Inevitably, as spring stimulates the release of plant and mould antigens/allergens, people who are immunologically sensitive to this enhanced challenge display fairly consistent symptoms including itchy, watery eyes; tickly throat; and stuffy, runny nose. Fatigue is also a common response as immune activation is an energy-dependent process, and the related disturbed sleep patterns prevent suitable recovery.
Mood and affect
A recent series of experiments now also indicates that there is a mood, or affect, associated with seasonal and perennial allergies. The triggering of the related immune chemicals appears to be linked to an increase in anxiety and depression, adding an additional set of health concerns beyond that which may be linked to the prior symptomologies.
Currently, approximately a quarter of individuals in developed countries are affected by allergic disease and these numbers are expected to increase with climate change. Temperature, rainfall, and other variables of climate change have been shown to indirectly effect allergies and asthma by their effects on pollen and moulds. Pollen from trees and grasses, and weeds and spores from mould are well understood sources of allergens. Changes in vegetation, increased pollen/mould spore concentrations, and prolonged pollen seasons are linked to climate change, especially increased levels of CO2.
Studies showed that plants exhibit enhanced photosynthesis and reproductive effects and produce more pollen as a response to high atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Mould proliferation is increased by floods and rainy storms are responsible for severe asthma.
An expanding body of evidence now also links allergens and mood disorders. The underlying mechanism resides in the production of defence and inflammatory immune chemicals in the various airways of the body before triggering responses in brain tissues. Inflammatory cytokines have been linked to almost all non-communicable diseases as they are progressive rather than simply responsive, by which I mean that a typical inflammatory defence response is a short-term release and subsequent suppression. In chronic conditions the cytokines become imbalanced, and their impact migrates from tissue to tissue.
Studies in the United States, for example, have suggested that allergy sufferers are around one and a half times as likely to have major depression, a link that is particularly strong among women,.
Observational studies have found that allergic rhinitis is associated with a high risk of anxiety. And researchers in Taiwan have reported that allergic rhinitis was associated with a higher risk of psychiatric disorders in adults.
Efforts at preventing and treating allergic diseases face difficult challenges: Aetiologies are unknown or poorly understood, knowledge of pathophysiology is incomplete, genetic susceptibility to disease is complex and multigenic, environmental agents (infectious, foods, chemical, physical, and behavioural) may be ubiquitous, latency between exposure to the causative agents and clinical onset may be variable, and heterogeneity of disease phenotypes and variability of allergic response complicate prognosis and treatment decisions.
…the ability to discriminate ‘harmless’ commensal microbes from pathogens, given antigenic overlap, and harmless from harmful environmental antigens remains one of the most notable feats of the immune system.
Hacking the immune system to resist adverse responses to antigens is already underway in many research centres, often with the inclusion of vitamin D which appears to assist in the generation of antigen specific T Reg cells.
However, the timely use of food supplements is also known to provide immune resilience and support tolerance to antigens. A 2007 evaluation of six studies of the herb butterbur for allergic rhinitis, involving a total of 720 participants, indicated that butterbur may be helpful.
Researchers have also been investigating probiotics (live microorganisms that may have health benefits) for diseases of the immune system, including allergies. Although some studies have had promising results, the overall evidence on probiotics and allergic rhinitis is inconsistent. It’s possible that some types of probiotics might be helpful but that others are not, as duration, dose and pre-existing levels of dysbiosis will all impact their effectiveness.
Many other nutritional approaches have been studied for allergic rhinitis, including astragalus, capsaicin, grape seed extract, omega-3 fatty acids, Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract), quercetin, spirulina, stinging nettle, and a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine called tinospora or guduchi.
Practical things to do
There are numerous self-help and environmental interventions that can reduce the exposure and related risk:
Give your sinuses a bath. Nasal irrigation is another option whose effectiveness is backed by research. Use a neti pot or bulb syringe and pour a saline solution in one nostril, letting it drain out the other. You will feel less congested and may need less medication.
Plan time outdoors wisely. Pollen counts tend to be at their highest between early morning and midmorning, as well as on hot, dry, windy days. Stay indoors during those times and go out later in the evening, to reduce the amount of pollen you inhale. You can also try wearing a face mask when you go outside.
Reduce pollen at home. Avoid bringing pollen back inside after you have been outdoors by taking your shoes off, changing your clothes and showering. To sleep better, you can try zipping up your mattress and pillows in hypoallergenic cases and wash your bedding in hot soapy water.
Find Supplements or Medication that works. Naturally there are numerous available but whereas pharmaceuticals may be useful at suppressing some of the symptoms, they also increase lethargy and fatigue, whereas careful immune supporting nutrients should, as each year passes, facilitate a memory that limits the adverse impact of future antigenic exposures. This will also provide psychological resilience in those people prone to allergies and associated changes in mood.
Direct support for mood management and enhanced sleep patterns may be generated using a fish extract called Stabilium a safe non addictive researched nutrient for energy, memory, sleep and mood assistance.
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