Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seasonal allergies

The sun is finally shining, flowers are blooming and, like Calvin, many of us are beginning to sneeze our heads off right??
Yep. Its allergy season.
But, why is it that some of us find ourselves suffering for months each year while others aren't phased by the seasonal change at all?

There can be many factors involved with the cause of seasonal allergies. One of the most important things to address is the immune system. Most of us dealing with allergies have an out of balance immune system. Without getting too complicated, our immune systems have two different types of T cell responses, Th1 and Th2. Our Th2 activated cells respond to toxins, allergens, and parasites, whereas Th1 activated cells respond to viruses, cancer, and intracellular bacteria. We want to have a balance of both Th1 and Th2 activated T cells. If Th2 is too dominate we have all the wonderful symptoms that go along with seasonal allergies. Because of our western lifestyles, most of us tend to be Th2 dominant, thus overreacting to allergens and often under reacting to viruses etc. This is not a state we want to be in, so how do we go about balancing our T cell immunity?? Here are few ideas....

How can we increase the Th1 immune response?

1) Get an adequate intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are seriously lacking in the standard american diet. We can obtain Omega-3s through a diet rich in cold water fish and dark green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables and algae.

2) Vitamin A, found in cod liver oil, cooked carrots, squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes

3) Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and induces a Th1 response

4) Another activator of Th1 is Garlic... yummy

How do we decrease the Th2 immune response?

1) Decrease the amount of white sugar in your diet as it will directly weaken the Th1 cells and resistance to all infections

2) Decrease the amount of trans-fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, found in much of the heated and processed vegetable oils Americans consume on a daily basis.

3) Heal your gut... a healthy balance of intestinal flora decreases Th2 and increases Th1. So get those probiotics either from naturally fermented foods/drinks and/or a good quality supplement.

A few other things to consider....

1) Bioflavonoids, such as Quercetin, help to decrease the inflammatory response brought on by allergies. Quercetin stabilizes the cells that release histamine so we don't have the allergic response when we come in contact with the allergens.

2) Make sure you're getting enough sunlight, water and exercise on a daily basis. These things all help to boost your Th1 immunity.

3) Make yourself a big pot of Nettle tea to drink throughout the day. Yep... that's right the stinging nettle plant we all hate to come in contact with makes an excellent anti-allergy drink. Look at the tea section in your local health food store... chances are, you'll find nettle tea. Or for all you brave folks, go out and collect some nettles yourself... with gloves of course. Often bags of fresh nettles are sold at farmers markets as well. Just boil some water, add the fresh or dried nettle leaves, let steep for 10 minutes or so... add a little honey if you like and enjoy. If its too hot outside for hot tea, make up a big batch, add some honey and lemon slices and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.