blood type diet? This is because they have, in effect, removed a great deal of the burden they were carrying. With the removal of this burden, they are now able to support the added weight the environment adds much more readily. So, step one is to be extra careful about the foods you eat during allergy season.
What You Can Do
I mentioned that diet plays an important role in allergies. Some researchers have indicated that as much as 55% of your immune system is actually located in your digestive system. All of the same types of factors that impact respiratory allergies like IgE, mast cell degranulation, cytokine imbalances, histamine release, and prostaglandin imbalances (its okay if you don't know what these terms mean) can be acted out in the digestive system. One of the simplest and most profound manners to moderate against these imbalances is consistent exposure to a range of probiotic bacteria (either in supplements or cultured/fermented foods). These types of friendly bacteria (including Lactobaccilus sp. and Bifidus sp.) tend to make the immune system in the digestive tract respond in a much more balanced and appropriate manner. Similarly foods that promote the growth of these bacteria (as appropriate for your blood type) like cumin, larch arabinogalactan, green tea, dandelion root, and ginger, to name a few, are useful additions to the diet. Nutritional supplements Polyflora B and Polyflora AB contain Lactobaccilus sp,. and Bifidus sp. is found in Polyflora A.
A second strategy for immune balancing is to add some stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) leaf into your diet as a tea or as a nutritional supplement. This herb tends to promote a more balanced immune system so can often be quite helpful. Stinging nettles is found in the nutritional supplement Genoma EQ.
Another herb that is both a wonderful addition to the diet and quite useful is "rose hips". In our practice we advise our clients to have a good rose hip supplement such as our Proberry Caps on hand. At the first sign of allergies we advise taking a capsule or two of this food concentrate. They can continue to take a teaspoon of the rose hips every 30 minutes or as needed. Since the solid extract is virtually impossible to locate, drinking a nice strong tea made from rose hips several times daily is an adequate replacement.
The last tea worth mentioning is green tea. Many of my patients have reported substantial benefits from consuming green tea; however, not all green teas are created equal, and most do not seem to exert any influence on allergic symptoms. In practice we have actually only found two brands to date that have produced satisfactory results. One of these is by a company called Scientific Botanicals; however, it is only sold to the professional market. Dr. D'Adamo has made the other green tea brand - Mr. Itaru's Green Tea - available through D'Adamo Personalized Nutrition. When you make green tea it is important to use hot but not boiling water. It is also important to only steep the leaves for about 30-45 seconds. This should result in a deep lime-green colored tea. For best results, use those two simple guidelines and then enjoy several cups per day.
A last "hygienic" note to mention is to get an old-style soap with olive oil or other natural oils as the base. Run your fingernails through the soap twice daily, and then rinse the soap away. Most of the pollen and bacterial debris on the fingers actually accumulates under the nails. Touching any mucus membrane with your fingers can then increase your environmental burden substantially, resulting in....you guessed it, worsening of allergies. This simple technique can substantially reduce the accumulation of this type of debris. (These old-style natural oil based soaps are high in saponins so seem to work while the brand name soaps do not work well in my experience).
It is important to always seek to remove some of the burden from the camel's back. It is also important to make the camel stronger. While most of these suggestions actually do contribute in both of these areas, additional factors that make the camel stronger can generally be addressed by many natural medicine practitioners (most Naturopaths are experts in this area). Make the commitment to begin strengthening your camel today.