Itchy eyes, runny nose, mucus, and allergies...Oh My!
You suffer the itchy, runny eyes and nose. The dry, scratchy throat. Worst of all, the itching on the roof of the mouth and inside the ears. It's enough to drive a person to spend hard earned money on great doses of antihistamines and heaps of tissues for several months of the year! Although there are natural treatments for keeping some symptoms in check, such as homeopathic preparations or supplementing with Quercetin, wouldn't it be nice to have no allergies at all?
What is an allergy?
When there is an injury or perceived invader, the immune system protects the body by sending out specific white blood cells (antibodies) to protect the injury site or attack the invader to save the day. This immune response causes inflammation, which is a normal function, and is required in the initial phase of defence for the body. The inflammation results in the symptoms listed above, plus many more, such as hives and asthma (inflammatory disease of the airways). With time, the injury heals or the invader is destroyed and all is well. However, with a constant barrage of allergens coming our way, our immune systems are in attack mode 24 hours a day, putting our system in overdrive mode, and exhausting our bodies.
What causes allergies?
The causes of allergic reactions can be overexposure to certain allergens, such as a wide range of pollens, molds and spores, dust, and pet dander, to name a few. Allergic reactions can also occur with first time exposure to foreign substances such as chemicals found in pesticides or weed killers, and flavour enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate).
When a person who has allergies encounters an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies (immunoglobulins abbreviated Ig) called IgE antibodies that are specific to the substance; ragweed for instance. Our bodies also produce another type of antibody called IgG antibodies. These antibodies are produced from the consumption of hidden food allergies and/or sensitivities/intolerances, which can trigger the exact same symptoms as those listed above. Eating foods that we may be allergic to puts our immune system in constant warfare and will make even a slight seasonal allergy a living nightmare!
Some common allergenic foods include dairy, wheat, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, corn, gluten, eggs, shellfish and genetically modified (GMO) foods.
So how is one supposed to tell the difference between hay fever and food allergy symptoms?
As mentioned, food allergy symptoms can include the same symptoms listed above, in addition to skin eruptions, excess fluid in the ears, bowel inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, headaches, muscle and joint inflammation (sometimes mimicking arthritis) and even mood swings and hyperactivity.
Please note: IgE allergies are immediate sensitivity reactions and are considered to be fixed allergies - meaning that they will exist for life, whereas, IgG reactions develop gradually, up to several hours or days after consumption of a food allergen and can be addressed through diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations.
There is a simple test that can be administered by a Registered Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopath to determine what foods you are sensitive/intolerant to, so that you can avoid them or reduce exposure, and bring symptoms of both environmental and food allergies under control, and, in many cases, eliminate all symptoms without the need for antihistamines or long-term supplementation.
At the Natural Food Pantry Wellness Clinic, our Registered Holistic Nutritionists can conduct this test for you and recommend diet, lifestyle and supplement changes in order to strengthen your immune system and keep your allergy symptoms at bay!
Written by Jette Thorson, Registered Holistic Nutritionist