With trees leafed out, flowers blooming, and weeds growing rapidly in backyards everywhere, the summer season is upon us! For many, this time of year presents a challenge as pesky allergy symptoms like respiratory congestion, fatigue, itchy skin, and watery eyes resurface with increased environmental allergens. Since each body is uniquely different, the severity of allergies can vary widely from person to person.
While many find themselves reaching for antihistamines and allergy medications to curb symptoms, it’s important to look at the immune system as a whole to gain a helpful perspective on how to best support the body through allergy season. As we often say here at The Wellness Way, the body is like a Swiss watch. Like the gears of a Swiss watch, each and every “gear” of the body is needed, interconnected, and complex. For allergy sufferers, looking at how to support the immune system as a whole is an incredibly helpful step in minimizing symptoms or, better yet, stopping them before they even start.
In many cases, allergy symptoms are just that: symptoms of something more that’s going on with your body. Like a warning light on the dashboard of a vehicle, these symptoms may be hinting at a deeper issue.
Your Immune System Is Like a Bucket
Think of your immune system like a bucket. Over time your bucket becomes filled with lots of extra stuff, much of which is brought on by modern life. We’re exposed to toxins every day through plastics, environmental chemicals, cleaning supplies, and even bodycare products like shampoo and makeup. Once that bucket overfills and “splashes over” we will see outward manifestations of an internal toxic overload. One of those manifestations can be seasonal allergies that are easily aggravated because of an overflowing immune response.
To keep this from happening, we must keep our buckets from getting full. How do we do this? Keep reading for some key strategies!
6 Strategies for Reducing Inflammation and Supporting Immune System Vitality
1. Reduce toxic exposure.
Decrease the toxic load in your bucket by choosing organic foods, switching to safer cleaning and beauty products, and addressing potentially hidden sources of toxic exposure in your lifestyle, such as mold in your home. Mold exposure can wreak tremendous havoc on health and many of the symptoms can present very similarly to allergy symptoms. Acute exposure will result in a bodily response that is visible right away, but chronic mold exposure that happens over time is quite dangerous and can actually lead to cancer and other serious illnesses.1 For a deeper dive on mold and what you need to know, check out this article.
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is a great resource to reference for finding safer beauty and bodycare products scored based on ingredient hazard levels and data availability.2
2. Know your food allergies.
Foods that may be healthy for some can be highly inflammatory for others. That’s why it’s incredibly important to get your food allergies tested. Once you know your allergies, you need to avoid all of your allergies. Many environmental allergens like pollen or dust can’t be avoided, but foods you know you’re allergic to can be! Doing so is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation in your body and keep your immune bucket from filling.
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
In addition to avoiding your specific food allergies, it’s also wise to enjoy a diet free of gluten, dairy, soy, and processed foods, all of which provoke an inflammatory response in the body. Dairy is also highly mucus-producing, which can exacerbate the respiratory congestion that may come with allergy season.
4. Support optimum vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in supporting the immune system and is active in hundreds of physiological processes. Many people are deficient in this powerhouse vitamin and struggle to get it through sun exposure alone, so supplementation can be beneficial. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to prevent acute respiratory tract infections, colds, and flu.3,4 For more information on the role vitamin D plays in immune health, check out this episode of A Different Perspective with Dr. Zach Papendieck.
5. Get adjusted.
Support your nervous system so that it can tolerate the changing environment around you and any changes to the strain on your immune system. Get a chiropractic adjustment! Remember the Swiss Watch Principle. The nervous system and immune system work so closely together that you can’t separate them. Improve the function of the nervous system and you’ll improve the function, adaptability, and strength of the immune system as well.
6. Prioritize sleep.
Have you ever been sick, laid down to take a long nap, and woken up feeling noticeably better? Sleep is a powerful healer and can work wonders in supporting your total immune health. Studies have even found that shorter than normal sleep resulted in increased chances of having an upper airway infection, whereas longer sleep did not.5 This goes to show that adequate sleep plays a vital role not only in the body’s healing process but also in preventing poor health in the first place. (And remember, women need more sleep than men!)
There are many things we can’t control in the world around us, but we can control what gets put into our immune bucket. Setting the body up for success through allergy season hinges on keeping that bucket from overfilling and instead taking steps to support total immune health from a variety of angles. While unpleasant and inconvenient, allergy symptoms can actually be a helpful indicator highlighting areas of weakness in the body and providing valuable feedback about the state of the immune system and ways to make it stronger.