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Home > Allergy Tips
by Dave Foreman
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website (www.aafa.org), "an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies (1 in 6), including indoor/outdoor, food & drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies. Allergy prevalence overall has been increasing since the early 1980s and is now the 5th leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the 3rd most common among children under 18 years old. Allergies cost a ton of money and time, too. It's estimated that the annual cost to Americans is about 7 billion dollars. Consider that allergies cause about 4 million missed days of work each year and then add all the aggravation and discomfort, and you can understand why there are so many commercials for medications promising relief. The focus of this article is on respiratory allergies like Hay Fever. As Spring approaches, many of us become concerned. Will the grass, pollen or trees make me cough, wheeze and sneeze this year? Will I need my inhaler and/or a decongestant for my stuffy nose? Will those drugs keep drying me out so I can't even speak? Will the steroids my doctor gives make my bones brittle or make me gain weight? Can I even afford doctor visits and medications? Good questions, but relax; in most cases – if you treat your body right – the things you inhale shouldn't cause you a problem.
Too often we blame our respiratory ("allergy") symptoms on something in the air, yet, believe it or not, the underlying cause could be something in our diet. To better understand this, it's important to recognize what's actually happening in your body that triggers allergy symptoms. Allergies are your immune system's overreaction to a foreign protein, such as mold, pollen, yeast, dust mite particles, animal dander and a host of other proteins found in food. These are the basic culprits that cause symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny noses, wheezing, and the discomforts associated with asthma and sinusitis.
My opinion why some react negatively to certain allergens and others don't is directly related to the strength of one's immune system. If your immune system wasn't stressed, you wouldn't have as severe a reaction to the things you breathe in. Your immune system is like the story about the straw that broke the camel's back. Which straw was it that actually broke the camel's back? We always blame the last one, but what about the other weights already burdening the camel? Perhaps something else can be removed before the last straw is added.
Our immune systems are reacting all the time to foreign invaders (viruses, bacteria, parasites, abnormal cells and the possible allergy triggers mentioned above). If we can remove some of these, your immune system would be better able to handle things. Since it's difficult to get away from most allergy triggers (pollen, dust, mold, yeast), I recommend removing what you can. I'm not saying you should get rid of "Fluffy" or "Spot" (I love pets, too), but maybe removing something from your diet will lighten your immune system's load before the supposed "last straw" is added.
Treating my own allergies led me to try to help others. My "outlaws" own a farm in Pennsylvania. Whenever I would go there and help out, I could only last a few minutes in the barn before my nose started running; I would sneeze like crazy and in more severe cases, wheeze and become short of breath. I used to take antihistamines and decongestants just to be able to stay at the farm. It wasn't until years later that I realized I had a severe sensitivity (allergy) to Gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. GlutenEase may help those with less severe sensitivities to gluten. If after a few weeks of use you don't feel relief, try going gluten free. When I removed gluten from my diet, I was able to stay in the barn for hours (even sweep it out). I also noticed that my allergy to cats, perfumes and other things in my environment disappeared. Just removing this one stress on my immune system (Gluten) enabled my body to handle a burden that before it couldn't manage.
It's estimated that 90 percent of all food allergies (sensitivities) are caused by just 8 foods: milk, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, fish, tree nuts and shellfish. The reason I call them "sensitivities" is, too often, we are tested for allergies with a skin test. A skin test will not show what you are sensitive to. As mentioned earlier, being sensitive to something will contribute to how well your body handles other things, such as pollen, dust, mold, etc.. I recommend having blood work done to determine what you are sensitive to, and then make every effort to remove the offending food from your diet completely. The blood work is called E.L.I.S.A. It's an abbreviation for "enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay." The test is used to detect substances in blood that may trigger an immune (allergic) response. These substances are primarily proteins, such as hormones, bacterial antigens and antibodies. The ELISA test will identify to which you are sensitive and to what degree. With this information you can focus on eliminating the offenders.
For those who don't want to make the necessary dietary changes, there are several nutritional supplements that will give relief, without side effects. At the top of my list is the herb, Butterbur. I jokingly call this my herbal antihistamine. Its efficacy has even been favorably compared to two different prescription antihistamines. Look for a standardized extract that contains up to 8mg per dose of petasins and is free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). I prefer the product, Petadolex.®
Rosmarinic acid is another supplement gaining popularity. This compound is found in rosemary, basil, sage and mint. The extract of Rosmarinic acid can decrease allergy symptoms in as few as 3 days. Life Extension's Butterbur Allergy combines Butterbur and Rosmarinic acid, providing a potent 1-2 punch.
Another favorite of mine is the herb Nettle (leaf). Be certain the product you purchase is the leaf and not the root. The root is great for prostate health, but won't help your allergy symptoms. The leaf offers fast, effective allergy relief over the months your symptoms occur.
If you're seeking a great combination product, I suggest Nature's Plus Aller-7-Rx-Respiration. This combination of 7 herbs comes from Ayurvedic medicine and not only helps runny noses; it helps with stuffiness. Unlike some modern treatments, it won't cause dry mouth, drowsiness or nervousness. The only issue is it can take up to 12 weeks to reach full efficacy. Bromelain, an enzyme from the stem of a pineapple, also works well for allergies. For best results, take it between meals and at bedtime (on an empty stomach). Often this enzyme can be found in digestion-enhancing supplements. So if you're already taking it for digestion, there's no need to buy an additional product.
Finally, you may wish to give homeopathy a try. Before I got more into herbal medicine, I had great success using homeopathics for fast, effective relief. Allercetin Allergy & Sinus from Source Naturals, Boiron's Sabadil (Allergy) and Hyland's Sinus Tablets are all great examples.
Nutritional Supplements will usually get you where you want to go with your allergy challenges. Remember, the 4 Pillars of Great Health. Removing potentially offending food(s), getting enough activity to boost immune function and taking care of your mind/spirit are all important.
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