What is an allergy?
An allergic reaction happens when your immune system misidentifies something completely harmless as a threat and starts working hard to attack offending “foreign invader”. This causes an inflammatory response.
There are two ways our bodies interpret and react to ‘foreign invaders”.
The first is a true allergy, which is an immediate allergic reaction. These reactions are what you go to an allergist for. The standard test is a skin scratch test where a drop of the reactive allergen is placed on your back or arm and then the skin is pricked. If your skin puffs up, you are allergic to that substance. You might find you are allergic to ragweed, pollen, grasses etc. An allergy is actually a disorder of the immune system and the key to fighting seasonal allergies is building a strong immune system.
Hidden food allergies can be at play.
The second type of allergic reaction is a delayed immune response. It’s not a true allergy. Sometimes called an intolerance or sensitivity these can occur in a matter of hours to days and can show up in a variety of symptoms in people. Very often the secondary immune reactions are due to unknown food intolerances. And since these delayed response reactions are not immediate they don’t show up on a scratch test done in an allergist office. Thus these types of secondary immune reactions frequently go undetected. Here are some of the symptoms people experience. When you look through you’ll understand why they might be mistaken for seasonal allergies.
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Skin irritations; acne; psoriasis, red patchy skin
- Joint/muscle pain
- Bloating, gas, or other gastritis like symptoms
- Poor focus and concentration or difficulty making decisions aka brain fog
Often the foods we eat on a daily basis end up being those that we are sensitive to. Interestingly, we also tend to crave the foods we are most reactive to. Because we are experiencing a delayed reaction in the following hours or days, we don’t recognize these familiar foods as being problematic for us.
The six most common trigger foods are:
Casein from dairy
If you need help determining whether you have hidden food allergies, please get in touch and we can certainly help!
With non-food allergies, the connection between the food you eat and the symptoms you feel is not always clear but that doesn’t mean the connection isn’t there.
Your gut is a crucial part of your immune system, because it’s the first line of immune defense against any item that you eat. One of its biggest jobs is identifying which things are harmless and which are dangerous. This is the part of the immune function that breaks down in an allergic reaction. The good news is, there’s strong evidence that probiotics help alleviate allergy symptoms by changing the immune response in the gut.
We see how gut flora affects things in practice when looking at children raised on farms. They have much lower rates of allergies. The hypothesis is that exposure to a reasonable level of dirt and bugs when young, gives them a better resistance to allergies because of its impact on the patterns of gut flora.
Allergies, as I mentioned above, involve an inflammatory response. Anything that causes inflammation in the body is going to put the immune system on high alert and it will respond more to seasonal allergies. The key causes of inflammation include eating sugar, foods to which you are sensitive (see above), alcohol, caffeine, industrial seed oils (like canola and soybean oils) and processed foods as well as having a stressful lifestyle or lack of sleep. Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements like Omega3 fats and others have been associated with reducing allergies. More on this next time.
Often those with a seasonal allergy will experience an allergic response to certain foods. Here’s a list of common foods that cross react with pollen allergies:
Birch pollen: apple, carrot, celery, pear, tomato, cherry, tree nuts
Goosefoot pollen: banana, melon, peach (infrequently: nectarine, asparagus, kiwi, potato, olive, onion)
Mugwort pollen (weed): carrot, celery, aniseed, peach
Ragweed pollen: melon, cucumber, banana, sunflower, echinacea
Timothy grass: apple, litchi, tomato, celery, corn, bell pepper, paprika
Hopefully that was some food for thought for those of you who are popping pills this allergy season.
Medications only relieve symptoms of allergies & don’t deal with the underlying causes.
A natural approach can often be more effective.
Dealing with allergies takes patience and a combination of tactics.
Start by removing foods that could be causing you trouble.
As always, let us know if we can help.