Author: Dr. Rehan Lakhani, ND
Dr. Rehan is a Collingwood naturopath who provides evidence-based care to those struggling with anxiety. Click here to schedule a free consult with Dr. Rehan.
Coming into the spring and summer, many of us are thinking about allergy season and how it will impact us this year. In this article, we’ll talk about what allergies are, how they develop, what the main symptoms of allergies are compared to a common cold, and how to get rid of your allergies.
What are allergies?
Allergies are your body’s reaction to foreign substances that have been inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with your skin or a mucus membrane (such as your eyes). Your immune system perceives this foreign body as more of a threat than it actually is, and puts up a strong fight against it, resulting in various allergy symptoms.
There are many substances that can cause the body to react in a variety of different ways. Let’s go through them briefly to gain an understanding of how allergies develop.
Environmental or seasonal allergies are what you commonly experience in the spring, fall, and sometimes even in the summer. You can also experience this around certain animals such as cats or dogs, or even around excessive dust.
Symptoms can include runny nose, itchy, red eyes, sinus congestion, cough, itchy throat or mouth, sneezing, and more.
Food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivity
Food allergies are very severe reactions produced by the body to a specific type of food such as peanuts for example. This reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, results in difficulty breathing, lowered blood pressure, and fainting, and can be life threatening within seconds or minutes. It’s imperative to carry an Epi-Pen if you have a known food allergy.
Food intolerances are different because they are not truly an “allergy”. An intolerance is the body’s inability to process or digest certain foods. This might be due to a lack of naturally occurring digestive enzymes in the gut, or a variety of other reasons. A common example is lactose intolerance. As we age, we produce less lactase in our gut, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose from dairy products we ingest. When lactose is not properly digested, it can cause symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping and pain.
Food sensitivities are a bit of a controversy, but they are becoming more and more common. When the body is exposed to specific foods, the immune system reacts to it, and results in a wide array of symptoms. This immune reaction is NOT as severe as a food allergy, but can still cause troublesome symptoms like joint pain, abdominal pain, lethargy, skin lesions, and difficulty thinking.
Allergies or a cold?
Many patients come in asking, “Do I have allergies or a cold?”. Differentiating between allergies and a common cold can be tricky, here is a quick table on how the two compare, and how to tell them apart:
|Itchy, watery eyes||Often||Rarely|
|Duration of symptoms||As long as you are exposed to the allergen (dust, dander, pollen, etc.)||Up to 2 weeks|
|Time of year||Usually around the same time||Can vary|
|Mucus||Clear, watery||Green, yellow, thick|
|Bodily aches and pains||Rarely||Often|
How to get rid of your allergies
When it comes to seasonal allergies, it’s best to start early, sometime in February or March, to give your body the best chance of not having any seasonal allergy symptoms at all. Below we’ll discuss natural remedies for seasonal allergies.
First thing to do is to remove any foreign bodies that might be stimulating your immune system to react. This is where food sensitivities come in. If you have worked with Naturopathic Doctor (ND) before, you should know which food sensitivities you currently have, and should start avoiding those foods. If you do not know which foods you are sensitive to, ask your ND to help you figure them out.
Second, you want to optimize your digestion. Removing any food sensitivities will help with this as well. If you have a sluggish digestion and experience symptoms like gas and bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, or other digestive symptoms, your immune system might be attacking the improperly digested food particles.
Lastly, if you are experiencing symptoms, naturopathic medicine can help you find relief faster using therapies such as:
Many herbs that reduce symptoms include:
- Nettle (Urtica dioca), which specifically helps with runny nose.
- Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), which helps with watery, itchy eyes.
- Butterbur (Petasites officinalis) naturally reduces all symptoms related to seasonal allergies.
Certain vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals can help reduce the duration and severity of allergic symptoms. These include:
- NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
- Vitamin C
Acupuncture is a great tool to reduce symptoms of sinus congestion, and some studies now show that acupuncture also acts on the nervous system and immune system to have an anti-inflammatory, and anti-histamine response. Our naturopathic doctors are licensed to provide acupuncture in Collingwood and surrounding area. Give us a call to book your session today.
If you are struggling with seasonal allergies, or food sensitivities, and it feels like it’s beyond your control, talk to a licensed naturopathic doctor or health professional. Book a complimentary consult with a Collingwood naturopath to see how we can help you eliminate seasonal allergies and food sensitivities once and for all.