What's Allergy Awareness Week? By Isha Patel

What’s Allergy Awareness Week?

Hello spring, hello allergies! As spring approaches, so do allergies for many people. April holds the Allergy Awareness Week which takes place between the 20th – 35th April 2023. Read below to find out what you can do to take control over your allergies this year!

What is an allergy?

An allergy is a type of response our body’s immune system produces to certain substances (allergens). In most people, these allergens pose no problem but in allergic individuals, their immune system identifies them as a risk and creates a negative response.

It is estimated that 21 million people in the UK live with allergic disease. The most common causes of allergic reactions include pollen from plants and grasses, proteins from house dust mites, pets, insects (wasps and bees), some medication, mould and food (most commonly milk, nuts, eggs).

What causes an allergic reaction?

When an individual comes into contact with an allergen, an antibody response is produced. These antibodies release substances, one example being histamine, which can produce reactions in an individual’s body.

Many different symptoms can be experienced, including anything from rashes, swellings, itching, breathing difficulties to even complete anaphylactic shock, which can be dangerous in the extreme or even fatal. Most allergies are of the former kind but this can be annoying, life-limiting or giving rise to depression in some badly-afflicted individuals.

Gut microbiome and allergies

Many microbiological studies indicate that allergies have a strong correlation to altered gut microbial colonisation in very early life.

Adults with seasonal allergies have been shown to have lower levels of butyrate-producing bacteria compared to healthy controls. Additionally, children with high levels of butyrate have been shown to have a reduced risk of developing allergies later in life.

The hygiene hypothesis states that improvements in hygiene levels lead to reduced contact with microbes, which means our immune systems do not get to know these microbes in early life and thus an increased incidence in allergies and autoimmune diseases as a result of an over-reaction when we encounter them later on.

Individuals who have been exposed to a range of beneficial microbial exposure in early life, tend to have lower immune system defects because they have a diversity in their gut flora. Infants delivered vaginally are colonised with a microbiome similar to their mother’s vaginal tract enriched with Snethia and Lactobacillus species. Also, being breastfed, growing up in a household with pets and living in a rural, farm-like environment are other factors that influence gut microbiota.

Nutritional strategies to manage seasonal allergies

  1. Elimination diet is the first step for a healthy gut. It’s essential to eliminate common food allergens.
  2. Consuming whole foods as well as a high-fibre diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory plant chemicals called phytonutrients is essential. It is also important to avoid sugar and trans fats, and focus on eating healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados and omega-3 fats found in small fish (sardines, herring, sable, wild-caught salmon).
  3. Increase eating the colour of the rainbow as these are full of antioxidants, and this can help repair any damaging substances that are floating around due to an overactive inflammatory response. 
  4. Green tea contains a substance that helps control histamine release and the immune response that is overreacting.
  5. Nettle may reduce sneezing and hay fever symptoms, try nettle tea.
  6. Incorporating essential supplements – these include probiotics, which provide good bacteria to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Another supplement is quercetin which has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. Quercetin helps boost immunity and regulates the secretion of histamine which is the substance released by the body in response to an immune attack – it is what makes you sneezy/itchy/scratchy. Quercetin is also anti-inflammatory and a powerful antioxidant and is found in apples, onions (use the first layer of an onion as it contains the most amount of quercetin), berries, capers and brassica vegetables.
  7. Stress management – a mind-body disconnect can mean being stressed out, wired and tired and can really damage your gut and worsen seasonal allergies. 

If you’d like to discuss your gut health, book a consultation with us.

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