Do you know someone who reacts to things around them? Some people suffer from itchy or watery eyes and sneezing each spring and fall. Others take one step into a library and need to leave immediately. Still others cannot tolerate scented products or perfumes. In extreme cases, some even develop multiple chemical sensitivity or an immune response to man-made electromagnetic fields. Something has clearly gone wrong behind the scenes, leaving people unable to tolerate typical modern exposures.
What Are Environmental Allergies?
“Environmental allergies” are heightened immune responses to various elements of the world around us. These include animals (pets), insects (bees, dust mites), flowers, grasses, mold spores, metals like nickel, cigarette smoke, fragrances, and even man-made electromagnetic fields.
These responses occur when a person loses tolerance to the surrounding environment due to imbalances in the gut and immune system. Then immune cells start attacking harmless substances and creating allergic symptoms.
Some of the main immune cells affected are called mast cells. They can become overly sensitive and get triggered by normal exposures. When triggered, they “degranulate,” releasing inflammatory molecules like histamine.
That leads to classic allergy symptoms and other symptoms that may seem unrelated, like hair loss and tinnitus.
Symptoms of Environmental Allergies
Strangely enough, the symptoms of environmental allergies tend to overlap with food allergies. When the immune response is activated by allergens, it causes inflammation, which is identified by five cardinal signs, given in their Latin names: (1)
- Calor (heat)
- Dolor (pain)
- Rubor (redness)
- Tumor (swelling)
- Functio laesa (loss of function)
Applying these to environmental allergies, think of red, itchy or swollen eyes, headaches, a warm, tingly face, or difficulty breathing. You could also have skin reactions, like hives, rashes or eczema, congestion, sinus trouble, fatigue, mood swings, digestive troubles, and more.
But not all inflammation is visible, so, you may not notice any allergy symptoms. For example, if you have inflammation in your brain from mold toxins, you may not be aware of any heat or swelling. You may just get a migraine and have difficulty concentrating.
Even though you don’t see it, inflammation is there, impacting not only the nervous system, but the immune system, cardiovascular system, and more.
Diagnosing Environmental Allergies
After compiling a list of symptoms, the typical ways to diagnose allergies are through a blood test or a skin prick test. (2)
- Blood tests – A blood test called a differential leukocyte count measures the number and types of white blood cells. It helps to determine if a person has allergies but doesn’t give specifics. The radioallergosorbent test (RAST) and IgE-specific immunosorbent assay look for specific IgE antibodies.
- Skin prick test – For this test, an allergen is applied to the skin to see whether it creates an allergic response.
These tests can help determine that a dis-ease process is taking place. However, that’s only the first step. Next, it’s time to determine what is causing an elevated immune response to natural or common everyday exposures.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we describe the mainstream viewpoint on healthcare versus our understanding and methods as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish inflammation, pain, and other symptoms. In the case of allergies, those may be watery eyes, congestion, or itching.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They assess the damage with testing and then create a personalized plan to restore the body with nutrients from foods and supplements. Rather than simply addressing symptoms, they look deeper to find the underlying issues.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in healing.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Environmental Allergies
Mainstream medicine looks at allergies as genetically determined. They will likely believe allergies have nothing to do with what you eat or how you live. The first line treatment for allergies (beyond avoidance) is medication.
Common Medications For Environmental Allergies
Here are some commonly prescribed meds for the many types of environmental allergies: (3)
- Antihistamines: Cetirizine (Zyrtec) and loratadine (Claritin) are a couple of common over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines.
- Decongestants: Drugs like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine help break down mucus and improve breathing.
- Corticosteroids: These drugs lower inflammation, relieving allergic symptoms. A classic example is prednisone, used in an inhaler for allergic asthma. Other examples are dexamethasone and budesonide.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Leukotriene antagonists are anti-inflammatories often used for allergies and mast cell disorders. Examples include montelukast (Singulair) and zafirlukast (Accolate).
- Cromolyn sodium: Cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom) is a mast cell stabilizer given for certain allergic conditions.
- Beta-agonists: Albuterol and epinephrine are used to relax airway muscles and improve breathing.
Sometimes, doctors will recommend coming in for immunotherapy instead of relying on medication.
- Allergen immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) to desensitize the immune system to common triggers. Sublingual drops are also used.
What Causes Environmental Allergies? Trauma, Toxins, & Thoughts
Many people believe they have allergies because one of their parents has or had allergies. They simply attribute it to genetics. However, a field of biology called epigenetics researches the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on genes. We categorize these contributing factors under the “3 T’s”: traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dysbiosis and dis-ease, and triggering inflammation and allergies. Other traumas that could contribute to environmental allergies include:
- Neck injuries
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accident
- Severe illness or infection
- Witnessing violence or a natural disaster
- Military combat – PTSD
- Having a baby
- A death in the family or a close friend
Don’t underestimate the potential of chiropractic care when it comes to environmental allergies. Chiropractic care with spinal manipulation can help take the body out of fight-or-flight to allow healing and a return to balance. (4)
Traumas are made worse when coupled with toxic exposures, which can occur internally and externally.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Toxins that may contribute to environmental allergies include:
- Sugar – Eating sugar and high-carbohydrate foods contributes to inflammation and allergies.
- Infections – Parasitic, bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can all trigger mast cells and release toxins into the body, creating an allergic response.
- Metal toxicity – Toxic metal accumulation from aluminum, mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic is known to destabilize mast cells, causing histamine release and allergic reactions. (5)(6)
- Dysbiosis – The gut is rich in mast cells and is known for controlling 70% to 90% of the immune system. An imbalance in beneficial versus detrimental bacterial strains has been associated with allergies in studies. (7)
- Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) – Low level indoor exposures to chemicals over time may lead to a collection of allergic symptoms called Sick Building Syndrome. (8)
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Emotional stress is a frequently overlooked contributor to a heightened allergenic response. Emotional stress causing the body to stay in a state of fight-or-flight turns on all the alarm systems, raising inflammation and reactivity and making it more difficult to heal. “Stress-mediated mast cell activation” indicates emotional stress can have a massive impact on our allergies. (9)
The Wellness Way Approach to Environmental Allergies
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. Your body can heal itself when given the right tools. Environmental allergies are simply an indication that you have chronic inflammation. Wellness Way practitioners begin with testing to see where there may be imbalances and develop a personalized nutritional and supplement plan to help your body heal.
Important Tests For Assessing Your Gut and Immune Health
Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Immune Panel: Access Custom Immune Panel
The testing will depend on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your symptoms and health history.
Dietary Changes For Those With Environmental Allergies
When you’re dealing with chronic environmental allergies, one of the first priorities is to lower inflammation so the gut can heal. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way practitioner. Here are some additional ideas for lowering the allergic response:
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to inflammation in the gut and a hyperactive immune response.
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory. (10) Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm, or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol compromises the intestinal lining, increases inflammation, and alters the bacterial balance, causing dysbiosis.
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program, based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and foods high in polyphenols can help keep inflammation under control. They can also help stabilize mast cells, which are the white blood cells partly responsible for allergy symptoms. (11)
- Omega-3-rich foods – Wild caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. (12)
- Raw local honey – For some people, consuming raw, local honey during the spring and fall helps lower symptoms of seasonal environmental allergies.
Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body in healing the digestive tract and balancing out the allergic response.
Supplements For Supporting a Normal Immune Response to Environmental Allergies
Every patient is different, but some supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with environmental allergies include the following:
- Aloe vera juice – The juice from the aloe leaf soothes the gut lining, promotes healing, and supports a normal immune response.
- Albizia – Albizia herb has a strong anti-inflammatory effect as it stabilizes mast cells. (13)
- Nettle Leaf – Nettle reduces the release of inflammatory messenger chemicals from mast cells, which may lessen allergic symptoms. (14)
- Chamomile – This common herb can help lower inflammation and reduce histamine release (15)
- White Peony – This herb has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for asthma. Research has found it works as a mast cell stabilizer, inhibiting histamine release. (16)
- Turmeric – Curcumin, the main active constituent in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that may help lower the allergenic response. (17)
- Probiotics – Megabiotic Powder may support an ideal microbial balance in the gut.
- Prebiotic – Chicory Root Inulin and other prebiotic fibers and starches can feed the good bacteria in the gut and promote a healthy mucus lining in the intestines. (18)
Everyone is different – what works for one person may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing causes of environmental allergies.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies to Support Environmental Allergies
- Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps to improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body.
- Brain retraining – Self-directed neuroplasticity training, like Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) or the Gupta Program may also help to calm the stress/allergenic response and help restore tolerance. (19)
Educational Resources For Environmental Allergies
Videos & Webinars Related to Environmental Allergies
Articles to Support Those With Environmental Allergies
- Allergies Are at Epidemic Level! – Are We Overreacting?
- Seasonal Allergies: What’s the Underlying Cause?
- What Causes Leaky Gut and How Can You Heal It?
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- The five cardinal signs of inflammation: Calor, Dolor, Rubor, Tumor … and Penuria (Apologies to Aulus Cornelius Celsus, De medicina, c. A.D. 25) – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Allergies – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Allergies: Introduction – Life Extension
- Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression – PMC (nih.gov)
- In vitro cyto-toxic assessment of heavy metals and their binary mixtures on mast cell-like, rat basophilic leukemia (RBL-2H3) cells – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Autoimmunity-inducing metals (Hg, Au and Ag) modulate mast cell signaling, function and survival – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Sick-building syndrome – The Lancet
- Psychological stress, immune dysfunction, and allergy – PMC (nih.gov)
- The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Impact of polyphenols on mast cells with special emphasis on the effect of quercetin and luteolin – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Randomized Controlled Trial of Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acid Supplementation to Reduce Inflammatory Markers in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Anti-allergic activity of standardized extract of Albizia lebbeck with reference to catechin as a phytomarker – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Anti-allergic activity of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) in mast cell mediated allergy model – ScienceDirect
- Total glucosides of peony improve ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma by inhibiting mast cell degranulation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Therapeutic potency of curcumin for allergic diseases: A focus on immunomodulatory actions – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Studies with inulin-type fructans on intestinal infections, permeability, and inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Understanding the Science – Dynamic Neural Retraining System (retrainingthebrain.com)