Are you Becoming Sensitive?

By the spring, millions of people in the UK will be enduring weeks of sneezing, sniffing and sore eyes as the hay fever season starts. The season appears to be getting longer and the number of sufferers is on the increase. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is just one example of a whole series of “sensitivities” that we have become more aware of and find difficult to control.

Today we are exposed to a whole range of environmental toxins, pollutants, irritants, food products and potential allergens that were not around even just 10-15 years ago.

We have become “intolerant” to some substances and food products and a significant number of people are
experiencing considerable discomfort and at the least inconvenience.

There are key differences between allergies and intolerance.

So what is an Allergy?

In short an allergic reaction is an excessive reaction by the immune system to a normally harmless substance. The immune system identifies the substance as dangerous and produces an antibody called IgE which triggers the production of histamine. Any kind of allergic reaction is essentially a perfectly normal response gone a little haywire and has become hyperactive. These symptoms are usually rapid and can range from mild to severe or even dangerous. The immune response also has the capacity to remember previous exposure and can be triggered again to that particular allergen very quickly. Examples we have become familiar with would include nut allergies.

An “intolerance” on the other hand comes in several forms including adverse responses to toxins, chemicals and additives in our diet and certainly tends to be less severe or life threatening than an allergy. Additives in the diet would include for example, caffeine, monosodium glutamate and food colourings – which can trigger symptoms including migraine, mood fluctuations- (have you got any hyperactive kids) – muscle and joint pain, skin complaints and digestive upsets. These symptoms can appear from one to three days after the exposure to the culprit.

One of the biggest examples of intolerance in the world is milk. About 70% of the worlds population are lactose intolerant, meaning they do not or cannot consume milk after weaning because they lose the ability to produce lactase, the enzyme essential for the digestion of natural milk sugar ( lactose). For them consuming milk would be extremely uncomfortable with stomach cramps, bloating, nausea and diarrhea.

A different form of food sensitivity can be found in the form of coeliac disease. This is a gastrointestinal disorder whereby gluten (the protein in wheat, rye and barley) triggers a destructive auto-immune reaction in the gut wall. The immune system attacks the body’s own tissue, damaging food absorption sites and causing malnutrition, leading to symptoms of tiredness, bloating, anemia, diarrhea, mouth ulcers and weight loss.

Allergy Defences

 There is not enough space in this article to cover all the potential allergen issues. These can be as wide as animal odours, pollens, mould, dust mites, insect bites and food intolerance; however some common preventative measures will be useful.

As far as house mites and mould spores are concerned, a constant regime of cleaning, vacuuming, dusting with wet dusters and the use of dehumidifiers will have an impact. Ultrasound devices can be used to reduce the number of mites and the amount of faecal matter they produce (the offending material) and reduce their reproductive capability.

Hayfever is well recognised as one of the most common allergies and it is also known that most sufferers have a family history of the complaint. Relief can be obtained from a whole raft of natural aids and with minor changes to living habits. E.g

Avoid or reduce dairy, caffeine and alcohol intake during the hayfever season.

Add garlic with high oil content to the diet. It has powerful antihistamine properties and is a vaso-constrictor and thus reduces swelling of the mucosa of the nose and conjunctiva of the eye.

Eating local honey is reputed to have good results in reducing symptoms.

Consider a pollen barrier cream ( e.g. Haymax) on the nose to prevent pollen inhalation..

Supplement with a combination of anti-allergy nutrients such as Quercetin and Vit C

Support the adrenal system with Vit B5.

For relief of itchy eyes try Bilberry extract or Eyebright or Witch Hazel eye douche.

Oil the wheels – take essential fatty acids internally; known to reduce inflammatory symptoms especially when taken over time.

The condition of your immune system is vital to aid protection and fight allergens. The immune system is under pressure from all the 21st century is throwing at us in terms of pollutants and additives. It is essential to take care of your overall physical health by eating well– plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain and high quality protein.

It is also advisable to keep hydrated- the body will use about 2-3 litres of water a day which you need to replace through food and drink. A shortage of water in the system will compromise some bodily functions.

Get a good nights rest – 8 hours is ideal and in addition manage stress. There is growing evidence that emotional distress – fright, fury, fatigue- are related to allergic reactions. Basically the immune system may not be able to respond to all the demands.

Final Thought

The best route to alleviate symptoms is via superior nutrition. Ditch the processed junk, get wholesome, don’t overcook food and consider additional vitamin supplements when required.

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