Spring is here, and so is hay-fever, and all the associated allergic problems such as asthma and eczema.
With the air full of pollens, flowers everywhere; allergies can make the most beautiful season a complete misery for some. Itchy eyes, nose, skin, clogged up nose, sinus, and the fatigue that goes with it. So what is actually happening?
Our enemy in this case is a chemical mediator called Histamine. Histamine is stored in Mast cells that are in the greatest concentrations in the respiratory tract, skin and digestive tract. When these cells are exposed to what is seen as a foreign cell that is perceived as an enemy, the mast cells dilate blood vessels, allowing increased fluids to flush the problem away. The next time there is exposure, there are receptor cells on these Mast cells ready for action, and thus releases much more fluids, and can cause excess mucus, itching and swelling of the mucosa, (mucus producing cells).
In some people these reactions can be so severe that anaphylaxis can result which can be deadly. Why some people react to certain things and to what degree is a massive topic. However there are some interesting recent developments in science that show that what we are exposed to in our early years has a powerful effect. For instance, exposure to large animals such as horses, cows, goats etc has a protective effect on being hyper allergic. Theories also look at a wide exposure to a large variety of foods in very small amounts (a little taste here and there) from a very early age can be beneficial, and is the latest dietary advice to new mothers. Getting dirty, not over over-disinfecting a child’s environment is protective as it slowly allows the immune system to adapt to a wide range of environmental elements.
It is also beneficial to limit use of as anti-biotics and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Iboprufin and paracetamol as these can block or down grade the immune system and therefore not allowing this important system to do its role of mediating how large an immune response is to any given external element, whether that be a virus or pollen or even food.
Small amounts of a variety of fermented foods is also great, such as yoghurt, kefir and Kombucha (just small amounts for kids), increases gut flora and also helps a great deal in stabilizing the immune system so that is does not go ‘off tap’ every time is interacts with a new foreign protein.
When you already have the allergy issue, things you can do to try to keep the mast cells mellow and un-reactive, is to eat a low histamine diet, so that when the inevitable pollens etc hit the air, you are less reactive to them by having less histamine active in your system. Foods to avoid or minimize include, red wine and other alcohols, sugar, chocolate, shellfish, bananas, milk, strawberries, processed meats and cheese except ricotta, fetta and cottage cheese. Good foods to eat more of include onion, capers, broccoli and cauliflower, raspberries, bee pollen (only if not allergic to bee products) and unfiltered local honey as this exposes the immune system to small amounts of the pollen in the air.
Wear an air filter nose mask when you mow the lawn and shower afterward if that sets your hayfever off. There has been research showing the ratio of Carbon dioxide to oxygen can make those who suffer hay-fever worse. To assist this, try the Buteyko breathing method to redress the imbalance. Look it up online or I can show you in the clinic. There are also plenty of Chinese Herbal pills that are brilliant, and don’t make you drowsy, and are best taken daily to prevent as well as treat the symptoms without blocking your healthy immune response.
Enjoy your Spring!
Dr Angela Palmer
Kinglake Chinese Medicine