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Make Seasonal Allergies Better without Drugs

Allergic reactions (a.k.a. allergic rhinitis or hay fever) are caused by immediate and sometimes severe allergic reactions after a person is exposed to an allergen. Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, watery/itchy eyes, itchy nose and throat, hives, swelling, headaches, and pressure behind the eyes caused by sinus congestion. A typical allergic reaction is triggered by airborne allergens like pollen, animal dander, mold, dust, and dust mites. These vary based on the season and environmental factors. Another very common, and much more complex, trigger for allergic symptoms is food allergies. Depending on the severity of the reaction, symptoms can range from inconvenient to life-threatening.

Allergies are the immune system overreacting to normally benign substances. People who suffer from allergies do so as a result of a genetic susceptibility activated with a combination of nutritional and environmental influences exceeding the body’s ability to cope with the activation. In the body, the immune system is always active, depending on what and how much it is exposed to.

It is the sum of allergenic exposures that constitute the 'total load'. The metaphor I like to use is that of filling a glass with liquid; each exposure represents an amount of liquid and the reaction spills over the top when the glass is full. An allergic reaction occurs when a certain threshold is reached. Airborne and food allergens, as well as toxic or chemical exposures can add to this total load. Adding multiple allergens to an allergic load can cause a reaction despite the fact that each allergen may not cause an allergic reaction alone. In order to effectively treat hay fever, people with hay fever should identify and eliminate all reactants, environmental agents, and food allergens. Pollen or dust alone may not effect someone outside of the presence of animal dander AND peanuts, but when all three work together – Boom! Instant sneezing and copious rhinitis.

Food allergies can be the most challenging to figure out, as the effects of food can be varied and subtle. Reactions to foods are in two categories, immediate (IgE antibody) and delayed (IgG or IgA). The immediate reaction is often the most acutely dangerous, like a peanut allergy that requires an Epi-pen. Due to their severity, these are usually the most noticed. Delayed reactions can occur anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days after eating the allergic food.

The delayed reaction is generally much more insidious, and can include more subtle manifestations. Conditions such as asthma, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, ear infections, sinusitis, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, depression, fatigue, hyperactivity, and obesity can have their root cause in food allergies. Most often people with delayed allergies don’t realize they are allergic because of this and because they may be eating a variety of food allergens frequently. Often a chronic reaction escapes notice by becoming ‘normal’. Food allergies occur most commonly with dairy, wheat, citrus, soy, peanuts, corn, yeast, chocolate, nightshades (potato, tomato, pepper, eggplant) and eggs. The list of potentially allergic foods, however, includes pretty much everything a person eats.

There are many different options when it comes to diagnosing food allergies. The best way to do this is with an elimination and challenge diet. A blood antibody test is more accurate for this type of allergy than a skin prick test. The caution is that these tests can have their results skewed by a high level of immune activation; there is so much activity that many foods yield a false positive. Blood tests are available to check up to 96 or more foods all at once and can be covered by some health insurance plans.

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