Allergy Season, are you ready for it?

After a long cold winter we welcome the warmer and sunnier days.  For many allergy sufferers, however, this is the beginning of tissue season.  But does allergy affect everyone the same way?  Not everyone with allergy have runny nose, watery eyes, tickling cough, or itchy ears.  Read on, and you may discover just how wide spread allergy problem exists.

Allergy means hypersensitivity or a bad reaction to any substance.  Allergic reaction occurs when the immune system reacts by releasing antibody (they come in different forms IgE and IgG, for example).  An allergic reaction can be caused by dust, pet dander, mold, food, pollen of plants, metal, cleaning agents, etc. 

An IgE type allergic reaction can happen within minutes or hours of exposure.  Chemical compounds such as histamine and leukotriene are release by your immune cells.  These immune compounds help mediate the reactions we are so used to associating with IgE reaction: itching, watery eye/nose, asthma, hives, and even anaphylaxis.

An IgG type delayed hypersensitivity reaction occurs over several hours or days after your immune cells meet with an allergenic substance.  With IgG type reaction, the IgG antibodies attach themselves to the allergenic substances and create an antibody-allergen immune complex.  These immune complexes are usually removed by special cells called macrophages.  But if there are more antibody-allergen complexes than there are macrophages, then the complexes end up depositing in various body tissues (organs).  Depending on the location of the immune complex deposits, the antibody-allergen immune complex can cause headaches, high blood pressure, mood disorder, asthma, recurrent respiratory tract infection, eczema, psoriasis, acne, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and much more.  Many IgG related conditions are connected to food sensitivities or intolerances.  Flu-like symptoms are typical manifestation of the delayed immune reaction.  Many say the just feel unwell all over.  These delayed immune reactions tend to produce recurrent or chronic symptoms.  Because IgG and IgE are different antibodies, a typical skin prick/scratch test for IgE cannot detect a IgG type delayed hypersensitivity reaction. 

You may know someone who is much more reactive regardless of the season.  The person’s skin may turn pale or bright red with the lightest touch, has tendency to develop hives and flushing, is prone to diarrhea/ constipation/ cramping, almost always have a cough or sniffle, and is more likely to have anaphylactic type reaction.  These are potential symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS).  MCAS was only identified about 10 years ago and we are not entirely sure the cause.  We know that mast cells are a type of immune cells that release histamine.  Individuals with MCAS can have more histamine and other immune chemicals released when triggered.

There are different pharmaceuticals prescribed for these allergic immune reactions.  There are also many natural substances that can be used on their own or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.  Some are made from the lining of eggs, some are natural herbs.  My favorite is still Vit C at a high oral dose.  Not only does it help prevent histamine release, it also ensures your immune system healthy.  Too often anti-allergy medications will also suppress normal immune responses.  I also favor plant sterols or omega 3 fatty acids.  They keep the cell membranes of mast cells less reactive.  If you are someone who is highly reactive, it also does not hurt to try out a low histamine diet.  A quick google search will tell you which foods are high histamine and which foods are safer. Eliminating food sensitivities is an integral part of reducing allergy symptoms on its own or with some of the above mentioned nutrients.

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