A mother watches in worry as a rash appears around her child’s mouth and begins to spread. A man experiences gut pain and bloating after ingesting reactive foods. Or perhaps you, like many others, soldier on with sneezing and sinus congestion, struggling to think clearly. Though they present in many forms, allergic symptoms range from the mildly annoying to the frightening – at times appearing rapidly, with great intensity and an element of unpredictability. While not all cases are severe, many allergy sufferers feel quite unwell as symptoms compromise the quality of their daily lives.
The Immune System in Overdrive
Allergy is essentially a state of immune hyper-reactivity. The body encounters an allergen (a foreign substance such as dust, animal fur, pollen, certain food) that triggers a reaction. In an attempt to restore balance, the immune system mounts an attack to eradicate the allergen. This typically involves mast cells releasing histamine and other immune factors, causing an explosion of inflammation – the end result being uncomfortable allergic symptoms.
While meant to be short-lived, the immune response can continue and become chronic. This may be due to the persistence of the allergen in the environment or the diet (perhaps unidentified), or because the immune system remains in a state of hyper-reactivity as other imbalances in the body (e.g. digestive and immune dysregulation) perpetuate the allergic response.
Building up Tolerance to Your Allergenic Enemies
Many seek relief from allergic symptoms, but how? Allergen avoidance can be restrictive, is not always practical, and fails to address the causes of immune imbalance. While natural medicines with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties such as Aller-7® herbal combination, quercetin and bromelain can provide much needed relief from the intensity of allergic symptoms, the real answer is in addressing the immune dysregulation that lies beneath the surface. This approach focuses on increasing tolerance – so you essentially become more accepting of the very allergens you react to!
Building up greater tolerance to environmental and food-borne substances dampens down the immune response, ultimately resulting in no or low reaction upon exposure – to ultimately break the cycle of recurrent allergies.
Reducing Allergic Reactivity
The following treatment strategies can improve your ability to tolerate allergens and reduce allergic reactivity through addressing the underlying drivers:
- Restore immune balance: Allergies reflect a dysregulated immune system; a key treatment target. The medicinal mushroom reishi is effective at restoring the balance of immune cells (T helper 1/T helper 2) to a less allergic state.1,2
- Enhance muscosal defences: Secretory immunoglobulin A (an immune factor found in mucus) helps stop allergens in their tracks, providing the first line of defence against the external environment.3,4 These actions are also enhanced by shiitake mushroom.5
- Heal the gut: The digestive system is the body’s prime regulator of immunity, and research shows that people with allergies have greater intestinal permeability6 (which can allow allergens to pass from the gut to the systemic circulation to trigger immune reactivity). Healing the gut lining can promote a strong barrier and reduce allergy.
- Moderate the gut microbiome: Probiotics support a healthy gut microbiome, meanwhile having profound effects on tipping immune balance from reactivity to a state of calm. In particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®)7 and Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33®8 help regulate the immune system and promote an anti-inflammatory environment; also reducing allergic symptoms including eye symptoms9 and eczema.10
- Support detoxification: Liver detoxification aids removal of environmental toxins and food-based allergens,11 as well as immunologically active material from the body, reducing the intensity of the immune reaction.12
A Fresh Approach to Allergy
It’s time to look at allergies from a fresh perspective. In addition to symptomatic support, addressing gut and immune dysregulation as causative factors in allergy allows you to build up your immune tolerance – decreasing the frequency and/or intensity of your allergies to greatly improve how you feel and function.
For more information on Allergy, plug in your headphones and listen to the Allergy Series podcasts.
1. Powell M. The use of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in the management of histamine-mediated allergic responses. Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine. 2006 May 1(274):78-82.
2. Chang H-M, But P P-H. Lingzhi. Pharmacology and applications of Chinese materia medica Vol 1. Singapore; World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 2001. 1986. p. 598.
3. Mantis NJ, Rol N, Corthésy B. Secretory IgA’s complex roles in immunity and mucosal homeostasis in the gut. Mucosal Immunol. 2011 Nov 1;4(6):603-11.
4. Corthësy B. Secretory immunoglobulin A: well beyond immune exclusion at mucosal surfaces. Immunopharmacol immunotoxicol. 2009 Jun 1;31(2):174-9.
5. Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, Esteves EA, Nieves C Jr, Spaiser SJ, et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: a randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87.
6. Miller A. The pathogenesis, clinical implications and treatment of intestinal hyperpermeability. Alt Med Rev [Internet]. 1997 [cited 2017 Jul 13]. Available at: http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/290061/15262306/1322064750827/Intestinal_Hyperpermeability.pdf?token=0vEeWSqCFTx9k6wiH6hvN17fXc8%3D.
7. Fong FLY, Kirjavainen PV, El-Nezami H. Immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG on dendritic cells, macrophages and monocytes from healthy donors. Journal of Functional Foods. 2015;13:71-79.
8. Peng G, Hsu C. The efficacy and safety of heat-killed Lactobacillus paracasei for treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis induced by house-dust mite. Paediatric Allergy and Immunology. 2005;16:433-438.
9. Peng G, Hsu C. The efficacy and safety of heat-killed Lactobacillus paracasei for treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis induced by house-dust mite. Paediatric Allergy and Immunology. 2005;16:433-438.
10. Kalliomäki M, Salminen S, Poussa T, Isolauri E. Probiotics during the first 7 years of life: a cumulative risk reduction of eczema in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:10169-1021.
11. Gao B, Jeong WI, Tian Z. Liver: an organ with predominant innate immunity. Hepatology. 2008 Feb 1;47(2):729-36.
12. Mills S, Bone K. Herbal approaches to system dysfunctions. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. 2013. p. 198-199.
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