Spring has finally arrived, awakening nature and all its beauty but that’s not the only thing stirring. With the change of the seasons, your ears start to feel as if you have mushrooms stuffed inside them, nose a swollen pyramid that leaks and dribbles, upper lip raw from the tissue paper abuse and nostrils as dry as pizza crust. For allergy sufferers, this time of year can be both a blessing and a curse. While the most effective way to deal with your allergies is to prepare your body 2-3 months before "allergy season", there are still ways you can help reduce symptoms.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, what exactly is an allergic reaction? It was common belief that allergies were a likely result of an overactive immune system. Antibodies called Immunoglobulins (IgE) pop up with the sole purpose of triggering the release of histamine - a protein that inflames your tissues and causes leaky noses, among other things. Despite decades of inquiry, researchers are still unable to pin down why allergies occur. Because allergies basically mirror the way our bodies respond to parasites- working to expel them through sneezes and watery eyes- the prevailing belief among allergy experts has shifted in recent years. They believe allergies are not just some genetic mistake but a way of protecting our ancestor’s lives against toxic pollutants.
Exploring what an allergy is helps us navigate different approaches to reduce or mitigate the histamine reaction. We’ve put together a list of things you can do to make allergy season less like stuffed mushroom ears.
Histamine Intolerance vs Allergies
If you have food allergies, you know the drill: eat so much as a crumb, and it feels like your immune system is preparing for the end of times. Cue the hives and your stomach literally cramping your style. But maybe your so called allergies are aren’t allergies at all. These and other symptoms could instead be a sign of histamine intolerance - a lesser known condition that is basically a fancy way of saying you might have too much histamine floating around in your body. Stored in almost all of the body’s various tissues, histamine acts as a neurotransmitter that passes information between your brain and body. It is also a component of stomach acid that helps us break down food. Because histamine plays so many different roles in how our body functions, symptoms of intolerance are broad and are easily be mistaken for other conditions. Some of the most common symptoms of histamine intolerance to be aware of include:
Abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal weirdness
Dermatological issues such as eczema, rashes and itchy skin
Headaches and dizziness
The prevailing theory surrounding histamine intolerance is that having too much of the chemical in your body, can lead to some unpleasant symptoms if your body is sensitive to the chemical. This may happen when consuming high-histamine foods such as fermented foods, nightshade vegetables (eggplant, potato, bell peppers etc), processed foods and more.
One of our most crucial organs. Like airport security scanning thorough the hundreds of people and their luggage, the liver processes toxins, chemicals, and hormones before being broken down, absorbed, and/or used by our bodies. Often times, due to our environment, stress, and poor lifestyle and dietary habits, the liver becomes overburdened. It is unable to deal with an extra workload, contributing to an easily triggered histamine response. Eating a whole foods diet, as many vitamins (such as vitamin B6) is required for detox pathways can help lessen this work load. Even including more bitter foods in your diet, such as bitter melon and dandelion greens.
Addressing your risk factors
Research has found that there are common pathways between autoimmune diseases - i.e. Hashimoto’s and Lupus and allergies. Naturopathic doctors use herbs, supplements, and acupuncture on top of lifestyle and dietary modifications to treat autoimmune conditions. Chronic stress can have a damaging impact on your health from the way your body processes histamine, how your liver functions, to the integrity of your gut lining. Stress management is an integral part of any treatment plan.
There is no magic pill that will work without changes to lifestyle and diet. There is, however, plenty of research around certain supplements working in synergy with those changes we make. Curcumin, for example, is an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement that has the added perk of aiding liver function. The quality and therapeutic dose of your supplement is important, and should be determined on an individual basis.
Have more questions about you allergies? Dr. Priscilla Tang offers free 15-min consultations for new patients. Call or book online 24/7 today!