Types of Allergies
Depending on what you are allergic to, an allergic reaction can cause symptoms that run the gamut from sneezing, watery eyes, and stuffy or runny nose to more severe reactions such as swelling and impaired breathing. Common environmental allergies can include having an allergic reaction to pollen, molds, weeds or grass, dust mites, dander from animals, stings from insects, various foods such as peanuts, shellfish, wheat, milk or eggs, and latex. Having an allergy depends partly on genetics. You are 30% more likely to have an allergy if one of your parents does and 60% more likely if both parents do. This is in comparison to only being at a 15% risk for allergies if neither of your parents have them. Research shows that this disposition to having an allergy does not necessarily mean you will have an allergic reaction to the exact same things as your family member. In addition it seems that in the last 40 years or so more people are showing allergic symptoms and around 46% of Americans have allergies of some type. Kim Knowlton, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council's health and environment program in New York City attributes this partly to the trend of an increase in warm weather months that allows pollen to be present for a longer amount of time than in the past. There are of course various allergy medicines that can bring some relief to allergy symptoms, but they often have related risks and side effects. Here we explore some natural solutions to help with the symptoms of various types of allergies.
Natural Solutions for Allergy Symptoms
1. Keep Your Immune System Fit
Having a strong and healthy immune system goes a long way in the fight against allergy symptoms. Since according to Dr. Mercola, around 80% of your immune system is in the digestive tract, this means supporting good intestinal health. A key element for this is keeping a healthy supply of "good bacteria" in the intestines to fight off bad bacteria that can compromise the immune system. Environmental toxins and unhealthy food and drink can kill off these good bacteria allowing bad bacteria and yeast to take over which can lead to a failure in producing antibodies to resist pathogens and major health problems. An unhealthy digestive tract is also susceptible to leaky gut syndrome with has also been found to contribute to allergies. Eating fermented and cultured foods with live active probiotic cultures and taking probiotic supplements such as acidophilus and bifidus are important for maintaining a healthy balance of "good bacteria" in the intestines. According to Kamal Ivory, PhD, a senior researcher at the Institute of Food Research in the United Kingdom, using probiotics to keep the bacteria balanced in the digestive tract can reduce the risk of an overreaction to allergens by the immune system. When you have an allergic reaction, your body releases an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Research indicates that the levels of probiotics that live in your gut can affect how much IgE your body produces, and how severe your allergy symptoms will be. There have been specific results indicating that a good population of acidophilus in the small intestine can reduce how much IgE is produced in response to pollen.
2. Dress for Success
If you can't avoid being outside when pollen counts or pollution levels are high, consider wearing a mask that fits over your nose and mouth or goggles over your eyes. You may get some sideways looks, but if you suffer severe symptoms the looks may be preferable. Also be aware that when you come in from outside you may have pollen on your clothes. Take a shower as soon as you get home, change into clean clothes and wash the clothes you were wearing to avoid letting those pollens into your home. Even if you've already been exposed to the pollen enough to trigger your symptoms, you can avoid bringing more into the house that could possibly affect those living with you. If you have allergies to dust mites and molds and are doing a good cleaning out of possible culprits, wear long sleeves and gloves that you can toss in the wash when you finish and you may need to wear a mask while doing the dirty work.
3. Protect Your Indoor Space
On days that pollen counts are high, be sure to protect your indoor space by keeping windows and door closed and using an air conditioner. On wash day, dry clothes and bedding in a dryer instead of hanging them outside to dry. Extra vacuuming of carpets and furniture can also help reduce your exposure to allergens and some people find using a HEPA air filter useful. Using high efficiency heat and air conditioner filters and changing them out every 3 months can help filter dust and pollen from your house. If your allergic reactions are connected to dust mites which exist in the dust in your house, washing your bedding in hot water once a week and using hypoallergenic pillows can help reduce symptoms. You can also use mattress covers to keep dust from accumulating in your bed. Using a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 45% – 50% and doing frequent dusting in your home can also help in reducing an allergic reaction to dust. Allergies to molds are common in summer and fall months, but can occur anytime if you have mold in your home. Inspect any damp areas like the bathrooms or the basement if you notice and increase in your mold allergic reactions. Look for any plumbing repairs that may be necessary to keep water accumulation down and making sure these areas have good ventilation can help. You may also need to get rid of houseplants that may have mold growing in the soil.
4. Nutritional Supplement Solutions
AFA bluegreen algae is loaded with superfood nutrition that provides the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients vital to a healthy immune system and overall body health. Jeffrey J. Bruno, Ph.D., who has done extensive research on the benefits of bluegreen algae, has reported that "A daily dose of beta-carotene, from an algae extract, demonstrated a protective effect against exercise-induced asthma" and cites two studies that show adding bluegreen algae to one's diet can contribute to a reduction of aphylactic and immune-type allergic reactions. ("Edible Microalgae, Jeffrey J. Bruno, Ph.D.). In the case of food allergies there have been studies reporting that algae has been able to reduce allergy type symptoms caused by a sensitivity to milk products. AFA bluegreen algae full of carotenes and chlorophyll has been reported to be beneficial in dealing with many types of food allergies and intolerances.
Digestive enzymes can help break down the irritating shell that surrounds each pollen molecule which can reduce irritation of the mucus membranes. If your body doesn't have enough enzymes, a high quality enzyme supplement may be needed. You can get your algae, enzymes and probiotics all together in these convenient packets that include two kinds of bluegreen algae, a digestive enzyme, acidophilus and bifidus.
Other nutritional considerations for strengthening the immune system include eating fresh fruits and vegetables to get extra antioxidants into your diet that can help reduce inflammation and reduce allergy symptoms. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids can also help in reducing inflammation caused by a reaction to pollen. Fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and AFA bluegreen algae are all rich food sources of omega-3.
5. Clear Out Your Nose
A Neti-Pot or saline nasal sprays can be helpful for a stuffy nose and for washing pollen and dust out of nasal cavities. You may have to use these several times throughout the day as relief is not usually long lasting, but it is a natural solution that can help you avoid medications such as decongestants and antihistamines. David Rabago, MD, assistant professor and author of a study at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, found that 60% of participants who used a neti-pot reported a reduction in their allergy symptoms.
6. Pick Your Outside Times
If you deal with allergies to pollen, it will be important to find out exactly what type of pollen or other outdoor allergens you react to. This could mean having allergy testing done or just simply keeping a journal of your symptoms in conjunction with various pollen counts in your area. Having this knowledge can help you avoid planning outdoor activities when the pollen count for the allergen that you react to is high. Your local newspaper or internet news source often will post pollen counts for your area. Knowing that pollen counts are often lower on days that are cool and rainy and in morning and evening hours and higher on days that are windy and warmer and in the middle of the day can also help you plan for outdoor activities. Another consideration to keep track of is the pollution level in your area as this can contribute to symptoms for people with allergies. For those who normally get their exercise outdoors, there may be days when pollen counts and/or pollution levels are high enough to warrant changing to an indoor exercise period or a change in the type of exercise. For example, if you usually jog and really work up a sweat with intense exercise you breathe faster and inhale more allergens. Doing more gentle exercise like stretching or yoga on those days that don't cause you to breathe faster may be a solution.
7. Have an Epi Plan for Life Threatening Allergies
If your doctor has prescribed an Epi Pen for life threatening allergic reactions to insect stings, a latex allergy or food allergy, have a plan for carrying it with you at all times. If a child is involved, make sure you have an extra Epi Pen or a fool-proof system of passing it off to family, friends or school personnel that the child spends time with. Other less threatening symptoms to these types of allergies can include swelling, redness, hives or welts. If your doctor has prescribed an antihistamine medication for these type of symptoms, have it included in the plan for always having it available. In the case of insect sting allergies, you can avoid attracting insects by not wearing scents that can attract them, always wearing shoes outside, staying away from areas that are naturally attractive to stinging insects and choose clothing to wear that doesn't have bright colors. In the case of an allergy to latex, the best solution is obviously to avoid contact with it. If in doubt whether something unfamiliar to you may contain latex, ask. This is a good practice to get young children with these types of allergies and with food allergies to start learning. If they are eating in a new place or eating a food they have never eaten before, encourage them to ask for ingredients. And don't forget about what the food was prepared in. For example, a child may have eaten French fries many times and think they are safe, but there are restaurants that fry in peanut oil which could be disastrous for a child with a peanut allergy. When in doubt, ask, choose another food selection or go somewhere familiar that you know is safe.
You now have seven natural solutions to try out and see which work for you in reducing the symptoms of an allergic reaction according to what type of allergies you have. A few dietary or lifestyle changes just may make all the difference in how much you suffer with allergies this year.
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"Edible Microalgae", Jeffrey J. Bruno, Ph.D.