Sneezing, itching, watery eyes – just some of the annoying symptoms we can get from cat hair, pollen or even nuts from our favourite pie. It’s manageable when all you’re dealing with is the sniffles, but what about when it becomes hard to breathe? In that case, your body is alerting to you that it strongly disagrees with a certain element to which you’ve been exposed.
44% of British adults suffer from one allergy and 1 in 12 people suffer from asthma (1). Worst case scenarios can result in anaphylactic shock – very serious and scary. So what’s the difference between these reactions, how can we tell them apart, and what are the best ways to deal with allergic reactions before they become severe?
What are allergies caused by?
An allergy is an inappropriate immunological response to a substance that either comes into contact with the body internally or externally (that is usually not a threat), but the immune system will perceive it as a threat.
The function of the immune system is to maintain our health in which it fights harmful pathogens by attacking what comes into contact with the body. Now, regarding the specific allergen, an inflammatory response is promoted which results in the above symptoms.
Usually, our immune system adjusts to our environment, for example, when the body comes into contact with pet hair, it would regularly recognise this as harmless. However, in people with pet allergies, the immune system will recognise this as a threat instead – an invader! Thus the body will send signals (mast cells) to attack it. This is what prompts the body to feel allergy symptoms – tingling sensation in the mouth, itching and dry skin, swelling in the face and body, nasal congestion, and potentially nausea, vomiting and fainting.
What causes allergies to develop?
Severe allergies are usually present from childhood and are later controlled as an adult, by taking the right precautions and measures. However, there are some situations when new allergies are formed in adulthood and they're usually quickly triggered and can be severe or life-threatening. If you experience any breathing difficulties, swelling of the face, tongue mouth, lightheadedness and loss of consciousness after interacting with an allergen, seek medical help immediately.
8 of the most common allergens
Firstly, identifying the allergen is important to help you manage your allergies fast. You can request a blood test with your GP and check IgE antibodies or have a skin test performed. Here are some of the most common allergy sources to bear in mind:
1. Penicillin and sulfa-drugs
2. Wheat, milk, shellfish, soy and eggs
3. Tree nuts
4. Insect stings and bites
6. Pollens from grass, weeds and trees
7. Resin from plants such as poison ivy and poison oak
8. Latex and certain types of plastics or wool in clothing
How to get rid of allergies naturally
1. Record your food intake and start an elimination diet
An elimination diet for 4 weeks can greatly help to identify food intolerances. Keeping a food journal throughout is handy as it can help keep you on track to what specific foods truly cause a reaction in you.
Then, you can slowly introduce the food every 3 days to see if a reaction will occur. You may feel symptoms such as headaches, bloating or even IBS. It really makes things very clear and will help you quickly identify if you have an intolerance to something.
Food allergies are different, so working with a health practitioner can help you identify your issues.
2. Invest in an air purifier
One of the best home remedies to help reduce allergies – or more specifically seasonal allergies that pop up in the spring, summer, fall or winter – is to have an air filter such as the one by HEPA in the bedroom, which is designed to arrest very fine particles effectively. Check them out online and source the brand you think has the best reviews and would suit your condition.
3. Wash off the pollen
Another home remedy you can try to reduce spring allergies for example, is to bathe before bedtime or at the end of the day. This can help reduce your absorption of pollen in the body. Also, using a nasal irrigation with a neti pot, or a salt nasal spray is effective at clearing passages if you feel congested and blocked up.
4. Support your gut health
70-80% of our immune system is located in our gut, so supporting healthy digestion, gut flora and gut barrier function is specifically crucial in managing allergies! (2) It can have a direct impact on immune function and inflammatory levels that help reduce histamine. Specific probiotics and pre biotic-rich foods, as well as anti-inflammatory foods including colourful vegetables and fruits high in flavonoids and antioxidants should be included in a healthy diet. These include kefir, goats milk, natural yogurt (if can handle dairy), artichokes, sweet potato, sourdough, dark leafy greens and fruit.
Also, eating seasonally or following an ayurvedic diet (eating warmer foods in winter and colder foods in summer) can help reduce burden on the digestive function. Specific antihistamine foods (which contain Quercetin) include apples, broccoli, citrus and red onions. And increasing antocyanin-rich foods such as cherries, grapes, red cabbage, wild rice and berries can help – so chop, cook, and chomp away!
5. Look into specific supplements
Betaine HCL are digestive enzymes to be taken with main meals can aid in the breakdown of food. These are helpful when incorporated with gut-healing nutrients like L-glutamine and zinc L-carnosine.
Also, natural supplements that can help allergies like turmeric and ginger are both potent anti-inflammatory herbs as well as omega 3 fatty acids that come from wild caught salmon, chia seeds or flaxseeds.
Recipe: Herbal tea for allergy relief
The following herbs have antihistamine properties, so play around with them for any tea blend you desire!
• Holy basil
- Seep 1 Nettle tea bag
- Add 1 Tbsp local, raw honey
- Add slice of fresh ginger
- Add a squeeze of lemon
Certain natural remedies can certainly help you manage your allergies at home, however please check with your health practitioner regarding using new herbs or pharmaceutical products as some people might be sensitive.