Allergy Season on the Horizon
Spring has finally arrived! The weather is getting warmer and the flowers are blooming. It is a wonderful time of year, but for many, it also means the onset of allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, it is estimated that 50 million people suffer from allergies in the U.S (1), with 30% of adults and 40% of children affected. Allergic reactions can be induced by the environment, drugs, chemicals, and food agents. Whatever the provoking factor, allergies are the most common chronic health condition in the country and have become a major burden in society today.
When an allergen is ingested, inhaled, or enters through the skin, the immune system reacts very specifically to that agent. An antibody called IgE is produced in high amount which provokes the release of inflammatory proteins, one of which being histamine. Allergic symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, rashes, and asthma, to more severe symptoms like a drop in blood pressure, swelling of the throat and tongue, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness. The latter symptoms are known as "anaphylaxis" which is a severe and dangerous reaction of the immune system to the allergen.
How do naturopathic doctors treat seasonal allergies?
As naturopathic doctors, instead of prescribing antihistamines which only target the symptoms of allergy, we focus on evaluating a patient's overall allergenic load. By taking this root-cause approach, we can help patients decrease their overall allergenic load by removing foods that they may be allergic or intolerant to and taking nutritional or herbal agents to decrease inflammation.
I know what food allergies are, but what is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is a lesser reaction than a food allergy, but if accumulated in the body over time, can cause increased overall inflammation. Intolerance involves another type of antibody called IgG. Like their IgE counterpart, IgG antibodies create an inflammatory reaction when the immune system reacts with disruptive food particles in the blood. Unlike IgE reactions, however, IgG reactions are usually lower in intensity and delayed for up to 3 days after ingestion of the food. A build up of IgG antibodies leads to high inflammation in the body causing increased systemic inflammation. When the overall allergy load increases, then the system is more susceptible to environmental allergens and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, fatigue, cramping, skin disorders, headaches and migraines. According to the Mayo clinic, food intolerance is a common imbalance with 3 million cases per year (2). As our food quality worsens, food allergies and intolerances continue to increase. It is important to address these imbalances early before they progress to more severe chronic diseases.
Can we identify food allergy and intolerance?
IgE and IgG food antibodies can be evaluated with a simple blood test or finger prick. Once these foods have been identified, they can be removed from the diet and the overall allergenic load will be decreased. With a change in diet to decrease these food intolerances and allergens, lifestyle modifications and nutritional supplementation, patients can find relief from seasonal allergies.
Allergies are a sign of an imbalance in the body that can lead to more serious complications down the road. If you suffer from allergies, it is important to get evaluated and take steps to decrease your overall allergenic load and optimize the immune function.
This spring is a better time than ever to get started on your road to recovery!
1. "Research.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. www.aafa.org/page/allergy-facts.aspx. 2017.
2. “Allergies.” Mayo Clinic. November 2016. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/dxc-20270197.2017.