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Allergies | Find Relief from Allergies

Find Relief From Allergies

If you suffer from allergies, you are not alone. Twenty percent of Americans are affected by this common immune disorder, including the over 35 million Americans who experience seasonal allergies (called seasonal allergic rhinitis and often referred to as "hay fever").

When you have allergies, what's going on?

Allergic symptoms result when the immune system "over-reacts" to normally benign substances called allergens. In seasonal allergies, the immune system reacts to airborne pollens, typically in the spring and summer, and mold spores, typically in the fall and winter. 

In addition, many people suffer from perennial allergies, which result in symptoms throughout the year and are triggered by indoor allergens such as house dust mite droppings, animal dander and persistent indoor molds. For both types of allergies, symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, watery eyes or itchiness in the nose, roof of the mouth, and ears.

People with allergies tend to have higher levels of what are called IgE antibodies, which are produced by white blood cells. These antibodies react with substances such as dust, pollen and molds and cause mast cells to release potent chemical inflammatory mediators such as histamine and leukotrienes, causing allergic symptoms. There is also a genetic component to seasonal allergies: If one parent has allergies, one out of four children will likely have allergies as well.

What natural remedies can help?

Many people with allergies tend to have hyper-sensitive immune systems, according to Amy Turnbull, ND. Therefore, practitioners of naturopathic medicine seek to support and regulate the immune system. Many supplements work toward this end: essential fatty acids, which decrease inflammation; supplements with anti-histamine properties such as vitamin C, E and bioflavonoids such as quercetin; and pine bark extracts. A variety of other herbal and homeopathic remedies may help as well. "Nettle extracts or tea, made from a plant that grows abundantly in the Northwest, is very useful for treating allergies," says Dr. Turnbull.

However, it is not necessary to take a lot of pills to solve your allergy problems, according to Turnbull. Adopting a healthy organic whole foods diet and undergoing liver detoxification can help reduce allergies, too, as can stress-management techniques, spinal adjustments and acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. In some cases, avoidance of known allergens is also a necessary step. Ways to avoid allergens might include removing all dust collectors (such as carpets, rugs, drapes and pet hair), living away from polluted areas, purchasing a home air filtration system and avoiding perfumes and perfumed products.

A lesser-known allergy-prevention measure is to avoid food intolerances, says Turnbull. "Many people with environmental allergies find that if they decrease or eliminate certain foods, their environmental allergies improve. This has to do with reducing the 'total load' of irritants and allergens a person's body has to deal with. If you take away a few things the body has sensitivities to, it is more able to handle what is remaining." 

Are conventional medications useful?

Many other conventional medications such as allergy shots, antihistamines and decongestants may provide symptom relief but will not address the cause of the allergic reaction, which may include an over-reactive immune system. Consider a holistic approach to treating your allergies.

Writer: Sydney Maupin, Staff Writer
Contributor: Amy Turnbull, ND
Sources: www.aaaai.org (the Web site of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology) and Alternative & Complementary Therapies, October 1999.
Date: 2001

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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