Allergies and the Immune System

by Lisa Breitenwischer

May 19, 2017

Allergies and the Immune System

According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, allergies are one of the most common chronic health conditions in the world. People with a family history of allergies are at a higher risk of developing allergies. Hay fever, eczema, hives, asthma, and food allergy are some types of allergic diseases. Allergy symptoms can range from mild to serious, life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).

Allergic reactions begin in your immune system. When a harmless substance like dust, mold, or pollen is encountered by a person who is allergic to that substance, the immune system may overreact by producing antibodies that attack the allergen. This can cause wheezing, itching, a runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, and other symptoms.


What is the immune system?

The purpose of the immune system is to defend itself and keep microorganisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi, out of the body and destroy any infectious microorganisms that do invade the body.

The organs involved with the immune system are called the lymphoid organs. They are responsible for the growth, development and release of lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that defends against invading microorganisms (such as those that cause allergies). The lymphoid organs include a network of lymphatic vessels. The blood vessels and lymphatic vessels are important parts of the lymphoid organs. They carry the lymphocytes to and from different areas in the body. Each lymphoid organ plays a role in the production and activation of lymphocytes.

What you may not know is that the root cause of your allergies may not be environmental. According to Ayurveda, allergies are caused by chronic digestive imbalances that compromise immunity by congesting digestive-related lymph. The lymph is the body’s major drainage system and must be functioning optimally if we are to have a healthy immune response.

John Douillard, Ayurveda Specialist, says most digestive issues can be traced back to the impact of stress on the intestinal wall, causing the first signs of inflammation and lymph congestion. It is now a well-documented fact that we process our stress through the intestinal wall. Chronic psychological stress is directly linked to a compromised immune system. Such immune compromising stress will set the stage for intestinal inflammation, lymph congestion, and allergies.

Lymph vessels carrying white blood cells lie adjacent to the mucosa of the gut and respiratory tract, right on the other side of the intestinal and respiratory walls. If the lymph response becomes compromised, the immune system cannot respond to irritants in time, and cellular reactivity and inflammation ensue. This triggers a histamine or allergic response at the site of the irritation.


Reversing the Process:

Eat or Drink Quercetin–rich foods. They’re anti-inflammatory and help curb the release of the histamines that makes mucous flow, eyes water, and noses run. A few top quercetin-rich picks: apples, capers, kale, spinach, broccoli, red onions, sweet onions, garlic, blueberries, black plums, black currants, apples, cherries, and Green Smoothies.

Bioflavonoids are the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory constituents found mostly in fruits, veggies, soy, teas, and legumes. They work synergistically with other antioxidants to protect tissues from the negative effects of the stress, oxidation and inflammation often observed during overzealous immune reactions

Rutin is a flavonoid that supports the lymphatic function. It’s found in high amounts in buckwheat, apples and asparagus. Rutin reduces capillary permeability and lymph congestion, which can reduce mucus fluid buildup or runny nose.

Eat inflammation-taming foods. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape, feed it foods that soothe inflammation, including non-starchy veggies (think dark leafy greens), nuts, grass-fed meat, wild-caught sustainable fish, and lower-sugar fruits such as berries.


Allergy-Fighting Supplements:

Don’t forget your probiotics. To further fortify your gut bacteria and maintain a healthy bacterial balance, add a daily probiotic.

Vitamin C supports the synthesis of carnitine, a compound that helps the body cope with stress by supporting neurotransmitters to support a stable mood and healthy stress response. Vitamin C also plays a lesser-known role in the deactivation of histamine.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine, or NAC, is a precursor to the master antioxidant glutathione. NAC functions as a natural mucolytic, reducing the viscosity of mucus commonly produced during a hyper-immune response


Lifestyle Changes:

Dump allergenic foods. If your immune system’s already under siege from too much of a bad thing — eliminate processed foods, gluten, dairy, and sugar.

Keep your nasal passages clear. Rinse them as often as needed with sterile water and a neti pot, or with a saline spray.

Rinse your hair and shower at the end of the day. This will help wash away any allergens that have taken up residence in your hair or on your skin. It will also help keep allergens out of pillows and bedding, so you won’t be snorting them while you sleep.

Move your body- Walk-Run, Dance, Yoga, Swim-Just move!

Sauna- The sauna’s therapeutic heat can help clear congestion and boost the resilience of the nervous system, the health of which is linked to chronic allergies.

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