Pollens – What about it?

Yay ! Spring is here…. well, just as I say that, i figure its not a great news for many around. My wife had some severe pollen allergies last year. Twice during the season, we ended up in at the Urgent Care centers. She once returned back with an assisted breathing session with some anti-histamine and the next time it was a straight-shot 10 day anti-biotic course. I still don’t understand the anti-biotic part though. Anyways.

Looking more into this, the seasonal allergies which we very commonly refer to as the pollen allergies (since pollen are probably the most common), are referred to as “allergic rhinitis” in the medical lingo. It basically refers to inflammation of nasal pathways and the repercussions are familiar to a lot of us. Swollen eyes, headaches, wheezing, runny nose – that’s just to start with. In cases where it is induced by grass pollen, this is also known as “hay fever”. This article by National Library of Medicine provides a good overview of how this condition occurs.

Common treatments for the allergic rhinitis often include anti-histamines & corticosteroids.histamine drugs work towards controlling symptoms sneezing, itching and watery eyes. The corticosteroids also include controlling the symptoms for nasal congestion.

The allergic rhinitis is basically an immune attack towards specific body cells that contain a chemical called histamine. The immune reactions from pollens or similar allergens cause certain types of cells to degenerate and release histamine. Histamine is a bio-chemical that is part of the certain types of cells in the body. Once released, the histamine interacts with the histamine receptors causing the symptoms. The anti-histamine drugs bind to the histamine receptors and hence prevent the actual histamine molecules from binding to these receptors thus preventing an outbreak of the symptoms.

The corticosteroids are topical steroid medications that work by manipulating the responses of adrenaline glands for anti-inflammatory effect. In essence, it works by skewing the underlying hormonal balance for masking the symptoms of the allergic reaction. The impact on the hormonal profile is also the reason why corticosteroids need some time to be effective.

In any case, both these common methods, do not effectively “treat” the condition. Both of them manage it well. In essence, masking the condition.

Given that the symptoms are a cascade effect from an immune reaction, it probably tells me that managing a healthy immune system that is not already stressed by other immune attacks might be an effective way of managing the allergic conditions. Today, for most of the people around, one of the biggest contributor to the immune stress is the food sensitivities. Do note that the food sensitivities and intolerances promote a similar Immunoglobulin E response which is observed in pollen allergies. Hence, the underlying immune mechanism for food sensitivities is similar to pollen allergies as well.

Imagine an army in a host country battling with its enemy to maintain its boundaries on the map, just got hit by another army that happens to be a very close ally of the very enemy that it is fighting against. Both of them have similar attack patterns and both are only use air attacks. So even when the host country has a good army and navy, those forces are really useless. What do you expect to happen? Of course, the host army has to start retreating, and allow some infiltration now since it is overwhelmed. That’s exactly what is happening to your immune system when the pollen allergies strike on the body already struggling with food sensitivities on a daily basis. We talked about the leaky gut a few days ago and how it launches the attack on immune system due to food sensitivities. The leaky gut is what needs to be fixed here in order to give the body a respite from the constant immune attacks. This should give a good enough breather to deploy the same forces towards managing pollen allergies.

Unfortunately fixing a leaky gut is not as simple as taking a quick allergy pill. it takes several months of identifying the cause and fixing the food and stress responses. Which is probably why most of the people take medications as a quick fix.

However, for some immediate natural ways to manage pollen allergies, here are some thoughts –

– A study in Spain in 2007 found that high consumption of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, cucumber, green beans, zucchini) leads to a beneficial effect on wheezing. It also find fish intake to be inversely related to wheezing.

–   Another study based on patients in Crete (Europe) found that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables (grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes) was found to be protective against wheezing and rhinitis. A high consumption of nuts is inversely associated. Margarine significantly increases the chances of having wheezing and rhinitis. This study also found a high adherence to Mediterranean diet to be beneficial for these conditions.  

– Another study in Japan also found inverse association between fish consumption and rhinitis.

– A study in Switzerland has found that farm milk offers significant protection against asthma and allergies.

– Nasal irrigation with Neti pot is good for flushing out blocked nasal passages and is very effective with immediate symptoms. 

– A review paper published in 2014 in Journal of American College of Nutrition discusses the prevalence of gluten sensitivity in a significant number of population. Gluten is one of the most common known stressors of the immune system in form of food sensitivity. Hence, eliminating gluten from diet should significantly reduce the load on the immune system and free it to fight against the allergens.

– A 2013 review paper published in Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry suggests that Vitamin C plays a significant role in reducing allergic reactions and protecting the immune system.

Sugar is a known immune system suppressant and avoiding it will immensely help the body fight off allergic reactions. Beware though even some of the touted “healthy foods” such as breakfast cereals have boatloads of sugar. Definitely recommend flipping the pack over to check the actual ingredients.

– Lastly, there are several known natural anti-histamines foods that can help provide similar benefits as anti-histamine medicines. Garlic and Onions stand on top of the list as natural anti-histamines.

As always, I would recommend that you don’t take this as a medical advice, but go through the above links to understand this better and help yourself. All in all, it seems very much possible to ditch the OTC medications in favor of food changes that can significantly benefit allergies.

Hope you have a med-free allergy season.



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