Allergies and Your Immune System
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Spring is here and so are allergies! This is the time of year were allergies are in great abundance. Flowers are in bloom so our grasses and many other types of pollen that our immune system has not been exposed to the last six months or so. When our body is being exposed to these environmental compounds, it is responding to them as if they are a foreign invader, like a bacteria or a virus. We know this is an inappropriate immune response; these environmental compounds are not out to hurt us. Our immune system is being overly sensitive; we need our immune systems to calm down so it can be more intelligent and pick out the real immune threats from the benign ones.
There are certain things we can do to help make our immune system more intelligent. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is very helpful, this helps take stress off the immune system, it helps lower cortisol, it helps our immune system stay strong and smart so it can pick out the bad invaders from the not so bad. When we are overtired it’s common for us to overreact during certain situations. This analogy holds true for our immune system, the more inflamed we are, the increased chance our immune system will overreact.
Medication and allergies
The majority of medications that help with allergies such as Zyrtec, Allegra, Singulair and Benadryl usually work one of two ways; they suppress the immune response and or weaken the immune system or decrease the histamine response. If you are the kind of person that is interested in having optimal health the two pharmaceutical alternatives mentioned above don’t sound too great. It’s much better to make the immune system smarter and more intelligent and not just weaker and docile. Anytime you weaken the immune system you make yourself more susceptible to other chronic degenerative diseases.
Some of the above drugs have side effects involving weight gain. Many patients I know are trying to lose weight, and are more than likely not aware that some of the medications they are using maybe potentially antagonizing their weight loss and body composition goals.
Some of my favorite natural compounds to help address allergies and inflammation
Quercetin: Is a bioflavonoid and it’s very helpful in helping in balance out the immune system, quercetin helps decrease inflammation as well as decrease your body’s histamine response. Histamine is what makes your body stuffy, congested, and makes your nose runny. This provides a natural solution for people that may have use Benadryl or other types of algae-based medications. Quercetin also has no side effects and is a powerful antioxidant as well.
NAC (n-acetyl cysteine): NAC is a sulfur-based amino acid that is a precursor for glutathione. Glutathione is our body’s master antioxidant and is primarily used to help quelch the fire of inflammation and free radical stress. The more stressed we are the more our antioxidant and glutathione systems are taxed and the increased chance our glutathione reserves will be depleted.
Many people out there aren’t eating enough high-quality protein sources and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower. If we don’t have the raw material amino acids to help make glutathione we have an increased risk of being overly inflamed and being susceptible to allergy symptoms as well.
Fish oil is an essential fatty acid in the omega 3 family which increases the prostaglandin 3 pathway (it’s highlighted in the picture below). This pathway is anti-inflammatory and helps put out the fire in our body. Avoiding refined omega 6 fats like vegetable oils like canola, soy, and cotton seed oil to name only a few can help decrease our prostaglandin 2 pathways which make us more inflamed. As inflammation increases so does our chance of allergies. Eating foods that help put out the fire and avoiding foods that help increase the fire is an easy way to help improve your allergies.
Consuming 4-8 grams of high quality fish oil that is in a triglyceride form tends to be the best. Make sure you are consuming a high quality brand. If your are burping up the fish oil, the brand may not be of good quality or your body isn’t producing enough enzymes to break down the fat. A fish oil with lipase included can help decrease this problem. To get to the root cause of your allergies, click here!