Allergies can be a truly miserable experience. Itchy, red eyes and nose, sneezing, skin rashes, asthma, and sinus congestion are all common in allergy sufferers. Seasonal allergy sufferers experience their allergies at a particular time of year, sometime between February and October. The culprits may be pollens, molds or mildew. If your allergies appear only at this time of year (in the late summer and early fall), the most common culprit is ragweed.
Some allergies aren’t just limited to a certain time of year. For people with sensitivities to animal dander, dust, household mold, foods, or chemicals, symptoms may come on at any time. Some people have had allergies so long that they begin to accept them as part of their “normal state”. And there is such a wide range of symptoms that allergies can often be hard to recognize.
What causes allergies?
Every day, the body is exposed to thousands of potential allergy-causing agents in the world around us, via air, food, and clothing. A balanced immune system recognizes these substances as non-harmful and does not produce a response. An immune system which has become unbalanced is hypersensitive and will identify one or more of these harmless substances as ‘the enemy’, mounting an attack as if a bacteria or virus were invading. The body’s response will fall into one of the following categories:
Immediate allergic response: Commonly known allergens such as pollen, pet dander, non-life-threatening drug or food allergies etc, produce an immediate and unmistakable reaction that can usually be identified without too much difficulty: hives, wheezing, congestion, sneezing, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea etc. Symptoms occur even if there is infrequent exposure to the allergen.
Chronic exposure/delayed allergy: most commonly seen with food allergies and sensitivities. Your immune system starts in the small intestine, particularly in the types of tissue called Peyer’s patches and GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue). These tissues are full of immune cells that stand on guard to detect any threats to the immune system passing through the intestines. If the immune system is imbalanced, an otherwise harmless food molecule may be identified as a threat, and and allergic immune response initiated. Frequent exposure to a substance (e.g., daily consumption of an irritating food) increases the likelihood that allergen-antibody complexes will form. These complexes enter tissues and cause inflammation. Because the symptoms may be less obvious and could occur even days later, the person may not recognize that they have an allergy.
Symptoms of chronic allergies:
- Chronic sinus pain and congestion
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent sore throats or hoarseness
- Stomach discomfort, constipation, mucus in stools, or diarrhea
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Chronic ear infections
Anaphylactic reactions: An immediate hyper-reaction of the immune system that is very serious and may result in death if not treated promptly. The most common symptoms are chest and throat tightness, wheezing, and tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp. The first exposure to the allergen (most commonly insect stings, nuts, or shellfish) causes this reaction in sensitive individuals.
Autoimmune reactions: The immune system becomes confused and begins to identify your own cells as a foreign intruder. Usually, certain organs or tissue types are targeted. Over time, tissue destruction leads to decreased function and obvious symptoms. Autoimmune reactions most commonly develop after an illness, an infection, or an allergic drug reaction.
How do allergies impact my health?
Allergies add stress on the body and impair optimal functioning. If you have allergies, this means that your digestive function, immune system, and your adrenal glands’ health need to be assessed. Allergy sufferers commonly have other conditions such as depression, anxiety, joint pain, acne, PMS, insulin resistance, etc. Addressing the cause of the allergy can also help improve these conditions.
Should I use conventional allergy medications?
Conventional medicine uses anti-histamines, corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatories in an attempt to reduce the symptoms of allergies. These medications do not address the underlying immune imbalance and may cause undesirable side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety, and upset stomach. After a few months of use, it’s common to build up a tolerance to one drug, necessitating the switch to another, and then another. Those with more severe allergies may not find the drugs entirely effective at controlling their symptoms. Naturopathic medicine is very effective at greatly reducing allergic symptoms and often eliminating the need for these drugs altogether.
How can naturopathic medicine relieve my allergies?
Naturopathic medicine treats the whole person. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I assess your health at all levels and look at how the pieces come together to create your current state of health. This includes a thorough health history, examination of diet and lifestyle, physical exam, and lab tests as required. I will then create an individualized treatment plan to identify your current allergies or sensitivities, remove the allergen when possible, then use natural treatments to reduce the symptoms and help the body to repair itself. Don’t let allergies run your life a moment longer—call and get started on the path to a symptom-free life today.
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