I describe inflammation to my patients as a bucket with many different spouts (causes) of inflammation pouring into it including stress, inflammatory foods, poor intestinal integrity, environmental allergens, genetics, autoimmunity, environmental exposures, chronic infections and many others. When the combination of these causes fills the bucket to the top, inflammation spills over and symptoms appear. For some people this looks like chronic or seasonal allergies.
Food Intolerance and gut health:
This is an extremely common contributor to chronic allergies and will exacerbate seasonal allergies as well. Why is this? Food intolerances not only create inflammation in the intestines, they create inflammation in the entire body. You may not realize this, but 70% of the immune system is in the gut, so if there is a hyper-reaction going on there, then it will affect the whole body. The inflammation created by food intolerances damages the intestinal barrier, which will allow substances to cross into the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there. This, in turn creates more inflammation and sensitivity to foods and other allergens as the body tries to attack the foreign substances -even though in this case they are just food. In addition, the inflammation created by food intolerances imbalances the intestinal flora leading to even more problems.
There are two main types of immune responses our body mounts (and many minor ones). Th1 type responses are those mounted towards bacterial and viral infections. Th2 responses are those mounted towards parasites or are allergic (hypersensitivity) responses. These two types of responses act like a sea-saw, when Th1 responses are high, Th2 responses tend to go down and vice versa. More and more due to our hyper-clean environments, lower rates of infection disease, and prolific vaccine usage before the age of 1, people’s immune systems are Th2 dominant, meaning that they are prone to allergic responses including hay fever, asthma, eczema, food allergies, and hives.
Histamine intolerance and mast cell dysregulation:
What the heck is that? Histamine intolerance is when someone is unable to eliminate histamine in the body whether it be dietary histamine or internally generated. Why does this occur? More to come on this…. another full article due to the complexity
Indoor air pollutants, mold exposure, undetected pet allergies, and others can create chronic allergies or worsen seasonal allergies.
Certain nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to allergies including low antioxidant status, low omega-3 content, and others.
Testing that can be done:
When appropriate testing for food allergies and intolerances, gut barrier integrity, chronic infections, genetic predispositions, environmental exposures, inflammatory markers, or markers of mast cell disorders may be ordered.
Treatments for allergies:
Treatments may include clinical nutrition, homeopathic remedies, botanical remedies, and acupuncture.
This may include advice around food allergies and intolerances, high histamine and inflammatory foods, anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory foods, intestinal healing foods, support for clearing intestinal infections and overgrowth, and tailored probiotic selection.
This could include antioxidants, mast cell stabilizers, anti-inflammatories, those that promote Th1 and reduce Th2 responses, and those to promote intestinal health.
Acupuncture can also help tremendously with allergies, both chronic and seasonal. Acupuncture can help to modulate the immune system as well as treat the symptoms of allergies. Acupuncture is currently being offered by Dr. Tayson Heward at the Portland location and The Hood River Location
Timing of treatment:
For seasonal allergies, it’s recommended to start getting support two months before allergy season begins whether that be naturopathic or acupuncture support or both. This way we can address any contributing factors, and normalize inflammation and Th2 tendencies well before exposure to allergens occurs.