Seasonal allergies are an absolutely frustrating, ridiculously annoying pain in the ass…PERIOD. Anyone out there who suffers from this unfortunate condition knows very well how annoying they can be. Constant sneezing, runny nose, raw nose from tissues, foggy head, and the constant distraction from all of those symptoms causing you to be unable to concentrate on anything else.
Seasonal Allergies, An Autoimmune Disease
An interesting thing about seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, is that it is actually a minor form of autoimmunity. Basically what is happening is that pollen or dust enters your sinuses, which is normal, but what is not normal is when your body begins to recognize the pollen and dust molecules as dangerous invaders in our body and attacks them via our immune system. Unfortunately, this attack (inflammatory response) irritates the surrounding tissue leading the the wonderful symptoms listed above. This is simply a normal inflammatory response to a truly dangerous invader in our body, but I am sure most of us understand than pollen and many forms of dust are not dangerous invaders. What then becomes more of an issue is the fact that during certain times of the year, you can receive a constant dosage of pollen from your environment leading to your body constantly attacking these molecules; subsequently, you have now entered into the dreaded chronic inflammatory state.
Autoimmune Diseases and Leaky Gut
In the past few years, we have been seeing a great deal of light being shone on gut barrier dysfunction, in the form of increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut), and it’s relation to chronic disease states. Leaky Gut’s relation to chronic disease has been linked to the fact that it leads to a systemic (whole body), low level, chronic inflammatory state; which, depending on the specific individual and their immune system/genetic predisposition, can lead to a whole host of possible diseases. This is just one theory; however, there is a great deal of evidence out there indicating that leaky gut is a significant player is many chronic diseases including type I/II diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, cardiovascular disease, asthma, diseases of the nervous system, and cancer (1) . By the way, this is definitely not an exhaustive list! Do some more research and you will discover much more 🙂 As an aside, and maybe I will discuss this topic on it’s own at a later date, one of the major contributors to leaky gut that has been identified is gluten (1). Big shocker for us paleo peeps right 🙂
Probiotics and Leaky Gut
Hopefully if you are reading my blog, you have decided to live a paleo lifestyle, including the removal of many gut irritating foods such as grains, beans, and industrial processed seed and vegetable oils which, in the end, will go a long way in limiting your susceptibility to leaky gut. However, there is more that can be done aside from cutting out these foods. That’s right people, once again we come back to those wonderful micro organisms called probiotics. There is evidence out there that proper probiotic supplementation can have a positive impact on the presence of leaky gut (2). Although this study was performed on trained endurance athletes, I believe that it would still be very applicable to the disease free population at large.
Probiotics and Allergies
Given that probiotics are shown to improve signs of leaky gut in a healthy population, I thought why would this not apply to populations affected by certain diseases. In fact, probiotic supplementation has been shown to improve and or remove all symptoms of numerous conditions including: Obesity, Hepatic encephalopathy, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and alcoholic induced liver disease (check out my recent post) (3). Again, not an exhaustive list, do some research to find more. So, given the fact that we see probiotic supplementation having positive impacts on leaky gut and a whole range of medical conditions related to autoimmunity and inflammation, why would it not also improve allergy symptoms.
Again, surprise, surprise, there is a good deal of evidence supporting that supplementation with probiotics does actually improve or cure seasonal and other allergy related conditions in adults and children (4, 5, 6, 7). Obviously, the improvement can be credited to the impact that probiotics have on leaky gut, and the regulation of the immune system via this same mechanism. Pretty cool stuff actually.
So great news, before we start pumping ourselves with chemical drugs to limit our symptoms , which really in the end is a band aid approach since we aren’t addressing the underlying issue, why not start by using probiotics, you know, those things that we are supposed to have in our bodies to begin with.
So lucky me, it appears I am on the right track here with my way of living and hopefully with the increase in my intake of probiotic containing foods this year, my allergy symptoms will be much less than in previous years, allowing me to concentrate that much more on the golf course :-). Fingers crossed!!
The Barefoot Golfer