Allergies occur when our immune system becomes over-sensitive to environmental factors. These could be food, fur, pollen, grass or something else entirely. However, the symptoms are fairly similar in most cases – runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing, rashes.
You’ll have heard of antihistamines before, but do you know what they really are? Before going further, we’ll make it clear for you. Histamine is a natural compound that your body produces to trigger a reaction to get rid of something. For example if there’s something on your skin it may become itchy, this causes us to scratch and alerts us to whatever has made contact with us that we need to treat or get rid of. This is really important when we come into contact with something dangerous like a venom - it’s our body protecting itself. Although, sometimes our body overreacts to certain fairly harmless triggers – dust, fur, grass – and we end up with symptoms. We typically take antihistamine medication to reduce those symptoms and get rid of those unwanted runny noses and scratchy throats.
Whilst allergies could be the result of exposure to a particular thing, they could also be the result of nutritional deficiencies. For example, a diet low in vitamin D could inhibit the function of t-cells which, in turn, prevent the release of histamine. Another example is over-consumption of cow’s milk can stimulate excessive mucus production.
Ensuring that we have a well balanced diet can really help with how our body reacts. In particular, healthy gut bacteria (probiotic sources – yoghurt, cheese etc) and antioxidants (vitamin A, C and E) are really important when it comes to supporting your immune system against allergies. Other nutrients like vitamin B, D, magnesium, zinc and omega 3 also play their part…
Vitamin B deficiency is typically found in bronchial allergy sufferers. Vitamin B, in particular B3, B6 and B12 can help to lower histamine levels which can help reduce symptoms such as wheezing. Omega 3 has been demonstrated to improve symptoms of bronchial allergy, too.
Vitamin A, C and E are powerful antioxidant and natural antihistamine. Studies show that vitamin C may help to reduce allergy symptoms.
Vitamin D levels directly impact on the function of our immunity. Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D are linked to more severe allergy symptoms and that the vitamin can help to moderate over-active responses of the immune system.
Magnesium is important for the conversion of vitamin D to make it effective in regulating your immunity. The higher your intake of vitamin D, the more important it is to ensure that you also have enough intake of magnesium in order to avoid a deficiency.
Zinc is used by our body to produce stomach acid. Low zinc intake is linked to improper digestion of food and, subsequently, when our body absorbs proteins from our food into the bloodstream they are too big. In response, and because our immune system can not recognise the proteins (because they’re larger than expected!), we can stimulate an immune reaction.
The power of nutrition to improve health conditions always amazes us, but, if you’re experiencing reactions it’s always a good idea to consult your GP for an explanation – book in as early as possible for a quick check-up!