Natural Solutions to Springtime Allergies – Invite Health Podcast, Episode 46
Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
Many clients request a more natural solution to allergies because they want to avoid the side effects from antihistamine drugs. Antihistamines are drugs used to treat allergy symptoms; they do not get rid of your allergy.
Background on Antihistamines
As far as antihistamine side effects, people can generally put up with the sleepiness and dry mouth issues caused by antihistamines. But reports of antihistamines damaging a user’s memory and contributing to dementia have stopped many from using them – people would rather suffer with their allergies.
So why would allergy medication affect the brain? The problem is that all antihistamines share an unwanted bundle of side effects because they also have an anticholinergic effect.
Anticholinergic meaning they block the activity of an important neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine that transmits messages to the nerves of the brain and in the body.
In other words, besides their antihistaminic activity for treating allergies, when they unintentionally but always inhibit acetylcholine it affects both your brain and body with many side effects. Acetylcholine is required by our brain for repairing cells in our grey matter, and is needed to solve problems, to learn, and to remember; it is the memory neurotransmitter so you do not want to block acetylcholine’s actions for your memory over an allergy season.
This anticholinergic activity besides affecting the brain also affects the body leading to constipation, urinary retention, increased heart rate and many other side effects.
Nutrients to Support A Healthy Respiratory System with Allergies
So what do you do? Continue suffering from runny nose, dizziness, and sore throat seen in allergies? No! There are herbs and nutrients that help and they are very effective when combined properly.
Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid which has anti-inflammatory activity and which has shown ability to reduce the chemicals released by the immune system that irritate the respiratory tract during an allergic reaction. These would include Interleukin 13. For instance, Rosemary may help reduce the reaction to dust mites and pollens.
Interestingly, a mushroom originally found in the Himalayan Mountains known as Cordyceps sinensis can help. Cordyceps is endangered in the wild so we obtain it from mushroom farmers. Cordyceps influences Asthma and lung inflammation;
Allergies are a common trigger for asthmatic attacks, including:
- > Airway inflammation even in patients with Asthma
- > Even severe asthma – improved breathing and lung function, reduced inflammation, reduced symptoms
- > Cordyceps reduces inflammatory chemicals released by the immune system and helps calm down immune cells that would otherwise attack the respiratory tract; it reduces molecules that irritate the nose, throat, skin, and lungs such as NF-KB, Interleukin 13, and the activation of immune cells during an allergic reaction or an asthmatic attack.
- > Importantly Cordyceps raises the level of IL-10. IL-10 is released by our body to reduce inflammation and this is a major way that Cordyceps alleviates the chronic inflammation during your allergy season.
- Black Cumin Seed is a powerful inhibitor of allergies but it also helps with asthma.
With these herbs there are no severe side effects or toxicities; generally they as safe as placebo.
Are there any herbs that pollen allergy sufferers should watch out for? Yes! If you are allergic to daisies or sunflowers look out for any herb in the aster family; this especially includes Echinacea, not only can it trigger an allergic reaction but because it stimulates the immune system it can make the allergic reaction worse.
It will also help you to breathe easier if you know the concept of cross reactivity. When you are allergic, you’re immune system is reacting to the proteins in what you are allergic to.
Cross-reactivity in allergic reactions occurs when the proteins in one substance you’re allergic to (typically pollen) are similar to the proteins found in another substance (typically a food). The cross-reactivity between pollens and foods is called Oral Allergy Syndrome or Pollen-Food Syndrome. This is especially problematic during your allergy season.
Speaking of seasons, if your allergies occur in the very early spring it is usually a reaction to pollen from trees. Suffering during the summer is usually due to grass pollen, and allergies in the fall are related to weeds pollenating.
So people suffering with pollen allergies (allergic rhinitis or hay fever) can develop symptoms around and in the mouth and throat immediately after eating raw fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds that contain proteins cross-reactive to the pollens.
Important examples are people with an allergy to birch tree pollen, they may experience symptoms after eating raw apples, peaches, pitted fruits, carrot, peanut and hazelnut among others. Likewise, ragweed allergic individuals experience symptoms with melons among other foods. Symptoms can include itching or tingling of the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth or throat. In addition, there may be hives around the mouth area where the food came into contact with the skin or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat tightness.
In less than 3% of Oral Allergy Syndrome reactions, symptoms may become systemic (beyond the mouth or throat) or result in anaphylaxis and this is dangerous.
Cooked forms of the foods are usually tolerated because the food proteins which are pollen cross-reactive are fragile and are broken down when subjected to heat or stomach acids (so, for example, raw apples can cause symptoms but a baked apple can be eaten without any symptoms. Not all people with pollen allergies have oral allergy syndrome (OAS), but many do. And, for those who do have oral allergy syndrome, they may experience symptoms with some but not all foods cross-reactive to a particular pollen to which they are allergic.
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