Find out how allergies and sensitivities differ and what you can do about them naturally
Sneezing, Sniffing and Scratching? Allergies Blow!
Does your dog send you into a sneezing frenzy? Do certain foods leave you bloated and headachy? Or do pollens and certain grasses leave your skin desperately itchy? If you answered yes, then you know this is a daily reality for you and the millions of people living with allergic conditions such as hayfever, asthma, food intolerances and eczema.
So why does your body react this way? Essentially, your body believes that these otherwise harmless substances (animal hair, foods and grasses) are threatening. Hence, when it comes into contact with these substances, known as allergens, your immune system releases large amounts of the chemical histamine. Histamine is like a burly bouncer outside a club: its job is to muscle an allergen out of your body by any means necessary.
Some of the ways histamine does this job is by producing redness and inflammation, a running nose, itchy eyes, constricted airways, bloating and diarrhoea; manifestations of allergic disease.
What are allergies and reactivities and how do they differ?
Allergies are considered one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australasia. More than 20% of the population in industrialised countries suffer from food intolerance or food allergy. Symptoms of allergic disease can range from allergic rhinitis, hayfever, digestive disorders to eczema and asthma, or life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to proteins in the environment that are harmless for most people, such as house dust mites, pets, pollen, other insects, moulds and foods.
Whereas an intolerance is considered a ‘chemical’ reaction to a substance, commonly food, and does not show up on a traditional allergy test. The term ‘sensitivity’ is less clear, however, in complementary medicine, it is commonly seen as a delayed and milder reaction, and will be used in this sense here. The possible manifestations of a food reaction are widespread and also non-specific, they have been linked to gastrointestinal symptoms, skin complaints, respiratory issues, fatigue, headache, migraine, cognitive deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders, anxiety, depression, joint pain, muscle pain, and endocrine disturbances. Regardless of the cause, be it environmental or food-induced, the impact on an individual’s quality of life can be considerable. An allergic reaction involves a complex interplay between antigens, immune cells (e.g. T cells, Immunoglobulin E (IgE), Immunoglobulin G (IgG), Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies) and effector cell activation (mast cells, basophils, eosinophils). This results in an inflammatory response (a reaction), with localised and systemic symptoms. The consequential sustained inflammation may act as a potential driver exacerbating other chronic conditions.
Allergies are Like Onions, They Have Layers
Current approaches to allergy management centre on both allergen avoidance and reducing histamine (think antihistamine medication). But why does your body think these substances are harmful and mount this response against them in the first place? Several contributing factors lead your body’s immune system to respond this way, including:
- Inflammation within your digestive tract (where most of your immune system is found).
- Damage to the lining of your digestive tract commonly known as ‘leaky gut’, allowing small particles (undigested food, bacteria and/or toxins) to pass through to the bloodstream causing inflammation in other areas of the body).
- Low levels of good bacteria and/or an overgrowth of bad bacteria within your intestine that interferes with your body’s immune response.
Because the cause can be quite complex it can be tricky to work out what foods or substances may be causing symptoms and what to do even if you have figured it out.
Addressing the Roots of Your Reactivity
Truly holistic allergy management encompasses symptomatic relief while also retraining the body’s immune system to tolerate ‘threatening’ allergens. One way you can achieve this is by following an Allergy and Reactivity Reduction Programme guided by your qualified health practitioner at Sheena Hendon Health. This specially designed and professionally supported program incorporates carefully selected herbs and nutrients combined with tailored diet and lifestyle recommendations; to help repair your gut, improve your ability to tolerate
allergens, and reduce your reactive symptoms.
Building Tolerance. Increasing tolerance to environmental and food-borne allergens is a key strategy when faced with the myriad of respiratory, skin and digestive allergic/reactive events that can impact individuals of all ages. Current approaches focus on the removal of the allergen and symptomatic relief. The goal of the Metagenics Allergy and Reactivity program we use at Sheena Hendon Health is to not just aid in symptom relief but to focus on correcting the underlying processes – immune, gut, microbiome, digestion – and increasing allergen tolerance, through therapeutic elimination and gradual re-introduction of certain foods.
A Healthy GUT is Key. There is no doubt that the gastrointestinal tract plays a crucial role in the development of allergies and intolerances due to 70% of the immune system residing within the gastrointestinal tract. Research over the past decade has highlighted the close connection between the resilience of the systemic immune system and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract. The exposure to food antigens can trigger rapid gut inflammation leading to barrier hyperpermeability, sometimes termed ‘leaky gut’.
The microbiome also plays a role in the development of immune tolerance with research demonstrating that reduced gastrointestinal microbial diversity in early life is associated with the development of food allergy or food sensitisation. Improper digestive function due to poor enzyme secretion may be linked to food sensitivities and a lack of tolerance due to food components not being adequately assimilated. Gastric acid suppressive medications have also been associated with the occurrence of food allergy. Supporting healthy digestive function is essential when addressing allergies and sensitivities.
Concomitant support of both the gastrointestinal and immune system is therefore central to providing a more solid and long-term solution to allergic conditions.
The Ingredients That Reduce Reactivity
A number of herbs and nutrients can help you manage your symptoms of allergy and reactivity; by helping to restore balance to your immune system:
- Aller-7®: A unique combination of seven traditional Ayurvedic herbs has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory actions – key to providing you with symptomatic relief.
- Quercetin and Bromelains: These potent antioxidant nutrients help retrain your immune system, minimise respiratory congestion, and reduce mucus production.
- Avoid processed sugar and processed fats: excess calories from these sources are stored as fat, especially around your waistline. They also encourage dysbiosis within your digestive tract.
- Reishi and Shiitake: Medicinal mushrooms support healthy immune system function and neutralise allergens, along with reducing wheeze and excess mucus production.
A Tolerable Diet
Following a prescribed diet in conjunction with specialised supplementation greatly assists in reducing symptoms and building tolerance to allergens. Your Practitioner will recommend a specific dietary plan depending on your symptom presentation and health history. For example we may use a FODMAP, Low histamine, SIBO or personalised elimination diet – depending on symptoms and test results.
While following the Allergy and Reactivity Reduction Programme you will ‘rest’ from foods that may be creating inflammation and damage within your gut, giving your immune system an opportunity to ‘reset’ and become more tolerant. Your Practitioner may also work with you to strategically re-test the foods you have been ‘resting’ from to determine the right amount for you in the future; so you can remain symptom-free, while still enjoying the foods and activities you love.
Time to Breathe Easy
Now is the time to address those irritating allergic symptoms by tackling the underlying causes. Completing this program can help you gain control of your reactivity and increase your tolerance levels, leading to a reduction in symptoms. Imagine indulging in the foods and activities you enjoy; patting your dog without sneezing, eating the foods you love without bloating, or having a picnic in the grass without itching – now that would be life changing!
Contact Sheena Hendon and make a booking to get your allergies and intolerances under control today