We’ve officially moved from winter into spring, and while we can look forward to warmer weather and more time spent in nature, many of us are also acutely aware that allergy season has arrived with the blooming trees and budding flowers. Seasonal allergy sufferers aren’t surprised by the annual arrival of their symptoms (including sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and runny nose), but there have been increasing reports of worsening and more prolonged symptoms over the years. Is there simply more pollen in the air irritating our sinuses, or could there be another reason for the increased severity and occurrence of allergy symptoms?
Global warming and pollution are worsening our allergies
Some allergists and scientists have pointed to global warming as a potential culprit of more pronounced and longer-running allergies. Pollen-producing trees and plants are growing faster and producing more pollen, creating greater allergenic material with the increased carbon dioxide levels. This is particularly problematic in cities, where the urban heat island effect causes higher levels of pollen production and air pollution.
There is a close relationship between global warming and air pollution, which is bad news for those with allergies or asthma. According to a report released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the National Wildlife Federation, “ozone primes the bronchial airways to be more sensitive to the allergen. Particles emitted from diesel exhaust also increase allergic responses by extending how long the allergens stay in the body. The airborne allergens in pollen grains can stick to the tiny exhaust particles, which then penetrate deep in the lungs and remain there a long time. Some studies have even found that plants grown in places with more air pollution produce pollen with increased levels of allergenic proteins.”¹
In addition air pollution and increased exposure to allergens, there are other environmental threats that are impacting our allergy symptoms.
Are toxins amplifying allergy symptoms?
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of new chemicals have been used in common consumer goods in recent decades, contributing to toxic overload and putting a greater strain on the immune system. EDCs are not only present in products and packaging, but are also found in high concentrations in the air, water and soil. This means that we’re constantly bombarded with toxicants and facing a progressive bioaccumulation of these harmful chemicals.
This chronic exposure to environmental toxins leads to significant changes in cytokine production (which influence the inflammatory response) and is associated with the increase and aggravation of reported asthma and allergy symptoms.² Numerous EDCs are known to induce inflammation (typically via estrogen receptors) and wreak havoc on the immune system, leading to a development or progression of allergy symptoms. What’s so troubling about this is the long-term, systemic impact of environmental toxicants that significantly influences disease outcomes; our aggravated allergy (and other) symptoms are indicators of a much larger issue – they’re sending a message that we can’t ignore. An overly stressed and poorly functioning immune system impacts the body’s response to infectious agents and our ability to reach homeostasis over the course of a lifetime.
Taking a holistic approach to the treatment of allergies
Many people treat their allergy symptoms with antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops but find this only serves as a bandaid solution – while we may find temporary relief of our symptoms with this approach, we’re failing to get to the root of the problem and our symptoms inevitably persist. We commonly hear patients reporting a worsening of their allergies, despite limiting exposure to allergenic material and taking good care of themselves. An upstream approach to detoxification and creating better balance and resilience in the body is key to effectively treating this frustrating health issue.
Looking at allergies through an Ayurvedic lens, we need to consider the influence of kapha accumulation. Kapha is made up of water and earth elements and can be linked to springtime seasonal allergy symptoms like sneezing, congestion, runny nose and watery eyes. Excess kapha can create a buildup of mucus and lead to an aggravation of allergies. The Ayurveda of spring is kapha, so this time of year sees us facing an environmental and energetic double whammy with our allergies. If you have a kapha dosha, you have to be particularly aware of this influence.
To balance excess Kapha, we need to incorporate foods, herbs, movement and lifestyle practices that help to create better balance.
Kapha types (or anyone experiencing aggravated allergy symptoms) should avoid dairy (like cheese, yogurt and milk products), wheat, watermelon, cucumber, refined sugar and processed foods. Focus on supporting your digestive system, as it’s closely linked to your immune response. Fasting is supportive at this time of year, as well as a mono-diet of kitchari. When you resume a normal diet, try to include lots of foods that are high in vitamin C (like broccoli, cauliflower and strawberries), as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
Supplements & herbs
As mentioned above, vitamin C has been shown to help with allergy symptoms. You could also incorporate stinging nettle, bromelain, astragalus and quercetin. We’ve also seen positive outcomes with a supplement called D-Hist, which is a targeted blend of flavonoids, antioxidants, proteolytic enzymes and botanicals designed to provide comprehensive support for seasonal allergies.
Movement & Lifestyle Practices
Meditation is a powerful practice that has been shown to influence many biological responses. It actives the parasympathetic nervous system and helps us to effectively manage stress, which reduces the strain on the digestive and immune systems. Meditation lowers heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation in the body. We also want to support lymphatic flow to encourage the removal of toxic waste and pathogenic material from our cells. Lymph doesn’t have a pump, so we need to support this movement with yoga, breath work and self-massage. Dry brushing is another practice that’s been shown to support lymphatic drainage. Watch Dr. Nick’s lesson on lymphatics to learn more about the importance of this system and techniques to encourage proper flow of lymph throughout the body.
While you might not immediately consider a detox protocol an obvious treatment for allergy symptoms, we hope this post has helped to explain the connection between allergies and toxicity. A full-body detox process is critical in ridding the body of the bioaccumulation of toxins over the course of decades that’s contributing to your aggravated allergy symptoms. This can be a long process that requires commitment and dedication, but the changes you’ll make in so many different areas of your health will be well-worth the hard work. We’ve created a new online program called Detox Fix, which is beginning soon with limited seats. You can learn more about this life-changing, 4-month group program HERE, and take our neurotoxicity questionnaire to assess the degree of neurotoxicity you may be facing.
Remember that symptoms are the body’s way of bringing our awareness to an imbalance or state of dis-ease that needs our attention. Rather than immediately reaching for the allergy pills or nasal spray and still achieving little relief, consider taking a more holistic approach to the treatment of your allergy symptoms this year.
- Extreme allergies and climate change – Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: https://www.aafa.org/extreme-allergies-and-climate-change/
- Yang, San-Nan et al. “The effects of environmental toxins on allergic inflammation.” Allergy, asthma & immunology research vol. 6,6 (2014): 478-84. doi:10.4168/aair.2014.6.6.478 – National Center for Biotechnology Information – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214967/