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Allergies are versatile. They can show up just about anywhere in your body and create an incredible variety of symptoms. They can affect you nose, eyes, throat, lungs, stomach, skin and nervous system. They can give you a bellyache, a rash and even bring on fatigue and headache.
Allergy symptoms occur when your body’s immune system overreacts to a substance in your environment. But, It is not the substance that causes the allergic reactions; it is the body’s reaction to that substance that prompts the reactions. The immune system overreacts and releases a chemical that the body uses to fight microbial invaders. But in allergies, the invaders are not viruses or bacteria. They are harmless substances: pollens, dust, mold spores and other substances including food.
When the immune system uses its weapons to fight off infection, the results are usually good. But if the immune system gets confused and mistakes pollen for bacteria, it can unleash those same weapons unnecessarily, wreaking havoc in the body.
People with allergies have immune systems that can react to just about anything that comes along. A tiny particle of the right substance puts your panicky immune system on the defensive. Your body strikes back by releasing a rush of a chemical that causes the familiar swelling and running in your nose, eyes and sinuses.
These overly sensitive immune cells (called mast cells) release a substance called histamine. Histamine causes small blood vessels to widen allowing fluid to pass from the bloodstream into the surrounding tissues, causing nasal conditions, runny eyes and nose and sometimes hives.
Histamine makes the smooth muscles in the walls of the lungs, blood vessels, stomach, intestines and bladder contract. This contraction brings on a wide range of symptoms. Histamine in the lungs causes wheezing. Histamine also indirectly stimulates the production of thick, sticky mucus.
Hay fever is triggered by pollens. There are allergies to cat hairs, bee stings or certain foods or drugs.
They are all the result of the same thing, the immune system overreacts to the substance in your environment
A person can have a severe reaction and would need to be treated by a health care provider. For more information see Asthma and other Severe Allergic reactions.
What to do for allergies
Most conventional treatments are aimed at cooling off this inflammation. Standard treatment for allergies involves taking antihistamines, decongestants, steroids and allergy shots. While these drugs can be effective, they all have side effects.
What are the side effects?
Antihistamines suppress the body’s release of histamines. Antihistamines dry up mucus and decrease swelling. But, antihistamines can make you drowsy. Also, by drying up the normally moist sinuses, they can make you more susceptible to infection. Antihistamines may lose effectiveness after a while. According to experts, it can also interfere with – and perhaps weaken – the immune system.
Decongestants constrict blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to congested membranes in the nose and lungs. Decongestants can raise blood pressure or interfere with sleep. As with the antihistamines, decongestants may lose effectiveness after a while. According to experts, they also interfere with – and perhaps weaken – the immune system
Allergy shots contain a tiny amount of the substances to which the person is sensitive which over time and slowly increasing amounts of these substances, the body becomes desensitized and stops reacting with allergy symptoms. These approaches treat the symptoms of allergies and not the cause, which is a confused immune system.
Steroids (available as nose sprays, eye drops, injections or oral tablets) decrease inflammation by short-circuiting the immune response. By suppressing the immune system, steroids can predispose you to yeast and fungal infections, a common cause of sinusitis. Steroids can also suppress the adrenal glands, making you less tolerant of stress.
Alternatives to the drug therapy
Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives to drug therapy, including eating certain foods, vitamins, herbs and immune-balancing foods. You can also lessen the number of allergens in your environment.
1. Clean up your environment
The first step is to clean up your environment by reducing exposure to potential allergens. A combination air-ionizer/air filter can work wonders for the air in your home and office. They are very effective in removing dust, pollen, cigarette smoke and mold from the household environment. (see below for recommended brand)
Use a filter attachment on your vacuum cleaner to avoid spraying more dust in the air.
Put allergen-proof covers on your mattress and pillows. And never let pets sleep on your bed!
Have a contractor clean out your heating system.
If you’re redoing an allergy-sufferer’s room, forget rugs. Instead, use linoleum in sold sheets not blocks. Mold hangs out in the cracks between linoleum blocks.
If you’re wallpapering, purchase mold-free wallpaper.
If you’re painting, have mold preventative added to the paint. It’ll cost about $1.50 extra per gallon.
When you plaster, look for the one-coat variety that doesn’t need sanding.
2) Use saltwater solutions Nasal hygiene is equally important. Try this formula: 1/4 teaspoon salt plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda in 4 ounces warm water. Use a bulb syringe to rinse your sinuses once or twice daily. This also works well for colds.
3) Eat colorful fruits and vegetables
Keep your immune system healthy by eating colorful fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and bell peppers are good choices. These foods are rich in flavonoids, which act like antihistamines. They also contain carotenes, which have anti-inflammatory activity. Garlic & onions – retard the inflammatory reactions of allergies.
4) Take a good antioxidant
To further enhance immune function, take a supplement containing the full range of antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotene complex and selenium.
Studies have also shown that a vitamin C deficiency can send blood levels of histamine through the roof. Vitamin C has the properties of a natural antihistamine. Vitamin C keeps your immune system from making as many histamines to begin with and helps you get them out of your bloodstream faster as it can detoxify the excess histamine released. It is effective because it reduces the severity with which the histamines in your body can attack. You should have fewer symptoms of “hay fever” and shorter periods of incapacity if you add vitamin C to your diet. (See below for a very special form of Vitamin C
Get those essential fatty acids
6) Essential fatty acids are also excellent for the immune system. Try to eat flaxseed oil and cold-water fish on a regular basis. When taken for long periods of time, it helps correct the immune imbalances that lead to allergies.
Flaxseed Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids contain a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can help relieve the symptoms of allergies (for other benefits of Flaxseed and Omega-3 see Essential Fatty Acids
7) Itchy eyes
An eyewash made from eyebright. Mix 1 tablespoon herb in 1 cup hot water. Let cool. Use on eyes as needed.
8) Clean Air – Important to someone who has allergies. There are many air purifiers and air filters.
For More information about Food Allergies
Read How to Survive Seasonal Allergies
Support a Healthy Immune System
Improving your immune system response will improve your allergies. You need to support a healthy immune function.
“We need to shift our focus from treating disease to generating health…” Hippocrates (“The Father of Medicine”)
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