Well, once again I am writing about seasonal allergies, and I will tell you why very soon. I have written about seasonal allergies in the past already, more specifically about how probiotics are helpful in seasonal allergy treatment. Check it out here.
So, back to why I was motivated to write this “sort of” follow-up post to my previous one. Over the past few weeks, I have had some intermittent flare ups of allergy symptoms, which is not out of the ordinary if it was April, but it’s not, it’s June right now, and I don’t normally experience any symptoms in June. My most recent flare was at the start of this week, and it was the day following the departure of a close family member after a 5 day visit. It was a very bad flare up, and totally unexpected given the time of year, which really got me thinking about what some triggers may be. Ultimately, it prompted me to do some more research on the topic. Said research lead me to a small revelation for a possible allergy trigger for myself, and also some random cool information related to seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis) in general.
Psychological Stress & Seasonal Allergies
Apparently, there is a well documented association between psychological stressors and increased environmental allergy susceptibility and symptom severity (1). This makes sense given that the presence of anxiety or depressive disorders increases an individual’s risk of allergic disorders (1). At the end of the day, if you take a minute to think about it, this correlation should be fairly obvious. We very well know that stress levels have a huge impact on a large number of conditions from diabetes to heart disease, as well as autoimmune conditions such as MS and crohn’s disease, where flare ups are often tied to stressful life events. So, seasonal allergies being an autoimmune disease should indicate to us that stress levels would for sure affect severity and susceptibility just as it does with other autoimmune conditions. All the more reason to implement a stress management strategy in our lives. Maybe meditation fits this bill for some of us.
Interestingly, it’s theorized that the reason stress can have the above note effect on allergic conditions is that a perceived stress causes an endocrine response in our body; which subsequently alters our immune system function in a manner that promotes allergic reactions.
Seasonal Allergies & Other Random Information
Here is some good news. It appears as though seasonal allergies may have some positive side effects. This article (2), comments on the reduced risk of many types of cancers for those of us with seasonal allergies. I knew there was a reason I suffered! Two proposed mechanisms for this observation are: an over-active immune system in seasonal allergy sufferers simply kills cancer cells before they become a problem, or individuals with seasonal allergies experience an over-activity of a certain part of their immune system which is the same part of the immune system responsible for killing cancer cells (2).
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to allergic diseases, and possibly seasonal allergies specifically (3). Surprise, surprise?
Intake of antioxidants, specifically Vitamin C, b-carotene, and magnesium were all inversely associated with allergic conditions and severity of associated symptoms (4,5).
Acupuncture appears to have a positive effect on allergic conditions also (6). This is proposed to be due to anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture (6).
If you have ever noticed slight GI discomfort or digestion issues during allergy season, you are not alone, these symptoms are connected with seasonal allergies, and are proposed to be related to elevated inflammatory markers in the gut of seasonal allergy sufferers (7). However, this specific study indicated that the elevation in these inflammatory markers in the gut didn’t relate to actual tissue inflammation in the gut itself…Phewww 🙂
So for me, while I do have fairly consistent allergies in the spring, I think that major flare ups can be triggered to some extent by my stress levels. For instance, two of my worst flare ups this year have occurred during periods of time when we have had out of town guests staying with us for a good chunk of time. While this does not seem overly stressful to me, there may be some subconscious stress happening for reasons such as wanting to make sure our guests are comfortable and having a good time (basically putting pressure on myself to entertain?). That being said, a couple other things tend to occur when we have guests: eating out, and drinking more than usual. Both of which can negatively impact seasonal allergy symptoms. Drinking is obvious, and the reason eating out impacts symptoms is because no matter how careful you are and how many questions you ask, you never know what the food has come in contact with, and I am pretty sure that gluten and vegetable/seeds oils are also triggers for me, maybe also some types of nuts and hard ciders.
In the end, my search for a cure to my allergies continues; however, I continue to discover more ways to control and limit my symptoms. Most recently, along with my diet and probiotics, I have learnt that stress management and antioxidant intake is very important…And hey, a reduced risk of cancer ain’t too shabby either. At least there is something I can hold onto when my symptoms are bad 🙂
The Barefoot Golfer
1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819057/ – Psych Stress increases allergy symptoms
2.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3562357/ – Inverse relationship to cancer!
3.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3269601/ – Allergies and Vit D.
4.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579096/ – Vit C and allergies
5.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22994346 – b-carotene and magnesium and allergies
6.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+anti-inflammatory+effects+of+acupuncture+and+their+relevance+to+allergic+rhinitis%3A+a+narrative+review+and+proposed+model. – Acupuncture via anti-inflammatory effects
7.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15510586 – elevated inflammatory markers in gut of allergic rhinitis and asthma – could be associated with mild GI track complaints in people with asthma and allergies – Leaky Gut?