Allergies can be a pain in more than one way
With Spring just around the corner now is the time to talk about about seasonal allergies. Hayfever and allergic rhinitis are all terms for a group of symptoms where the immune system has become hypersensitive to pollens, grasses, dust, moulds, mites or animal dander.
Symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis include runny and/or stuffy nose; red, watery, itchy eyes; sneezing; itchy throat, nose, eyes and face; sinus pain and headache; post nasal drip; generalised aches and pains, and fatigue.
Starting around August and running through to late summer around 20% of Australians are affected by seasonal allergies, which impact on day to day life for the duration of what is often called the “hayfever season”. Seasonal allergies can make some people wish Spring never happened.
Why People Get Allergies
So why does your body react this way? If you think of your immune system as an army, then allergies happen when your immune system is ‘trigger happy’ i.e it fires off an immune response when it detects an otherwise harmless substances and thinks these substances are a threat. So when Spring arrives and there is an increase in pollens, grasses, dust, moulds, mites or animal dander (called allergens) your immune system releases large amounts of the chemicals whose role is it to force the allergen out of your body. One of these chemicals is histamine how it does this is reflected in signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies.
What You Can Do to Manage and Prevent Allergies
Conventional medicine approaches seasonal allergies and hayfever by using antihistamines – medications designed to reduce histamine and allergy symptoms.
Naturopathy approaches seasonal allergies and hayfever by using herbs and supplements that work towards both symptomatic relief while also retraining the body’s immune system to not react to seasonal allergens. A Naturopathic Treatment Program will improve your ability to tolerate allergens, reduce your reactive symptoms, and repair your gut, .
What Does the Gut Have to do with Allergies?
Hippocrates said over 2000 years ago that all disease start in the gut. Science is now proving that he was right.
The majority of your body’s immune cells are found in your gut. Inflammation in your gut, damage to the lining of your gut (leaky gut), gut dysbiosis (the wrong mix of good and bad bacteria), all contribute to how your immune system responds to allergens.
Reducing Your Body’s Reaction to Allergens
Symptomatic relief for hayfever and seasonal allergies can be provided by nutrients such as Quercetin, Bromelains and Vitamin C; and herbs such as Eyebright, Baical Skullcap and Albizzia.
These herbs and supplements work together to retrain your immune system so it doeesn’t react to allergens, minimise respiratory congestion, and reduce mucus production.
Fix Your Gut
You need to do 2 things to help fix your gut so your body can better cope with allergens.
Firstly, you need to eat food that will support your gut and encourage the right sort of bacteria.
Eat a variety of plant based foods every day. For a healthy gut you need to eat 6-9 cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
You need to consume around 60-80g of fibre daily to feed your microbiome, and help with keeping your digestive system on the move. You can also add a fibre supplements to help with the health of your gut and your gut bacteria. Choose a fibre supplement that provide several different fibres.
Next, improve the integrity of your gut barrier. Your gut is a barrier between you and the outside world. Keeping the barrier strong is essential to overall health and wellbeing. A strong barrier sets the scene for good tolerance and immunity. A weak barrier leads to inflammation, leaky gut, and gut disease.
Simple ways to soothe and repair your gut are Aloe Vera juice (20-50ml daily) and slippery elm powder (mix a heaped teaspoon in water and drink once a day)
Rinsing your nasal passages with a neti pot can assist. Saline nasal sprays have a similar effect of clearing out allergens form nasal passages.
Keep house dust to a minimum – vacuum your house regularly, avoid highly scented household and personal products (soaps, shampoos, deodorants, air fresheners, perfumes etc).
Choosing the correct treatment regime is essential to preventing and reducing the impact of allergic rhinitis and seasonal allergies. The correct treatment regime will reduce chemical mediators associated with the allergic response, as well as providing relief of symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis. A qualified naturopath can tailor a program to suit you.
When you are ready to take the next step to preventing and managing seasonal allergies, here’s 2 things you can do.
1- Start your journey to better health and vitality by completing the Vitality Scorecard here
2- Ready to make an investment in your ongoing health, book a Reset Your Health chat here
Reference: Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence based guide (3nd Edition), by Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen.
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (2nd Edition) by Kerry Bone & Simon Mills
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone.
Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk & Michael Wink.
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
The Vitamin D Dilemma
Vitamin D – cholecalciferol (D3), ergocalciferol (D2)
Vitamin D is hormone like in its action, and is not considered to be a true vitamin. Despite it not being a true vitamin, it is still classed as a fat soluble vitamin – this means it is insoluble in digestive juices and requires bile for absorption, where it travels through the lymphatic system with chylomicrons (a lipoprotein/carrier protein) before entering the bloodstream. Vitamin D is stored in the liver and adipose tissue and is not readily excreted, increasing the risk of toxicity.
Vitamin D and Bone Growth
Vitamin D maintains blood concentration of calcium and phosphorus, the 2 minerals essential to bone mineralisation i.e these minerals help bone become stronger & denser. Vitamin D assists this in 3 ways:
- enhances absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the GIT
- enhances reabsorption of calcium and phosphorus by the kidneys
- mobilise of calcium and phosphorus from bones to blood through parathyroid directed regulation.
Other functions of vitamin D
Vitamin D is also involved found in tissues e.g immune cells, brain and nervous system cells, pancreas, skin, muscles, cartilage, reproductive organs.
Vitamin D has numerous functions and may be valuable in treating disorders such as autoimmunity, anxiety and depression, tuberculosis, gum inflammation, multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Vitamin D is gaining popularity in the treatment of a number of disease e.g diabetes, Paget’s disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and non-specific musculoskeletal pain.
Making Vitamin D
Vitamin D is considered endogenous and sufficient exposure to sunlight allows the body to synthesise vitamin D from a precursor derived from cholesterol and sunlight. A cholesterol-based precursor produced in the sebaceous glands of the skin is converted to vitamin D with the assistance of UVB rays i.e sunlight. So you need sunlight to produce vitamin D. The same sunlight that is known to cause skin cancer. Australia has some of the highest rates of skin cancer. This is where the dilemma is.
Australia is a sunburnt country. The Australian Cancer Council has been promoting the slip, slop, slap message, (slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat, for the uninitiated), for quite some years now. I don’t think anyone can argue that this is anything but wise advice.
However, as even low SPF factor sunscreens can block UVB exposure, constantly using sunscreens increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Not only does sunscreen increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, so does wearing thick clothing, e.g ‘veiled’ women, or spending most of your time indoors, e.g elderly people in hostels or nursing homes, or long stay hospital patients.
So how much sun is enough to increase vitamin D levels?
There is considerable controversy around this, but it has been suggested that exposing 10-15% of the body to the sun before 10am and after 3pm for 10 minutes between October and March (in Australia) is sufficient to supply adequate vitamin D. During other months up to 1 hour of exposure is needed. This short exposure can be achieved during brief outdoor tasks such as hanging out the washing, or walking to the mailbox, or sitting in the sun reading a book for 10 minutes. Do not make the mistake of ‘topping up’ your exposure on any one day, as this will increase the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Stick to the 10-15 minute rule, even the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NMHRC) agree that this is adequate sun to keep vitamin D levels up in most healthy people.
Vitamin D is also found in cold water fish oils such as halibut, herring and tuna, egg yolk, sprouted seeds, and foods that have been fortified with vitamin D e.g milk, milk products, some cereals and breads.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
The RDA for vitamin D is 200-400iu or 5-10µmg per day. Therapeutic dose starts at 1000iu or 25µmg per day and can be as high as 10,000iu or 250µmg per day.
Allowances for vitamin D can be averaged out over time and don’t have to be consumed regularly like water soluble vitamins.
Those people who have reduced exposure to the sun, can supplement their diet with vitamin D. However, be aware that ingested vitamin D is only 50-80% bioavailable i.e you will only absorb 50-80% of what you ingest.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Deficiency of Vitamin D most commonly shows as Rickets and/or osteomalacia.
It’s worth noting that studies have indicated that between 75-90% of Australian adults are deficient in Vitamin D, although Rickets is rare.
Deficiency should be considered in patients with poor fat metabolism – this is because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. People with low exposure to sunlight may also be vitamin D deficient e.g people whose clothing limits exposure, people in cold climates. Because of its links to the parathyroid, vitamin D levels should be assessed if there is parathyroid dysfunction. Those most at risk of vitamin D deficiency, i.e people over 50 years of age, people with malabsorption problems such as those seen in coeliac disease.
Vitamin D and Genes
There are a number of genes which influence the production, transportation and utilisation of Vitamin D. Knowing an understanding a patient’s genetic profile is a core component to treating the underlying cause of Vitamin D deficiency. For example, if a patient has genes which code for poor uptake of Vitamin D, then it is necessary to supplement with high doses of Vitamin D to correct deficiency.
Excess vitamin D
Too much Vitamin D can lead to calcium imbalance e.g calcification of soft tissue and formation of stones, seizures, disorientation, joint pain. Supplements may cause toxicity – for this reason you should consult a healthcare professional trained in human nutrition before taking a Vitamin D supplement.
If you feel that you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, consult a healthcare professional trained in human nutrition.The Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA) and the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) list accredited practitioners (naturopath, herbalist or nutritionist) who can correctly prescribe vitamin supplements.
Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence based guide (3rd Edition), by Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen. The Nutrient Bible (6th Edition), by Henry Osiecki.
We all know of the negative impact colds and flu have on our personal and work life.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and supporting your immune system with the right herbs and supplements are the keys to staying healthy over the winter cold and flu season. Research has shown that a number of traditional herbs improve immune function. Now is the time to start taking immune-boosting herbs and supplements to support your immune system and help prevent colds and flu. Book an appointment now to stay healthy over winter.