It is that time of year again as the sun shines and daylight hours lengthen, for many of us our spirits are up. Unfortunately for a sizeable proportion of the population it also means the start of months of varying misery as our allergic reactions skew our immune system and hay fever and related allergies abound.
For some people sadly their allergic problems exist all year round with intermittent allergic problems such as eczema and dust mite allergies (etc.). Nearly twelve months ago we wrote an article focussed on hay fever titled ‘Hay Fever – Natural Nutrients Support’ (link below) and recently a number of people have asked us to update this information now that spring is truly here.
So we provide an update below, but also we cover the broader topic of allergies too, which covers those allergies which are “Inhaled, Absorbed or Ingested”.
They are all ‘inter-related’ in the sense that a ‘malfunctioning’ immune response in the body leads to the sufferer having an allergic reaction that can be debilitating and sometimes life threatening.
For additional reading at the end of this article we provide our health professionals pdf titled ‘Eczema & Allergies’ which comprises a range of information including details on children and allergies, asthma, food allergy and suggested courses of identification, action and treatments. We also provide a particularly pertinent section of a health professional article from Dr Paul Clayton PHD titled ‘Nutrition & the Immune system’; with the full pdf available, again at the end.
Please also note our comments in the conclusion regarding ‘Nutrigenomics’ and gene code mutations (polymorphisms). This is a fascinating topic that we will be talking about a lot more in the future. And a health issue that directly relates to allergies too.
Allergies – Inhaled, Absorbed, Ingested
The often unpleasant and debilitating symptoms of respiratory allergies, topical skin reactions, food allergies and intolerances (etc.) provide an increasing number of patients seeking assistance from Doctors and health practitioners.
Many of these conditions appear to be on the increase with such trends noted over recent decades. Many health professionals have associated this rise in allergies with elements of modern living in ‘developed western nations’. Foe example, radical changes in diet (typified by a western processed diet), medications and even excessive ‘cleanliness’ have all been linked to increased allergies. It should be noted that we do not cover the topic of pollution linked to allergies in this article.
Some of the most common allergy and intolerance triggers are:
Airborne Allergens: House Dust Mite, Pet Dander, Pollen, Mould.
Ingested: Milk (dairy), Cheese (dairy),Eggs, Wheat, Fish, Chocolate, Yeast, Citrus fruits, Soya, Peanuts, Fruit and vegetables of the nightshade family, Food additives, preservatives and colourings.
Contact Irritants: Washing powders/ liquids, Fabric softeners, Skin creams/ lotions, Bathing products, Perfumes, Plants.
Antibodies and the Immune Reaction
The following is a brief introduction to the role of antibodies and our immune system when typically associated with allergy and intolerance. Our body contains a number of antibodies which are released by our plasma cells to protect the body in a number of ways, these antibodies are also referred to as immunoglobulins (or ‘Ig’)
The antibodies termed IgM: are produced when a particular antigen is encountered for the first time providing a primary immune response.
The antibodies termed IgG: are the most prevalent class of antibody and produced in greater amounts when a particular antigen is encountered again. More antibodies are produced in this response, called the secondary immune response, than in the primary immune response. The IgG reaction is the immunoglobulin most associated with food intolerance. However as IgG can be detected in healthy non-symptomatic individuals, this is often cited in the negative commentary for food intolerance testing. Indeed there are a number of research papers for the positive and negative aspects of IgG testing.
The antibodies termed IgE: trigger immediate allergic reactions by binding to basophils (a type of white blood cell) in the bloodstream and mast cells in tissues. When basophils or mast cells with IgE bound to them encounter allergens they release substances such as histamine resulting in inflammation. This allergic ‘Type 1, IgE mediated’ reaction is the most severe of reactions, and often an immediate or rapid reaction with a life threatening potential in the form of anaphylaxis.
A good example of the role of antibodies is with hay fever, the medical term for which is ‘allergic rhinitis’. Hay fever is caused by our immune system ‘attacking’ airborne pollens from plants, trees, grass etc. This excessive reaction in sufferers causes the immune system response to produce the antibody ‘IgE’ (immunoglobulin-E). The IgE binds to white blood cells and this causes the release of the chemical histamine. The histamine is then responsible for the classic symptoms of sneezing, irritation etc.
Avoidance, Exclusion and Diet
Avoidance and exclusion is often the starting point for treatment of allergies. However for many the first step is ‘identification’ in terms of identifying precisely what the ‘type’ of allergy is, and the allergens that cause it. There is also then the process of attempting to treat the allergy where avoidance and exclusion are not a perfect option.
So for example with a bad hay fever sufferer the individual cannot fully avoid the airborne allergens and treatment to reduce the symptoms is likely to be attempted. Whilst for those who have a severe nut allergy (for example) it may be exceptionally hard to treat such an allergy with any positive effect and therefore complete avoidance and exclusion is essential.
The results of numerous worldwide research studies seem overwhelming in demonstrating the relevance of diet in respect of many, or indeed all, allergies. Dietary relevance for allergies starts in the mother’s womb and a good diet in early life, both post-pregnancy (breastfeeding) and early childhood onward is essential.
For example, many studies have found the prevalence of asthma and allergies in children with symptoms of asthma or allergy was beneficial lowered when a high level of adherence to the ‘Mediterranean diet’ was undertaken.
Therefore the individual diet, for any allergic sufferer whatever their age, should be reviewed to ensure good nutritional balance, adequate intake of macro and micro nutrients together with guidelines for reducing the inflammatory aspects of the diet. Elevated intake of processed foods, fats, sugars, red meat, alcohol and fizzy drinks would be considered a potential inflammatory agent.
Equally the diet should contain a good balance of those foods known to provide anti- inflammatory benefits, this would include an elevated intake of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats including those provided by nuts, seeds and fish and in line with the Mediterranean style of diet as research supports.
We cannot stress the importance of good diet and good gut health for overall health benefits. Our gut not only needs to be healthy to maximise the nutrient intake from the foods we ingest, it is also the centre of the primary production of many essential bodily functions.
A modern diet high in processed foods, fast foods, simple carbohydrate, soft drinks, additives and artificial ingredients (etc.) is not conducive to health and certainly not for allergy sufferers; nor for the avoidance of allergy development in children.
More details on both diet and ‘avoidance and exclusion’ for allergy sufferers are to be found in our ‘Eczema & Allergies’ pdf below. Please also note the comments of Dr Clayton in his article too (below).
As we mentioned at the a start of this article we published a blog last year on hay fever and the role of natural nutrients to support sufferers; a link to this is provided below. One year on and a review of this article does not change our suggestions already provided, which is a focus on some or all of the nutrients comprising:
- Bioflavonoids, Flavonoids and Carotenoids
- Vitamin C
- Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucans
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
A review of more recent research on this topic provides some interesting reading and we include links below to two studies relating to hay fever/ allergies; one on Vitamin D and one on supplements comprising ‘live native bacterial strains’ (formerly known as ‘probiotics’).
Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis with Probiotics: An Alternative Approach
(As reported in the North American Journal of Science; this study was supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research )
The research conclusion comments are as follows:
“Probiotics may have an important role in the prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis. The clinical benefit of probiotic therapy depends on numerous factors, such as type of bacterium, route of administration, dosing, regimen, and other underlying host factors. Furthermore, selection of the most beneficial probiotic strain and the timing of supplementation still need to be determined. A fusion protein of probiotics may be a novel approach to improve effectiveness in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Further studies should also clarify the clinical efficacy of probiotics, protocol of selecting, designing of appropriate study populations, and safety of using probiotics. Mechanisms of action of probiotics modulating immune response are also needed to be further elucidated.”
We have already commented on how important good gut health is toward supporting allergy sufferers. This is one of a number of recent small scale research studies undertaken that have sought to gain more data on the potential beneficial impact (or otherwise) for allergy sufferers when given live native bacterial strains. We very much look forward to further studies being undertaken, particularly on a larger human scale, and we will report such findings in the future as they occur.
VITAMIN D & HAY FEVER
“The amount of time asthma patients spend soaking up the sun may have an impact on the illness, researchers have suggested. A team at King’s College London said low levels of vitamin D, which is made by the body in sunlight, was linked to a worsening of symptoms. We know people with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma – that connection is quite striking,” said researcher Prof Catherine Hawrylowicz.” (comments from the linked BBC report on the research)
Recent research has identified the importance of vitamin D to health, and that many groups of the population have low vitamin D status. Vitamin D is frequently referred to as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ as sunlight is necessary for the synthesis of this Vitamin (which is produced underneath the skin following exposure to sunlight). Those lacking in sunlight are at risk of deficiency. We very much look forward to further follow studies on this research.
Nutrition & the Immune system
The following is an extract from a health professional article (nutrition & the immune system) by Dr Paul Clayton PHD and makes for fascinating reading. We should note that for non health professionals although the article goes into more ‘technical’ language at certain points it is really worth reading and the salient points are easily followed.
The full article is available in pdf format further below.
We cannot leave the subject of immune function and malfunction without commenting on the dramatic rise in asthma and allergy that has occurred over the last 30 years. As the genetic makeup of our populations have not altered in this very short period of time, it is clear that environmental factors must be responsible for the changes; and the prevailing theory which purports to explain this change is the ‘hygiene hypothesis.’ According to this theory, advances in sanitation and medicine have reduced the burden of infection and/or pathogenic challenge to an abnormally low level, leading to immune imbalance. More specifically, the level of macrophage activation determines their pattern of secretions of the interleukins IL 6, 10 and 12; which in turn, act on naïve T-helper (TH0) cells, to affect TH1 / TH2 ratios. Low levels of macrophage activation (as in an over-sanitised environment) lead to a reduced TH1 / TH2 ratio, and this abnormally low TH1 / TH2 ratio is considered to be central to the generation and maintenance of allergy.
1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, by mimicking a mould infection, and via activation of the CR3 receptor, trigger intense macrophage activity. These innate immune cells then change their pattern of interleukin secretion back to a more ‘normal’ one, and restore a more ‘normal’ TH1 / TH2 ratio (ie Kirmaz et al ’05, Dillon et al ’06) NB.‘Normal’ here means an immunological configuration better suited to dealing with an environment containing multiple and chronic pathogenic challenges, such as the environment we evolved in.
Sub-optimal immune function is common-place, and undoubtedly contributes to unnecessarily high rates of infection in hospitals and in the community. Type B malnutrition is a common cause of this reduction in immuno-competence, together with the lack of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans in our diet, due to over-sanitation of the food chain. A wide-spectrum pharmaco-nutritional support programme, which includes the key micro- and phyto-nutrients together with 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, will improve overall immune performance in most cases and must be one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing the burden of infection – and allergy – in all areas of clinical practice.
These are but a few of the effectors (factors) in allergic responses. There are others still being explored that will make the picture even more multifactorial in the future. For instance the emerging field of ‘Nutrigenomics’ has identified at least 39 gene code mutations (polymorphisms) that directly predispose the carrier to allergic conditions. The whole area of Nutrigenomics will be the subject of future Blog articles and particularly an understanding of how gene variations can predispose to allergies, and how this predisposition can be modified through diet and lifestyle.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
Amanda Williams, Cytoplan
[email protected], 01684 310099
Cytoplan Blog: Hay Fever: Natural Nutrients Support
You can also download the PDF document with the following link: Cytoplan Health Professionals Leaflet- ECZEMA_AND_ALLERGIES.pdf
You can also download the PDF document with the following link: Cytoplan Health Professionals Article (Dr Paul Clayton): diet-and-the-immune-system.pdf