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Allergies and Gut Health: Natural Ways to Reduce Allergies

In recent years, the connection between gut health and allergies has gained significant attention. Our gut, often referred to as the "second brain," plays a pivotal role in regulating our immune system. We're familiar with the sneezing and itchy eyes triggered by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. Yet, the backstage player in this scenario is our gut.


The Gut-Immune Connection

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microorganisms help digest food, produce essential nutrients, and most importantly, modulate the immune system. This microbial diversity empowers the immune system to discern between harmless pollen particles and potential threats. A balanced gut nurtures immune cells, dampening the intensity of allergic reactions. Additionally, the gut microbiota contributes to the production of anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), further shaping our body's response to allergens. Approximately 70% of the immune system resides in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). A healthy and balanced gut microbiota can help maintain immune tolerance and prevent overreactions to harmless substances, which is a common feature of allergies.


How Gut Health Affects Allergies

When the gut microbiota is imbalanced—a condition known as dysbiosis—it can lead to a weakened intestinal barrier and increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as "leaky gut." This allows undigested food particles, toxins, and pathogens to enter the bloodstream, triggering immune responses that can lead to allergic reactions. There are many modern lifestyle factors that can contribute to changes in the gut such as pesticides, vaccines, medications, antibiotics, processed foods, sedentary living, and sugary foods. Chronic stress can also can trigger changes and imbalances within the gut.


Natural Ways to Reduce Allergies


1. Diet

A diet rich in diverse, nutrient-dense foods can support gut health and reduce allergy symptoms. Here are some dietary strategies:

  • Probiotic-Rich Foods: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut microbiota. Consuming fermented foods like yogurt (dairy-free options available), sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (coconut kefir for dairy-free), and kombucha can boost your probiotic intake.

  • Prebiotic Foods: Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed beneficial gut bacteria. Foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and oats are excellent sources of prebiotics.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Chronic inflammation can exacerbate allergies. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), leafy greens, berries, nuts, local raw honey, and seeds in your diet.

  • Elimination Diet: Identifying and eliminating food allergens or inflammatory foods (such as gluten, dairy, quick oats, peanuts, and sugar) can help reduce allergy symptoms. Work with a healthcare provider to conduct an elimination diet properly.

  • Hydration: Filtered water is essential to proper immune function. Drink lemon water (water with a 1/3 of squeezed fresh lemon) first thing in the morning with a dash of sea salt to hydrate properly.


2. Vitamins and Supplements

Certain vitamins and supplements can support immune function and gut health:

  • Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for immune regulation. Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to increased susceptibility to allergies. Sun exposure and foods like fatty fish, fortified plant milks, and supplements can help maintain optimal levels.

  • Vitamin C: Known for its antioxidant properties, vitamin C can reduce histamine levels and alleviate allergy symptoms. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli are rich sources.

  • Quercetin: This natural flavonoid has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Foods like apples, onions, and berries are good sources, and quercetin supplements are also available.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and support immune function.

3. Herbs

Several herbs have been traditionally used to manage allergies and support gut health:

  • Butterbur: Research suggests that butterbur can reduce nasal allergy symptoms. Look for butterbur supplements that are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) to ensure safety.

  • Nettle Leaf: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, nettle leaf can help alleviate allergy symptoms. It can be consumed as a tea or in supplement form.

  • Turmeric: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Adding turmeric to your diet or taking it as a supplement can support overall health and reduce inflammation.

  • Peppermint: Peppermint tea or essential oil can help soothe respiratory symptoms associated with allergies due to its anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties.

4. Allergy Reducing Lifestyle Habits

Certain lifestyle habits can be helpful to reducing allergies:

  • Shower/bathe before bed: Removing pollen and outside elements before getting into bed can help reduce allergies.

  • Sinus Rinses: Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) or a neti pot is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion.

  • Home HEPA Filter: A HEPA ('High Efficiency Particulate Air') filter can potentially take more than 99.9% of mold, pollen and dust out of the air in your home.

  • Remove clothing after being outside: Removing clothing after being outside can help reduce allergies.

  • Vaccum regularly: Regular vacuuming can help reduce allergies. Consider a HEPA vacuum cleaner.


Conclusion

A healthy gut is fundamental to a well-functioning immune system and can significantly impact the severity and frequency of allergic reactions. By adopting a balanced diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics, incorporating essential vitamins and supplements, using beneficial herbs, and practicing the above lifestyle habits, you can naturally reduce allergies and support overall health.


Having chronic gut issues or allergies? Dr. Cresencia Felty is a digestive healing specialist who has helped thousands of clients to feel better. You can book an in-person or virtual consultation with her here to discuss your chronic issues and ways to resolve them for good. Dr. Felty is also creating a self-paced course called The Gut Healing Blueprint. Sign up to be the first to know when Dr. Felty's NEW DIY gut healing course is available and receive 20% off here.


As always, consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet, supplement, or lifestyle regimen.


References

  1. Gastroenterology & Hepatology - The gut microbiota and immune system: An update on the complex interplay.

  2. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research - The role of gut microbiota in the development of allergic diseases.

  3. Frontiers in Immunology - Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: Diagnostic and therapeutic implications.

  4. Clinical and Experimental Allergy - Probiotics and allergy prevention.

  5. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry - Prebiotics in the diet can significantly alter the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota.

  6. Advances in Nutrition - Anti-inflammatory effects of dietary bioactive components.

  7. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - Elimination diets for food allergies.

  8. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology - The role of vitamin D in allergic disease.

  9. Nutrients - Vitamin C and immune function.

  10. Molecules - Quercetin: A promising treatment for the common cold.

  11. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Omega-3 fatty acids and their role in immune regulation.

  12. BMJ Open - Butterbur for treating allergic rhinitis.

  13. Phytotherapy Research - Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis.

  14. Journal of Clinical Immunology - Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health.

  15. Journal of Ethnopharmacology - Therapeutic potential of peppermint tea and oil in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.

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