Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, can be quite bothersome. Allergy symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:
- Ear pain
- Red, watery, itchy, and/or puffy eyes
- Wheezing or other respiratory problems
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Loss of smell
- Throat irritation
What causes allergies? Essentially, an allergy is the result of your immune system overreacting. Your immune system is designed to protect you from viruses and bacteria that can make you sick, but sometimes it gets tricked into going on the offensive for no reason at all.
Seasonal allergies are caused by the body’s immune system having an overly aggressive response to pollen, ragweed, grass, and other harmless substances in the environment. When the immune system sees these substances as a threat, it releases chemicals that cause the inflammation linked to your troublesome allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergies are fairly easy to diagnosis, as most people will have multiple symptoms and notice that they feel better when they move indoors away from allergen sources. However, a doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a skin or blood test.
Seasonal allergies are very common. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, 7.8% of the adult population in the United States suffers from hay fever. Additionally, 9% of children reported hay fever symptoms in the past 12 months.
Most people believe that allergies are a lifelong condition, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s quite possible to suddenly struggle with allergies as an adult, even if you were allergy free for the past few decades. Additionally, many children who suffer from seasonal allergies will eventually outgrow their condition.
A New Approach to Treating Seasonal Allergies
The most common approach to treating seasonal allergies is to limit time spent outdoors or rely on a combination of antihistamines and decongestants. However, these medications often have bothersome side effects such as drowsiness. They’re also a temporary fix that does nothing to treat the underlying problem.
If your seasonal allergies are driving you crazy, consider looking into the relationship between your gut health and allergy symptoms. It sounds counterintuitive to turn to your tummy for a solution to your allergies, but growing evidence supports this approach to seasonal allergy relief.
The human microbiome is a collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that live in your gut and on other areas of your body. Medical News Today reports that the average person carries up to 2 kilograms of microbes in their gut, including more than 1,000 different species of bacteria. These bacteria help us digest our food and aid in the production of certain vitamins. They also play a crucial role in immune system function. It is believed that up to 80% of your entire immune system makes its home in your gut!
Human beings start to develop their unique microbiome right after birth, with noticeable differences being observed in the babies born vaginally and babies born via cesarean. Babies are born with an immature immune system and a nearly sterile gut. During the trip through the vagina, the baby gets many beneficial bacteria from the mother. Children who are brought into the world through C-section miss the healthy boost of bacteria gained in the birth canal.
Low microbiota diversity can lead to increased allergy susceptibility, according to a study of 1,879 adults released by the National Institutes of Health. This study found that a lack of diversity in the gut microbiota was associated with all types of allergies, with the strongest relationship seen in people who suffered from seasonal and/or nut allergies. They had reduced Clostridiales and increased Bacteroidales bacteria colonies in their gut microbiota.
A University of Michigan study involving lab mice appears to support this observation. After mice drank water laced with antibiotics for a few days, they showed increased amounts of the yeast called Candida. This is the same result seen in humans after taking antibiotics. However, after the mice who had been given the antibiotics were exposed to allergens such as pollen, dander, dust mites, and cockroach feces, they exhibited allergy-like symptoms even though they’d never had these symptoms before. The genes of the mice used in the study made no difference, further adding to researcher suspicions that allergies can be triggered by a distribution in the gut microbiota.
It might be strange to think that a lack of certain bacteria in your gut is the cause of your sneezing and itchy eyes, but this is actually good news. If you take steps to heal your gut, you’re likely to see a noticeable improvement in your allergy symptoms.
3 Ways Your Gut Health Causes Allergies
The relationship between gut health and allergies is complex, but there are three key issues to consider as you’re trying to find relief for your symptoms: the hygiene hypothesis, leaky gut, and histamine intolerance.
- The Hygiene Hypothesis
The AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology) reports that allergy rates in industrialized countries have been on the rise for the past 50 years. Worldwide, it’s estimated that up to 50% of schoolchildren now have sensitization to one or more common allergens. If this trend continues, people with allergies will eventually comprise the majority of the population.
Scientists believe that the rise in allergies among children and adults is linked to the hygiene hypothesis. Also known as the biome depletion theory or the lost friend’s theory, the hygiene hypothesis states that we’re too clean for our own good. Many of us grew up and now live in a cleaner environment. There is improved public sanitation which has had obvious public health benefits.
By the same token, as the theory goes, our immune system no longer gets as vigorous an education. Further, the increasing use of antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and powerful germ-killing cleaning products create a more “hygienic” environment. While much of this progress has reduced the burden of many communicable diseases, our immune systems are no longer challenged, and as a result, we are more prone to environmental allergens. The inappropriate use of antibiotics may also contribute.
We’ve become so obsessed with eliminating bacteria that we’ve suppressed the body’s natural immune system. In 2014, Dr. Martin Blaser explored the hygiene hypothesis in great detail in his book Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. In an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, he points out that the immune systems of children and adults in Western societies are more susceptible to allergies and asthma than those of people who live in areas of the world that don’t take such drastic steps to rid their environments of bacteria.
Since the hygiene hypothesis is related to many overlapping societal issues, it’s a little hard to fix on your own. However, stopping the use of hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps or cleaners is a great start. Plain old soap and water will take care of most germs, but keep in mind that catching the occasional bug will help make your body stronger overall. When you get sick, have faith in your body’s ability to fight off minor illnesses without the use of antibiotics.
- Leaky Gut
Leaky gut syndrome has been researched by doctors and scientists for years. They have been working toward understanding more about this proposed medical condition. Often referred to as increased intestinal permeability, this condition impacts the intestinal wall linings.
The intestinal wall is supposed to allow nutrients in the bloodstream while blocking bigger molecules. However, someone with leaky gut syndrome may have inflammation or injury to their intestinal wall, and it no longer works as it’s supposed to. This leaves the wall unable to block the food particles, germs and toxins from entering the bloodstream. As you would imagine, the effects of this can be serious, ranging from further inflammation to illness.
Patients who have increased intestinal permeability may complain of:
- Joint aches
- Sensitivity to certain foods
- Chronic exhaustion
- Severe headaches or migraines
Sometimes increased intestinal permeability may even make the symptoms of other chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma worse.
Leaky Gut Diagnosis
The diagnosis of leaky gut comes from the symptoms patients describe. Because we are still learning about this condition, we do not yet have a definitive test to diagnose the condition. Doctors may order tests of the intestine to determine if there is adequate nutrient absorption and other basic intestinal functions.
Leaky Gut Treatment
Leaky gut syndrome remains an area of scientific interest, and the research into it is nowhere near complete. Because of this, there’s not a singular way to treat leaky gut. A doctor may suggest making lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress and changing the diet. These changes may help alleviate the symptoms patients suffer. If a patient has a secondary condition like celiac disease that appears to be impacting their leaky gut syndrome as well, doctors will recommend getting the secondary condition under control to alleviate symptoms.
You can learn more about leaky gut in this video:
- Histamine Intolerance
In some cases, what appears to be seasonal allergies might not be allergies at all. Histamine intolerance can create symptoms that mimic allergies, even when no allergens are present.
Histamines are the chemicals your body produces during an allergic response. When pollen or other allergens trigger the immune system, a type of white blood cells known as mast cells release histamines to create the inflammatory reaction that gives you symptoms like puffy eyes and a runny nose.
What many people don’t know about histamines is that they can also be absorbed from certain foods and produced by bacteria in the gut. When this happens, histamines build up in the body and create a wide range of symptoms. They seem to mimic an allergy but are technically not an allergic reaction because no allergen is actually present. Researchers call histamine intolerance a pseudoallergy.
Diagnosing histamine intolerance is tricky because the symptoms are very broad and overlap with lots of different medical conditions. However, your doctor can also perform a DAO test. Diamine oxidase (DAO) is an enzyme that’s supposed to break down histamines. If you’re histamine intolerant, your levels of DAO will be much lower than what might be seen in a healthy person with no allergy-like symptoms.
Unfortunately, a DAO test does have limitations. In women, for example, DAO levels fluctuate according to the menstrual cycle and increase significantly during pregnancy.
If a DAO test doesn’t provide the answer you need, an elimination diet can help. This means you remove foods high in histamines for a period of at least four weeks, then gradually reintroduce foods to identify changes in symptoms.
Foods that are known for being high in histamines include:
- Cured meat
- Aged cheese
- Yogurt or kefir
- Fish and seafood, particularly canned or smoked fish
- Canned vegetables, particularly tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms
- Dried fruit, particularly strawberries, pineapple, and papaya
Depending upon the severity of your histamine intolerance, you might need to avoid these foods altogether. However, many people find it’s enough to simply limit foods high in histamines as an occasional part of their diet.
Probiotics and/or prebiotics can help heal the gut dysfunction that causes histamine intolerance. This will allow you to enjoy histamine containing foods and take any medications you need without worrying about the bothersome allergy-like symptoms that might occur.
Healing Gut Dysfunction with Probiotics and Prebiotics
To heal gut dysfunction, you can take prebiotics and/or probiotics. Even though these two terms are just one letter apart, they offer very different benefits in terms of seasonal allergies and gut health.
Probiotics provide your body with an extra dose of the “good” bacteria that live in your digestive system and help keep you healthy. Yogurt is the most common food source of probiotics, since it contains beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus or bifidobacteria. Fermented foods such as sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso soup, and Gouda cheese also have probiotics.
Prebiotics are a form of carbohydrates that the human body can’t digest. They pass through the small intestine undigested and are fermented in the large colon. This fermentation process feeds the “good” bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our digestive systems (also called the gut) that are associated with better health and reduced disease risk. Examples of foods high in prebiotics include oatmeal, bananas, asparagus, garlic, leeks, artichokes, chicory root, and legumes.
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements may also be useful if you have dietary restrictions or taste preferences that prevent you from ingesting enough prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods to help heal your gut and promote seasonal allergy relief.
Prebiotin™ Prebiotic Fiber is an ideal supplement to add prebiotic fiber to your diet. It has been shown to help grow beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can boost immunity as well as promote intestinal health. You can learn more about Prebiotin prebiotic supplements today by reviewing the Prebiotin.com website or getting in touch with our team.
Seasonal allergy sufferers in search of natural relief for their symptoms will find Prebiotin is the most medically researched prebiotic supplement on the market today. Prebiotin is the only full-spectrum prebiotic containing both inulin and oligofructose to treat the entire bowel wall for maximum effectiveness. Prebiotin is easily ordered online, with convenient free shipping.
References in this blog:
Blaser Martin J. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY, USA, 2014.ISBN: 978-0-8050-9810-5.
Hitti M. A Healthy Gut May Resist Allergies, Asthma. WebMD. 2004 Dec 23. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20041223/healthy-gut-may-resist-allergies-asthma
Isolauri E, Rautava S, Collado MC, Salminen S. Early microbe contact in defining child metabolic health and obesity risk. In Parental Obesity: Intergenerational Programming and Consequences. 2016 (pp. 369-389). Springer, New York.
Xing Hua, Goedert J J, Pu A, Yu G. Allergy associations with the adult fecal microbiota: Analysis of the American Gut Project. EbioMedicine. 2016; 1(3): 172-179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.11.038 [open access]
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma Facts and Figures. [Accessed 4-25-18].
Fujumura KE, Lynch SV. Microbiota in allergy and asthma and the emerging relationship with the gut microbiome. Cell Host Microbe. 2015 May 13;17(5):592-602. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2015.04.007.
Legatzi A, Rösler B, van Mutius E. Microbiome diversity and asthma and allergy risk. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014 Oct;14(10):466. doi: 10.1007/s11882-014-0466-0.
Simonyte Sjödin K, Vidman L, Rydén P, West CE. Emerging evidence of the role of gut microbiota in the development of allergic diseases. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Aug;16(4):390-5. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0000000000000277.