Natural and Organic Skin Care

Allergies: The Bittersweet of Spring

springI’m sure I would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy watching the Earth as she slowly wakes up from her long winter nap. The trees bud new leaves and beautiful flowers in preparation for their coming fruit, flowers pop from seemingly barren ground, birds begin chirping once again. Spring is magical, seasonal re-birth a symbol that we too experience our own cycles and ability to birth new things. Unfortunately, with all of the beauty and wonder of spring, it also brings miserable allergies to many people. What should be looked upon with excitement turns to dread as the sinuses fill, eyes water and endless fits of sneezing begin.

What is Happening Anyway?

Allergies happen when your body reacts with an immune response to a substance that is tolerated by most other people. The primary function of your immune system is to differentiate between what is self and what is not self. When it recognizes something as non-self it has to decide how it is going to respond. If it deems something to be relatively benign it won’t initiate a response, but instead allows the substance to move on ahead and be processed out of the body in other ways. However, if it decides that the foreign substance is a threat it will activate an immune response to defend and destroy the foreign invader or antigen. For allergy sufferers the pollen that we’re exposed to during spring is recognized as a threat and an immune response is initiated, creating the characteristic symptoms that persist until the pollen count decreases. In a typical immune response the antigen makes its way into the body at a certain point in time (meaning that it is usually a one-time exposure), the immune system steps into action and destroys it. Most of the time you won’t even know that this is happening, and even when you do by getting sick, it is a relatively straightforward acute situation that is over within a week or two. The difference between this and allergies is that the allergens persist in the environment and continue to invade the body – it isn’t a one-time exposure but occurs over and over every day as the pollen travels through the air. This means that the immune systems response isn’t quick and easy – it’s a long, drawn out war that continues until the body is no longer being invaded.

Why Me?!

So why do some people recognize pollen as a threat and others don’t? There are host of reasons, but at the core it’s due to lowered immune system functioning that triggers an over-reactive immune response. In order for an allergic reaction to occur, an allergen first has to penetrate deep into the nasal lining. In a healthy nose, there is a protective mucus membrane layer that prevents this from happening – this is our first line of defense against airborne foreign invaders, whether they are pollen, bacteria or viruses. If the mucus membrane is not healthy, these antigens are able to penetrate easier. Once in, if the immune system isn’t working optimally, our door bouncers, the immune cells who determine who’s cool and who’s not, aren’t as discerning and tend to be more grumpy, incorrectly identifying cool guys as bad guys and launching an immune response that will create an inhospitable environment for them, i.e. hot, damp, and windy conditions (inflammation, red eyes, increased mucus production, sneezing, etc). And once this happens, they’re not letting up until the allergens go away. They don’t want to play host to them!

What Can I Do To Prevent Allergies?

  • Support your immune system! Immune cells are born in the red bone marrow, the garden of life within your body. Medicinal mushrooms and Astragalus Root are considered Deep Nourishers because they work at this level. Think of them as compost in your garden. They provide the needed nourishment to produce abundant and healthy fruit – blood cells and lymphocytes! These guys do their supportive work over time and need to be taken long term – typically 90 days before allergy season. Both mushrooms and astragalus can be consumed as a part of your daily diet through food, or taken prepared in a medicinal tincture or capsule. For more of the absolutely wonderful things that Mushrooms are capable of, check out this TED Talk by Paul Stamets.
  • Because your gut is home to your microbiome – the friendly bacteria that provide about 70% of your immune system, you want to make sure that you’re taking care of these guys! Just like us, they need food and certain conditions to stay healthy. They love fermented foods such as
    • Kimchi,
    • Sauerkraut,
    • Kefir,
    • Kombucha,
    • Natto,
    • Yogurt
    • Raw cheese.

Whenever you can, avoid antibiotics as they wipe away the good bacteria along with the bad. If you can’t avoid them, make sure to take a probiotic at the same time and continue to do so for a couple of months afterwards.

  • Eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar and orange juice (even just one is better than none!)– these are common allergens that put extra strain on the immune system. They also contribute to mucus production – something you certainly don’t need more of when you’re dealing with hay fever!
  • Start an Herbal and Nutritional Protocol 2 months before allergy season if possible. If you’re past that, start as soon as you can!
  • Nutritional Support
    • Quercetin: 500-1000mg/day (250 mg for kids)– a highly reliable anti-inflammatory supplement that boosts immunity in mucus membranes (remember first line of defense!) and also helps to reduce food allergies. Quercetin is found in apples, cranberries, blueberries, kale, elderberry, red and yellow onions, sesame, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, red wine, tea, lignonberry.
    • Vitamin C – 2000 -3000 mg/day. This is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
    • Zinc: 5-10 mg/day for children 4-7 years, 10-20 mg/day for children to age 12, 25-40 mg/day for older children and adults
    • Bromelain – 100-150 mg/day – helps modulate the entire immune system and reduces allergic sensitization by preventing the door bouncer immune cells from presenting the allergen to the immune system thus putting the brakes on the rest of the immune response! Thank you Bromelain!
  • Herbal Support
    • Freeze dried nettle in capsule form alone or combined with other herbs 3-6 caps/day. Or Nettle Tincture alone or in combo. Nettles are a safe and natural antihistamine that don’t make you drowsy and are a favorite for reducing seasonal allergies!
    • Can be combined with any of the following in capsule or tincture form
      • Echinacea Angustifolia Root
      • Ginger
      • Goldenseal
      • Ma Huang
      • Eyebright
      • Picrorhiza kurroa Root
      • Chinese Skullcap
      • Goldenrod

Hope this helps and allows the beauty of spring to shine in your life!

~Amy~

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