Seasonal allergies: what’s making you sniffle and sneeze?
It’s that time of year again: seasonal allergies. Allergies affect between 15 and 30 percent of the population --- millions and millions of Americans. To make matters worse, the number of allergy sufferers is dramatically increasing. And not surprisingly, our modern-day lifestyles are to blame.
The majority of allergy sufferers, in all their misery, reach for the quick fix (Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, etc.), further masking their symptoms, while the root cause remains unidentified. Over time, symptoms worsen, and eventually medication brings little to no relief.
Hidden causes of seasonal allergies include:
· Adrenal fatigue
· Gut inflammation and imbalances
· Food sensitivities
· Weak/compromised immune system
So, how do we treat the root cause of seasonal allergies? Of course, countless remedies like apple cider vinegar, local organic honey, and essential oils can bring some symptom relief. But, if the root cause of allergies – an overactive immune system – is not addressed, allergies will continue to worsen, and can eventually lead to more serious autoimmune conditions.
How to address the root causes of seasonal allergies:
· Heal adrenals.
Adrenal fatigue (AF) occurs when the adrenal glands --- the glands that regulate our stress response --- become over-worked due to chronic stress.
Here’s what happens: when the adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the demands of continual stress, they fail to produce an adequate amount of cortisol to combat stress or inflammatory triggers, such as allergens. To put it simply, cortisol is our body’s most powerful anti-inflammatory, and when we’re running low, our bodies lack the ability to put out the fire (allergies).
It’s the 21st century, and who doesn’t have chronic stress?
Remember, stress comes in many forms, not just the emotional variety. Some examples include: poor diet, working too much, not having enough fun, blood sugar dysregulation, sleep deprivation, and exercising too much. Over-exercising is a very common cause of AF, eventually leading to seasonal allergies. As a personal trainer, I see this a lot.
It is important to note that both high cortisol and low cortisol can cause symptoms, such as seasonal allergies. As with all hormones, the goal is for cortisol to be balanced. During initial periods of stress, cortisol will remain high until the body can no longer keep up with the demands. This period of high cortisol may last a few weeks, months, or years depending upon the stress load, and overall health of the individual.
The first step is to test adrenal function. This can be done with a simple saliva test. Once adrenal dysfunction is diagnosed and you have identified whether cortisol is too high (adrenals are over-active) or too low (adrenals are under-active), proper treatment should begin immediately.
· Heal the gut.
Unfortunately, our modern-day lifestyles are to blame for most of our gut issues.
During periods of high stress, blood supply to the gut is shut down. This decreases stomach acid (HCL), which helps break down food. The undigested food rots, creating the perfect environment for bad bacteria to grow.
Antibiotics are often over prescribed, which kill the body’s good bacteria, allowing bad bacteria to take over.
Additionally, a diet of processed and packaged foods, GMOs, or foods that we are not able to fully digest, lead to gut rot.
Anything that you put in your gut that goes undigested will lead to gut inflammation and, in time, will result in a “leaky gut.” When the gut becomes leaky, undigested food particles leak into the bloodstream where the immune system begins to attack them because they are foreign. Then, the immune system becomes overactive, attacking other areas of the body. This is how all autoimmune diseases (arthritis, MS, Graves, Hashimoto’s, lupus, etc.) begin. This overreaction of the immune system causes seasonal allergies.
· Identify food sensitivities.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you must identify what foods are contributing to gut inflammation. As mentioned above, when we consume foods that our bodies cannot break down, the food rots, creating an overgrowth of bad bacteria, contributing to gut inflammation, and triggering an over-responsive immune system.
Food sensitivities can be diagnosed with a simple blood test or an elimination diet.
The most common food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, and sugar.
Removing these irritants gives your gut a chance to heal and your immune system a chance to chill out!
· Boost immune system.
Take a probiotic. Additionally, eat plenty of friendly bacteria, including: yogurt, sauerkraut, apple-cider vinegar, and Kombucha.
Down the D. The majority of Americans are vitamin D-deficient. Vitamin D is one of the most effective supplements for boosting the immune system and preventing sickness and disease.
Devour bone broth. Bone broth is loaded with immune-boosting minerals and gut-healing properties.
Get proper sleep. Go to bed by 10 PM. Do not miss out on the most restful and restorative hours of the night (10 PM - 2 AM). Sleep deprivation leads to a weakened immune system.
Manage stress. Practice regular relaxation techniques and learn how to say no. And, (perhaps most importantly!) make sure you’re having enough FUN!
Avoid sugar. Sugar significantly reduces the body’s white blood cells’ ability to kill bad bacteria. Sugar destroys the immune system, period.