Learn More About Allergy Relief
1. What are allergies, where do they come from and what do they do?
An allergy is an unusally high sensitivity to a certain substance, such as pollens, dust, mold, animals, foods and irritants. Symptoms of allergies typically include inflammation, sneezing, itching eyes, and or skin rashes.
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance from the outside world. These foreign substances, normally small proteins, can come from dust mite feces, pollens, molds, and many other natural and man-made objects. When your immune system mistakes these normally harmless foreign substances as dangerous invaders and sends out antibodies to attack them, then the foreign substances are referred to as "allergens," and you will experience the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
2. What are some common allergens and what supplements can provide allergy relief?
The most common environmental agents causing problems with allergies include: Dust, mold, animals, pollen, food and irritants.
Dust: Dust seems to be everywhere. Dust mites are in dust and reproduce in mattresses, pillows, carpeting and over-stuffed furniture. Mattresses and pillows should be covered with a special fabric which is impervious to the dust mite. Sheets, pillows and blankets should be washed weekly in hot water. Masks are helpful with unavoidable exposures to allergens. Stuffed animals and toys can be a problem for kids.
Rooms should be cleaned regularly, preferably not by the individual. Special vacuums are now available which contain HEPA filters. These are special filters which are excellent at cleaning the air which comes out of the vacuum cleaner. Rooms should be cleaned with a damp cloth frequently, but remember vacuuming and dusting may raise ambient air dust levels for a period of time, consequently the allergy sufferer may need to avoid being in the room for a period of time. Covering the vents in the bedroom if you have a forced air heating system is often helpful because less dust blows out.
The ideal room consists of a wooden or steel bed with a mattress and pillow (non-feather, of course, if you are allergic to feathers) covered with an allergy proof mattress and pillow cover, cotton sheets and a blanket which is washed weekly in hot water, wooden or tile floors, and shades on the windows.
Mold: Mold (or mildew) smells musty and commonly grows in damp areas including underneath refrigerators, inside air conditioners, in damp (i.e. humidity > 50%) basements, barns, in old books and under piles of leaves. If you can smell it, it is guaranteed to be a problem. Mold is the black stuff that you'll also find in bathrooms near the shower. Mold also grows in damp soil, so house plants can be a problem for allergy sufferers. Fungicides can help with mold control, but it's important to limit the amount of dampness by controlling the humidity and any water source as well as using dehumidifiers and air conditioning when necessary. Occasionally it is necessary to do mold cultures to determine what molds are in your house. These are ideally done by someone familiar with environmental problems around the house.
Older homes are much more of a problem, as there are more likely to be problems with leaky roofs or problems with plumbing. If the basement does not have an adequate vapor barrier, it is often possible for water to get into the basement, especially when it rains.
Mold requires a food and water source. Sheetrock is fine for them, so in the usual home, they just need a water source to grow. There have recently been an increasing number of problems, some of which are starting to be publicized in the news media. Molds such as Aspergillus or Stachybotris can make people very sick, either from toxins or from allergies. We also think that more exposure to them can cause people to develop sinusitis.
It is very important to carefully resolve any water problems that you have, either at home or at work so that you can avoid future problems.
Animals: Animal dander, (particularly cats and dogs), is an important source of symptoms for many people, but guinea pigs, birds, horses, and cattle as well as down, wool and anything else with hair or fur can be a problem. The best advise for anyone with an animal that they are allergic to is to get rid of it.
Pollen: Pollen is another common allergen usually divided into three categories: Trees, grasses and weeds. Depending on what area of the country you live in, early in the spring, tree pollen comes out, followed by grass pollen later in the spring and early summer, and finally weeds in the late summer and early fall. In some of the warmer areas of the country grass pollen may be present year round.
Pollen counts can be a helpful indicator if you know you have problems with a specific antigen (e.g. trees), but they aren't necessarily reflective of the pollen counts outside your door- pollen counts tend to be highest on dry windy days and early in the morning. Pollen counts drop after it rains because pollen gets washed out of the air-better to go for a run in the park after it rains in the afternoon than on dry windy days early in the morning. Windows should fit tightly and be kept closed in pollen season. Air conditioners and air filters should be left on.
Foods: Foods are occasionally a problem, but treatment of food allergies remains controversial. Food allergies tend to occur more commonly in childhood, and tend to lessen as kids get older. They can cause a variety of problems from eczema to asthma; whether they cause problems with hyperactivity is a subject of great debate. There is a group of physicians called clinical ecologists who believe that food and chemicals cause a wide variety of symptoms, from hypersensitivity to depression, whereas most traditional allergists do not believe they cause that many problems. This forum is not one to address the issues other than to say that disagreement occurs.
Irritants: Tobacco smoke and chemicals like perfume, paint fumes, gasoline, insecticides, bleaches, etc. often make allergies worse because they are irritants. People are more commonly sensitive rather than allergic to them. The important thing is that they need to be avoided.
In conclusion, allergen avoidance is the best treatment for any allergy. Avoid the allergen, and you'll avoid the allergic reaction. In addition to avoiding allergen you may take nutritional supplements for allergy relief. You can combine nutritional supplements such as vitamins with herbs to achieve fast relief, or, if you're wary of herbs, you can stick with just the vitamin supplements.
The three categories you need to address are Immune Support, Adrenal Support, and Antihistamine/Decongestant Action. Choose one type of natural supplement for each of these categories, and you're well on your way to natural relief that will keep you from illness down the line.
Herbal Supplements for Adrenal Support
Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle has enjoyed a long history as a treatment for seasonal allergies. Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Natural Health, Natural Medicine (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) reports success with this herb to treat his own allergies. Be careful not to confuse this herb with another species, U. Urens, which contains high levels of leukotrienes and histamine.
Ephedra (Ephedra sinicia): Also known as mahuang, the generic name of this herb may be familiar since a synthetic version of its primary alkaloid, ephedrine, can be found in many conventional remedies as pseudoephedrine. This herb has been used to treat bronchial and inflammatory disorders in Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years. In fact, ephedra is often used to treat asthma. Note: Ephedra can raise both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and can cause excitability in some individuals.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea): Also known as purple coneflower, this Native American herb is one of the best immune enhancing supplements you can take. Echinacea has been the subject of more than 50 years worth of study and has clearly demonstrated an ability to increase the production of a number of T-cells and their distribution in the blood.
Garlic (Allium sativum): The antiviral properties of garlic have been well examined for many years. In Russia, the herb is known as "Russian penicillin" where it was once used to treat respiratory disorders in hospitals. Recent Japanese studies have found that aged garlic extract stimulates NK activity and a potent antimicrobial action against bacteria and yeasts. Garlic owes its efficacy to allicin, a byproduct derived from the amino acid alliin reacting with the enzyme alliinase. The biosynthesis of these constituents however, can be unstable in their natural state.
Raw garlic is certainly good for you and has several health benefits to offer otherwise, but the enzyme necessary to produce allicin is usually destroyed in the stomach before the conversion can take place. For this reason, enteric-coated tablets of dried or powdered garlic tablets is the best form of supplementation to take advantage of this herb's immune-boosting qualities. Note: Garlic, and other alliums can raise or lower blood sugar levels. Consult your health care practitioner if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic.
Licorice Root :In almost every bit of herbal literature that deals with allergies and colds, licorice root is touted as an almost-miracle cure. It works so well because it encourages the adrenal glands to produce hormones that fight illness and allergies, as well as reduces inflammation. Licorice root also increases the level of interferon produced by your body, a natural chemical that fights viruses.
Astragalus: This herbal helper, usually taken in capsule form, increases your body's metabolic activity (which can mean a bit of weight loss on the side) and strengthens your immune system. It also helps build a natural resistance to colds and the flu, which may mean fewer sick days. Like licorice root, it increases the body's production of interferon. Locate astragalus capsules, often available in health food stores, and follow the directions indicated for use.
Capsicum: As natural things go, capsicum is a little herb that packs a big punch. It is high in Vitamin C and quercitin, a natural antihistamine. Studies have shown that it may help your respiratory system fight infections, and it has been proven to increase energy and help with allergies and respiratory problems like bronchitis, asthma, and general colds. This is another herb which is better taken in capsule form. Follow the direction included with your bottle.
And a word about colds:
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the more social ties you have, the greater your resistance to upper respiratory illness. The 1997 study gave 276 healthy subjects aged 18 to 55 one of two rhinoviruses via nose drops. Those subjects with 6 or more varied social contacts had a significantly reduced susceptibility to colds, regardless of their age, sex or the type of virus to which they were exposed.
Nutritional Supplements / Vitamins
Vitamin C w/bioflavonoids: This supplement works as a natural antihistamine, and it boosts your immune system while providing adrenal support. All around, it's a perfect place to start. Take up to 5000 mg daily.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): B5 boosts adrenal function and also defends against stress. It is a good addition to other supplements that boost immunity and provide antihistamine action. Take up to 1000 mg 2 times daily.
CoQ10: An all-around good supplement, this one does more than just boost immunity and work as an antihistamine - it also helps you deal with stress, and is often combined with B Vitamins in counter-acting depression symptoms. Take 60 mg 3 times daily.
Vitamin A: If your allergies come with nasty coughing and runny nose, it's a good bet that you have some inflammation going on. Vitamin A will reduce the inflammation, and boost your immune system all in one stroke. Take 10,000 IU 2 times daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Combine this supplement with Vitamin A and CoQ10 for a complete allergy relief plan - it works to generally reduce allergic reactions. Take 1000 mg daily.
3. Who needs Allergy Relief? How should a supplement program be administered?
Anyone that needs to improve there immune function and facilitate management of there related to allergies and asthma. Many people may want a natural approach to replace antihistamines or decongestants for several reasons:
- Their occupation (truck drivers, machinery operators) may not allow for the use of these medications.
- They may have an existing condition or be on medications that would not allow their use due to drug interactions or contraindications.
- They may not desire the side effects associated with use of these agents.
- They may prefer natural choices as a first line of defense.
There are several key advantages to the use of natural remedies. Because they have no side effects or potential interactions, natural supplementations are the ideal first line of defense.
Individuals who have never tried the supplements need to start out at a low dose to minimize the chance of allergic reaction.
Original Research Article by: Nick Saliba © 2007.
Parts of this article provided by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
Wellington S. Tichenor, M.D. Last update 2005.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.