Updated: Apr 13
It’s that time of year again when the weather finally eases, the birds are singing, and the flowers and trees are in bloom. Some of us jump into the season joyfully while others tend to struggle, dreading the upcoming few weeks. Have you ever wondered why you struggle during the Spring?
What is Allergic Rhinitis (aka: Hay fever or seasonal allergies)?
Allergic Rhinitis is an over-reaction of the immune system due to a long-standing, gradual, accumulation of irritation to the immune system by various different factors.
Symptoms can include:
Congestion (nose, head, ears, lungs)
Runny nose, postnasal drip
Itchy eyes, nose or throat
Increased ear wax
The first step in addressing seasonal allergies is asking:
“WHY is the immune system compromised in the first place?”
Nearly 40% of the population worldwide – and more than fifty million Americans – report suffering from allergies each year. Each one of the following factors, by itself, can lead to chronic seasonal allergies, but most often, it's a combination that leads to and intensifies symptoms.
WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES OF SEASONAL ALLERGIES?
1) Overall gut health (poor digestion, dysbiosis, ‘leaky gut’)
2) Cross reactivity and allergy-aggravating foods
3) Liver congestion / poor detox function
4) Low adrenal function
5) Overall immune function
Let’s dive deeper!
1) OVERALL GUT HEALTH - A Story
Poor Digestion: Low stomach acid and/or pancreatic enzymes cause the maldigestion of food. Stomach acid = first line of defense. Maldigested food sits in the gut, it ferments and then it begins to feed unwanted bacteria and yeast overgrowth (or dysbiosis).
How to support digestion?
Digestive enzymes / Betaine Hcl
Meal spacing (3-6 hrs.)
Eat in a relaxed environment, take your time, enjoy each bite and CHEW
Apple cider vinegar, lemon or lime water before meals
Bitters / bitter foods (asparagus, artichoke, dandelion greens)
Cook your veggies
Fresh ginger/lemon tea
Other Herbal teas: dandelion, peppermint, cardamom, chamomile, ginger, lemon, fennel
Dysbiosis (abnormal gut microbiome): 80% of our immune system is within the gut. There are billions of normal or 'good bacteria' in the gut that are constantly repairing the intestinal lining, supporting digestion, absorbing and producing essential nutrition and protecting against invaders.
However, when the gut becomes overwhelmed by ‘opportunistic' bacteria/yeast, the good guys can’t do their jobs as efficiently. Over time, this breaks down the gut lining, causing irritation, inflammation, nutrient deficiency, and increased gut permeability or ‘leaky gut’.
Increased Gut Permeability or ‘Leaky Gut’: This is when the lining of the intestinal wall starts to break down and becomes 'leaky' - undigested food, bacteria/yeast, toxins and other substances are then able to get through the gut lining – into the blood stream - where they don't belong.
Since food particles often bear some resemblance to the larger molecules of pathogens, the immune system thinks they're invaders and a threat to our bodies! An immune response is launched! The immune system will then always be on alert for those items to reappear, and when they do, it more readily launches another response.
Starting a vicious cycle: REACT, REACT and eventually - OVER-REACT!
SO, WHAT COMPROMISES OVERALL GUT HEALTH TO BEGIN WITH?
1) Inflammatory & nutrient depleted diets (comprised of sugar & processed foods).
2) Chronic stress
3) Medications / Drug Use (antibiotics, NSAIDS & PPIs)
4) Inadequate sleep
5) Dysbiosis/imbalanced microbiome – inflammation due to ‘bad bugs’
6) Heavy alcohol consumption
Pretty much everyone we've treated for seasonal allergies has shown signs of gut imbalance. Fixing this underlying issue is essential for most people to achieve a hay fever-free life (and optimal overall health).
A Note on Histamine:
Histamine is an important part of the immune system that contributes to necessary inflammation during times of injury and healing. When histamine is unleashed, it sends inflammatory messages and signals throughout the entire body (throat, nose, gut, mouth, brain, skin, and lungs).
This immune response also stimulates an increased production of mucous to flush out ‘invaders’. This immune response and histamine release is what causes most of the symptoms that are associated with seasonal allergies.
Since a leaky gut has allowed this vicious cycle of immune system over-reactivity to develop, then the over-reaction to food particles tends to spill over and create issues to lots of other things. This is called Cross-Reactivity.
2) CROSS REACTIVITY & ALLERGY AGGRAVATING FOODS
The proteins in seemingly different substances can look alike to the immune system, so once it’s reacting to one, it’s more likely to react to all compounds that have similarity.
“Better safe than sorry”!
Allergies are simply indirect ailments of what is occurring within the gut.
Restoring the intestinal flora and intestinal mucous lining is key!
Food allergy/sensitivity is a frequent and important triggering factor. Common symptom-evoking foods include:
Dairy (grass-fed butter seems to be okay for most)
Grains/especially gluten containing
Food additives (sodium benzoate, monosodium glutamate, nitrates)
Trans fatty acids (margarine, shortening, fried foods, hydrogenated oils, some baked goods like donuts)
Here are some other foods you may want to avoid during the Spring season if you have allergies:
GUT HEALING NUTRIENTS:
Fiber - mostly low glycemic fruits (berries, apples) and lots of veggies. Ground flax and avocado are also great sources.
Zinc - oysters, crab, shrimp, scallops, lobster, beef and game meat, poultry, lamb, pork, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans, lentils, green peas, spinach, asparagus.
Glutamine - beef, poultry, fish, whole eggs, dairy, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, parsley, lentils.
Probiotics - sauerkraut, cultured full fat dairy or coconut yogurt, fermented veggies, kefir.
Prebiotics - Onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, dandelion greens (leafy greens in general), oats, flaxseeds, apples with skin.
Antioxidants - berries, artichokes, cabbage, beans, beets, spinach, apples, dark leafy greens, cinnamon, green tea, walnuts, pecans.
Omega 3s - fish, shellfish, seaweeds, walnuts, flaxseed, hemp, chia.
Quercetin - broccoli, onions, apples, berries, green tea, capers, asparagus, citrus, bell peppers, brussels, red onion, spinach.
Apple Cider Vinegar
3) LIVER CONGESTION
The second layer of defense lies within the liver. The liver normally screens the blood for toxins or foreign substances and destroys them or gets rid of them. However, a sluggish liver will leave these foreign substances to continue circulating.
We're bombarded by a huge variety of toxins, day in and day out, through our air, water, food, household and beauty products. This toxic bombardment contributes to the development and progression of seasonal allergies by intensifying the immune system’s tendency to over-react.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LIVER:
1) Boost Your Protein (AAs)!
2) Include Healthy Fats!
3) Eat an Array of Colorful Fruits and Veggies!
4) Boost B Vitamin Rich Foods! (Liver/organ meats, Beef, Seafood, Poultry, Beans/lentils/hummus, Avocado, Mushrooms, Nuts/seeds, Cruciferous veggies, sweet potato)
5) Probiotic and Prebiotic Rich Foods!
6) Boost Other Specific Nutrients with Antioxidant Properties and Detox Support (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Magnesium, CoQ10).
7) Include Therapeutic Herbs and Spices (ginger, garlic, cinnamon).
8) Remember to Hydrate! Including soups, smoothies, broths and bone broths as well as herbal teas.
9) Add Supplemental Support as needed (milk thistle, NAC, LVGB Complex, detox herbal teas).
4) LOW ADRENAL FUNCTION:
As we know, most allergies involve the release of histamine (and other pro-inflammatory substances). Cortisol - the stress hormone, is one of the primary hormones produced by the adrenal glands. It's a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and is secreted as part of the anti-inflammatory response.
Its objective is to remove and prevent excessive swelling and redness in nearly all tissues. For this reason, proper adrenal function plays an important role in mediating the histamine release and inflammatory reactions that cause the symptoms experienced with allergies.
When there's low adrenal function, they're less likely to produce enough cortisol to counteract inflammation, allowing allergic symptoms to continue unchecked. The more the adrenals have to work, the more fatigued they become and the less cortisol they produce, allowing histamine to inflame the tissues even more.
This vicious cycle can lead to adrenal fatigue as well as
more allergic reactions and symptoms.
Eliminating/reducing exposure to foods/environmental substances that cause allergic or sensitivity reactions, loving up the gut and supporting detox can help strengthen adrenal function and therefore the anti-inflammatory response.
HOW TO SUPPORT THE ADRENALS:
1) Increase Therapeutic Foods:
Coconut oil, flakes, yogurt, milk, water
Olives and olive oil
Grass-fed butter or ghee
Avocado and guacamole
Cruciferous Veggies (cooked): broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, leafy greens.
Fatty fish and shellfish (wild-caught salmon, sardines, oysters) ·Grass-fed lean meats and organ meats (liver)
Free range turkey, chicken
Nuts and seeds (walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin, flax, chia, hemp)
Celtic/Himalayan Sea salt
Medicinal mushrooms (cordyceps, chaga)
2) Specific Nutrients or Supplemental Support:
Vitamin B Complex (methylated)
Amino Acids: tyrosine, phenylalanine, taurine, theanine, GABA
Adaptogenic herbs: ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, schisandra, holy basil, licorice root, ginseng, eleuthero, maca, astragalus root
3) Lifestyle Factors:
Avoid staying up late and get sunlight first thing in the morning
Keep a regular sleep pattern
Minimize unnecessary stress (delegate and ask for help)
Reduce caffeine and sugars
Reduce processed / packaged foods (white flour, pasta, breads)
Boost whole foods
Eat 3 meals a day (4-6 hours apart) around the same time daily (don't skip)
Daily movement, yoga, exercise
Surround yourself with positive people
Make time for self-love: massage, soaking baths, aromatherapy, meditation
Seek counsel and support for trauma
5) OVERALL IMMUNE SUPPORT:
We can boost our immune system daily in many ways:
1) Eating a whole food diet, free of processed foods and sugar. For optimal immune system function, include these specific micronutrients:
Zinc – seafood, pumpkin seeds, beef, turkey, sea vegetables, and beans, lentils/legumes
Vitamin D – fatty fish (salmon), egg yolks, cheese (if tolerable), mushrooms
Vitamin C – oranges, papayas, strawberries, kiwi, organic leafy green vegetables (spinach, bok choy, kale), broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts
Vitamin A - liver, cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon; beta-carotene: sweet potato, winter squash, kale, collards, carrots
Selenium – Brazil nuts, halibut, sardines, salmon, shrimp, turkey, beef, brown rice, eggs, oats, spinach
Magnesium – pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, cashews, Brazil nuts, quinoa, seafood
2) Ensure adequate quantity and quality of restorative rest.
3) Try to reduce unnecessary stress in your life.
4) Work on getting adequate movement in daily. Regular exercise allows immune cells to perform effectively. It increases blood flow, reduces stress and inflammation, and strengthens antibodies.
5) Try to get sunshine and fresh air daily! Sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, mood, and the immune system.
6) Utilize supplements to help boost the immune system and support the body’s natural abilities to heal. Probiotic, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, NAC, Zinc, botanicals such as Elderberry, Echinacea, and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitaki).
Specific to seasonal allergies:
Natural Anti-Histamines: Vitamin C, Quercetin, Stinging Nettle, Bromelain, Butterbur.
Brands: Quercetin Ascorbate and HistaEze (Designs for Health), Hist Reset (Pure Encapsulations), Aller-Response (Source Naturals).
Other Natural Support for Allergy Season:
1) Do food sensitivity testing (or an elimination diet to find hidden food triggers).
2) Avoid NSAIDS and PPIs.
3) Increase healthy fats (fish, shellfish, walnuts, flaxseed, grass-fed beef, whole eggs)
4) Herbal Teas: Stinging Nettle, Echinacea, Elderberry, Tulsi, Lemon, Ginger, butterbur, peppermint.
5) Incorporate a Neti Pot (with distilled water).
6) Take your shoes off before coming inside (pollen, pesticides).
7) Close the windows on windy days.
8) Look for mold in your home or work environment.
9) Eat/drink foods that will boost your immune system such as local raw honey (try to consume 1/2 tbsp every single day from January on to boost your immune system to local environmental allergens), hot and spicy food, apple cider vinegar, and fresh organic vegetables.
10) A cool mist humidifier may help get rid of allergens in the air.
11) Essential oils and aromatherapy: mint oils relax the airways and help you breathe. Lavender, eucalyptus, rose, and peppermint can help combat hay fever symptoms.
12) Consider a HEPA filter to keep indoor air clean
13) Shower before bed and wash sheets more frequently
At the end of the day, there is a reason why you are experiencing the symptoms you do and many ways to support healing. Work on balancing and healing the gut, eat a nutrient rich diet, practice stress management techniques daily, support detoxification, be mindful of foods that cause you distress and utilize quality supplements when needed.
Visit our supplement store for trusted, quality supplements HERE.