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Seasonal allergies

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Seasonal Allergies

       

 

The immune system is generally regarded as beneficial. However, in some cases, the immune system responds inappropriately, and all of a sudden we have too much of a good thing. Allergy is sometimes referred to as hypersensitivity  and involves an exaggerated response to an antigen which, in this case, is called an allergen. There are four distinct types of hypersensitivity and these  include: immediate (seasonal or respiratory allergies), cytotoxic (transfusion  reactions), immune complex (vaccine reactions), and cell mediated or delayed  hypersensitivity (poison ivy). By far the most common are the immediate hypersensitivity reactions.

Seasonal or respiratory allergies are usually associated with plant  pollen (hay fever), but foods and insect stings may also elicit an  immediate hypersensitive reaction. It’s called immediate hypersensitivity because inhalation of offending plant pollen, for example, causes respiratory  distress in a very short period of time. Not everyone is affected by respiratory allergies, and even the sensitive individual suffers from allergic symptoms only during certain times of the year. Hence we get the name seasonal allergy.  However, certain types of immediate hypersensitivity occur where the sensitive  person suffers throughout the year. To give an idea as to how widespread respiratory allergy is, a condition known as allergic rhinitis (runny nose due to allergy) affects 20% of all adults and 40% of the children in the U.S. (1).jc

Respiratory allergies can be caused by almost any airborne particle.  The most common triggers are animal danders, feathers, fabrics, dust, molds and  plant pollens. Allergic rhinitis caused by plant pollens is sometimes called  pollinosis or hay fever and usually occurs during certain seasons (most people  are affected during the spring or early summer). Springtime is when the most notorious allergenic plants produce pollen that causes immediate  hypersensitivity.

When pollen (allergen) enters the respiratory system by inhalation, an allergic reaction is triggered. This reaction begins with the allergen being  phagocytized by respiratory macrophages followed by a complex series of immune  processes that ultimately leads to the release of allergy mediators such as histamine. These mediators are released from storage granules found in certain  white blood cells such as basophils and mast cells. These mediators, particularly histamine, are responsible for the symptoms of respiratory  allergies. Histamine causes blood vessel dilation (inflammation), increased  capillary permeability (localized edema), brochial constriction (difficulty in breathing), mucus secretion (runny nose), pain and itching. Anyone suffering  from seasonal allergies can identify with these symptoms. Of course, the most logical approach to combating this unpleasant situation is to avoid the allergen. Physicians can offer several therapies, including prescription drugs  and OTC medications. However, a variety of dietary ingredients offer immediate symptomatic relief. A few examples of nutrients that produce relief of allergy symptoms include:

Bitter orange fruit (Citrus aurantium) contains synephrine, which constricts respiratory tract blood vessels and reverses histamine-induced  vasodilation. This action reduces localized inflammation and stops the runny nose (this is sometimes called a decongestant effect) (2).

Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) has been shown to minimize allergic reactions by stabilizing mast cell membranes. In other words, andrographis combats the release of allergic mediators from the mast cell  granules (2).

The flavonoid quercetin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and  mast-cell-stabilizing effects. Quercetin will reduce many of the unpleasant symptoms of an allergic reaction (2).

Quercetin and other flavonoids will minimize localized edema (fluid build-up) by reducing capillary permeability and the leakage of capillary  fluid (2).

These ingredients can offer symptomatic relief of respiratory allergies and have a long history of traditional use in soothing and cleansing of the respiratory tract membranes. These actions promote respiratory tissue health and  support the respiratory system during seasonal changes.

 

Created by Dr. William J. Keller

 

References: 1. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Allergy Statistics.  1996-2009. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/media/resources/media_kit/allergy_statistics.stm  Accessed March 12, 2009. 2. Jellin JM, Gregory PJ, Batz F, Hitchens K,  et al. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive  Database. 9th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2007.