All about Allergy and Reactivity
Does your dog send you into a sneezing frenzy? Do certain foods leave you bloated and headachy? Or do pollens and certain grasses leave your skin desperately itchy? Or is there something you are reacting to by you can’t pinpoint it?
Allergen Avoidance is Just the Beginning
Allergies are one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australia; with 7.7 million people estimated to suffer from one or more types of allergy by 2050. Symptoms vary and can range from allergic rhinitis, hay fever and digestive disorders; to eczema, asthma and even life-threatening anaphylaxis. In practice, allergen avoidance is a fundamental and powerful therapeutic tool; however, merely eliminating an allergen (e.g. a specific reactive food) does not address the underlying causes driving the allergic response. A treatment approach that aims to diminish reactivity will ideally involve addressing one or more of the following physiological imbalances: immune dysregulation, gut barrier defects, microbiome alterations, and a heightened inflammatory response. Using this multi-faceted approach to allergy management in combination with symptomatic treatment, our practitioners can suggest ways that may help to modulate immune function, promote tolerance and improve patients’ quality of life.
First Tame the Beast
Allergens such as food, pet fur and pollens, insects, moulds and dust mites are ubiquitous. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to proteins in the environment that are commonly harmless for most people. An allergic reaction involves a complex interplay between immune cells (T cells) and effector cell activation (mast cells, basophils, eosinophils), subsequently releasing immune mediators such as histamine and pro-inflammatory cytokines. These mediators rapidly increase vascular permeability, vasodilation, mucus secretion and bronchial constriction – explaining some of the common symptoms of allergy. Taming this intense inflammatory response can provide symptomatic relief.
Fanning out the Flames of Inflammation
The preliminary goal for allergy management will be providing symptomatic relief with herbs and nutrients that dampen the allergic response.
- Aller-7®, a proprietary blend of seven standardised herbal extracts, has shown antihistamine, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Its ability to reduce histamine via mast cell stabilisation was demonstrated in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial; with patients taking Aller-7® for three months experiencing a significant reduction of allergic rhinitis symptoms and a 70% improvement in Quality of Life.
- Quercetin also reduces effector cell activation, and decreases inflammatory mediators; assisting with membrane stabilisation of mast cells, reducing histamine release and improving symptoms (e.g. sneezing, rhinorrhoea and nasal pruritus).
- Bromelains act through the induction of proteolytic activity at the inflammatory site, reducing the production of plasmakinins and decreasing the vasodilation and vascular permeability to target swelling and oedema.
Your practitioner will be able to recommend a product containing the above ingredients as a highly effective treatment strategy to reduce allergy symptoms via the potent inhibition of histamine release and the reduction of oedema and inflammation.
A More Tolerant World
Why one patient reacts to a potential allergen and another doesn’t centres on an aberrant immunological response; a failure of the immune system to determine friend from foe. By addressing the factors that drive immune dysfunction and influence tolerance, patients have the potential to decrease the frequency and/or intensity of symptoms and improve short- and long-term health and wellbeing.
Getting to the Guts of the Issue
With an intimate connection between immunity and gastrointestinal structure and function, support of both systems is critical. Individuals with asthma, eczema and urticaria have greater intestinal permeability than non-allergic individuals. Modulating tight junctions can control the degree of permeability, thereby reducing exposure and response to allergens. Glutamine is fundamental to epithelial integrity, and combines with vitamin A, zinc, vitamin D and various herbs to stabilise tight junction structure; assisting to reduce intestinal permeability underlying the allergic response.
Further, secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), found in mucus secretions, is considered the first line of defence against the external environment, which may include antigens and pathogenic microorganisms. Increasing sIgA with shiitake mushroom, vitamin A and glutamine aids in regulating gut-associated immunity to improve allergen tolerance.
Restoring Immune Balance
In an attempt to regulate immunity, reishi induces T helper 1 cells and supports the activation and maturation of dendritic cells to lessen immune reactivity. Perilla works to alleviate symptoms via the down-regulation of cytokine and T helper cell production, and the inhibition of histamine release and inflammation; while baical skullcap provides antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects. Even the liver is involved in oral tolerance, liver cells seize immunologically active material in order to dampen the intensity of the immune reaction. So supporting liver function can aid allergen clearance and immune tolerance.
Make Peace With the Enemy
Effective symptomatic management can help relieve the physiological and often distressing consequences of allergy. By also addressing the underlying drivers, such as immune dysregulation, inflammation and gut-derived factors, we can improve our patients’ threshold of tolerance and allow them to once again enjoy the foods and activities they love.
If you suffer from allergies, make a appointment to see one of our qualified Naturopaths and Nutritionists here.