To Your Health
April, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 04)
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Recently, researchers have begun to look at the overuse of antiseptics and antibiotics as another influential factor in the development of allergic rhinitis.

This concept, known as the "hygiene hypothesis," proposes that lack of childhood exposure to microorganisms, both symbiotic (i.e., health-promoting probiotics) and pathogens, leads to modulation of the immune system to favor the development of unnecessary antibodies. Epidemiological support for this theory points to the lower incidence of allergies and autoimmunity in the developing world when compared to the increased incidence within industrialized societies.

Low intake of dietary antioxidants and exposure to cigarette smoke and other environmental pollutants are also strong indicators of increased allergy risk. Other potential factors which may increase allergy risk include low gastric acid secretion (known as hypochlorhydria) and intestinal overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans).

Why Drugs Aren't the Answer

Pharmaceutical management of allergies focuses on stopping the allergenic response, primarily via the inhibition of histamine. Antihistamines are a mainstay in the management of allergies, and although they have been improved upon in recent years, many antihistamine medications may cause significant brain fog and fatigue, among other potential side effects. Other commonly used medications for reducing allergens include steroids, which can be given via a spray directly to the nasal membranes or as an oral medication. These medications take action by modulating the underlying inflammatory pathways which contribute to allergies and asthma. Unfortunately, use of steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can impair overall immune function, and therefore increase the risk of other infections. Other commonly used medications include expectorants, decongestants, and immunotherapy drugs, all of which provide varying levels of relief.

How to Fight Allergy Symptoms Naturally

When looking to control allergy symptoms naturally, the first step is to limit your exposure. Using an air filter, preferably one that ties into a central heating and air conditioning system, can drastically reduce the build-up of allergens in your home. It is also important to focus on areas where allergens can collect. Pet areas, carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture should be cleansed regularly, and bedding should be washed at least once a week.

In addition to these simple steps, you may want to look to your diet as a means for controlling your allergy symptoms. A study of 35 patients conducted in the Journal of Asthma found a positive correlation between allergy relief and vegetarian or vegan diets. In a clinical observation, 92 percent of patients who followed a vegan diet for one year reported reduction in asthma symptoms. Improvement was seen in a number of clinical variables, including lung vital capacity and forced expiratory volume.

Relief from allergic rhinitis may also be achieved via elimination of allergenic foods in the diet. Foods that have been closely linked to respiratory allergies include dairy products, chocolate, sugar, and gluten. There is also strong evidence indicating a connection between allergic rhinitis and intake of certain food additives, including artificial dyes and colorants, sulfites, and benzoates. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, evidence linking these compounds to asthma attacks may be so strong that avoidance of these synthetic additives could be vital to controlling allergy symptoms.

Intake of omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to support healthy airways and additionally favor the production of anti-inflammatory mediators. In a 2009 study reported in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, atopic asthma patients supplemented daily with omega-3 fatty acids improved airway responsiveness even when subjects were exposed to a known allergen. Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Other powerful anti-inflammatory agents which may be beneficial include members of the allicin family, such as onions and garlic, ginger, rosemary, curcumin (turmeric), and the herb Boswellia.