Looking for natural remedies to help you get through allergy season? Here’s part one in a two-part series that explains how to put the Benadryl away for good!
Allergies affect one in five people in the U.S. They are the sixth most common “disease” amongst adults and the number one most common disease among kids, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation (includes all seasonal, food, and skin allergies).
Defined as an “immune response, histamine response, or inflammatory reaction” of the immune system to a foreign substance, or allergen, allergies happen when you eat foods your body can’t digest or when you come into contact with environmental allergens that your personal body chemistry is sensitive to (i.e. mold, pollen, pesticides, vaccines/medications, etc.).
Allergic reactions manifest in a variety uncomfortable side effects like coughing, sneezing, hives, itchy eyes, runny nose, skin breakouts, rashes, shortness of breath, asthma, and a sore or hoarse throat.
What causes these allergic reactions to happen in the first place? Why do some people get runny noses and bloodshot eyes when the air is full pollen or cedar season while others feel fine? Why do some people have a histamine response when they eat certain foods while others can eat the same food all day long with no issue?
Unfortunately, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and other sources, “the exact causes of allergy symptoms are still being investigated.”
In addition, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation also states that “there is no cure for allergies.” You can only “manage" them.
After visiting a doctor and finding out they have allergies or face countless allergy attacks every change of season, many people turn to Benadryl,
Flonase, allergy shots, and Tylenol for short-term relief.
For those suffering with allergies and not getting relief with standard medications, this series about the real (underlying) cause of allergies, plus seven natural allergy remedies (most doctors or Google searches won’t tell you about), is for you!
The gut is the gateway to your health—including your immune system. In fact, 80 percent of your immune cells are produced in your gut. Hence, when you experience allergies, chances are your gut is unhealthy.
“Leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability” is a common phenomenon driving allergies. Leaky gut happens in your gut when the intestinal wall becomes irritated and inflamed due to gut-irritating foods, environmental toxins, low stomach acid, medications, and more. Over time, with more irritation, the gut begins leaking undigested food particles and other unfiltered toxins into the bloodstream.
In turn, the body signals an immune or autoimmune response to attack the foreign invader—resulting in inflammation for the host (you), like autoimmune disease, skin breakouts, horrible IBS, bloating, or allergies.
In addition to “leaky gut,” your gut bacteria health is also a key factor in the allergic response. In fact, research is now showing that the composition of gut bacteria during childhood can set the stage for your allergies and asthma for the rest of your life. Did you live off Pop-Tarts and Cheetos as a kid, or did you ever take antibiotics? Too much processed food or antibiotic use can threaten gut health early on.
Gut imbalance even dates back to the first month of life. Research in Nature Medicine, shows that certain (unhealthy) gut bacteria present in some one-month-old infants predict a three-fold higher risk of developing allergic reactions by age two and asthma by age four, concluding that microbial imbalance also reduces the number of immune cells necessary to help prevent allergies.
Were you birthed by C-section? Formula-fed? Did your mom eat processed foods, lead a sedentary lifestyle, or have an unhealthy gut herself during her pregnancy? All of these also contribute to bacteria insufficiency and low immunity.
In short: Allergies—and your tendency to get them—stem back to the health and balance of your gut.
Even if you eat the healthiest foods in the world and take a probiotic supplement, if your body is under stress, your gut bacteria can be thrown off enough to suppress your immune system. Common stressors that wreak havoc on your gut health (and immune system) just as much as eating a non-nutrient dense diet include lifestyle factors like:
Overtraining or sedentary lifestyle
Eating “healthy” diet foods (like bars, shakes, and packaged foods) with additives or soy protein
Low vegetable intake
Birth control and other prescription medications
Sleeping less than six to seven hours regularly
Low water intake (less than half your body weight in ounces)
High coffee consumption (more than one cup per day)
High consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils
Not chewing your food well or eating while distracted
High screen and blue light exposure
An accumulation of too many stressors at once can cause a disruption in your gut microbiome and, subsequently, in your immune system—especially if you are genetically predisposed to allergies. However, genetics only make up 10 percent of our health conditions, while our environment, lifestyle, and diet make up the rest.
Although the Allergy & Asthma Foundation states there is currently no cure for allergies, when you optimize your gut health and reduce stressors in your lifestyle, you may very well find your allergies become a thing of the past. Goodbye, Claritin!
It’s important to recognize that natural allergy remedies are not effective work unless the foundation of a real food diet is built. You can take all the essential oils in the world and use a neti pot every night, but unless you have a strong base foundation (i.e., a healthy gut), these remedies will only provide temporary relief.
Think back to your last allergy attack or flare—what was your diet like at the time? Had you recently been on vacation? Did you have a few too many glasses of wine that week? Eaten out more than in? Food matters—and what we put into the pipeline can either support immunity or inflame it. Couple this with the other big inflammatory factor—your stress levels—and you have the “perfect storm” for an allergy attack.
Unprocessed foods (on the outer edge of the grocery store)
Sustainable meats and proteins (wild-caught, grass-fed, pastured)
Fresh fruits and veggies
Starchy tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash)
Healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, pastured bacon grease)
Ideally, an allergy sufferer’s diet would look something like this:
Breakfast: Chicken apple sausage patties with mushrooms and zucchini stir-fried in coconut oil
Lunch: Tuna salad with avocado mayo stuffed in a collard green wrap with a side of plantain chips and cucumbers
Dinner: Herb-roasted chicken with sweet potato and chard sautéed in ghee
Snack: Apple with one to two spoonfuls sunflower seed butter
A diet composed of real food, prepared in a variety of ways with seasonings and herbs, is the first thing you should implement to address allergies. Once you have built a strong foundation in your gut through an anti-inflammatory diet, you can then explore remedies to help further soothe any remaining allergies. Check out part two in next month’s issue to learn about natural remedies that your doc probably hasn’t mentioned!