Living With Allergies And AutoimmuneMay 01, 2023
Tips to help you seasonal allergies when you have autoimmune.
Flowers and trees and pollen, oh my!
Spring has sprung. The trees are starting to awaken and tulips are poking their heads out of the earth while a dustbowl of dead leaves, mould spores and debris from the winter season dance around the yard (at least here in Canada).
Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? You’re not alone. It is estimated that 40 – 60 million North Americans experience some form of allergic rhinitis (hay fever or seasonal allergies). The most common allergy – ragweed (part of the echinacea family).
I have about 20 diagnosed (fixed allergies). I have seen allergists since I was five years old, and while I have outgrown certain allergies, I’ve become allergic to new ones (hazelnuts) as I’ve aged. For myself – and many of my clients living with allergies – keeping these under control is essential to quality of life!
Part of this includes learning how to lower the histamine load … the higher the load, the more extreme the symptoms. This is a similar concept to lowering a person’s inflammatory load when living with autoimmune. When the body is overburdened, our symptoms amplify.
So how do you do so? How to you address histamine and autoimmune at the same time?
With an integrative approach, leaning into things within your control, that also align with your specialists’ recommendations.
In this article, I’m discussing:
- Three helpful supplements
- Supportive nutrition for autoimmune + histamine intolerance
- Essential oils
- Lifestyle support (what most people miss)
Three Supplements For Seasonal Allergies
Please do not start a supplement without consulting with your doctor or healthcare practitioner.
Quercetin is a wonder micronutrient for those who have allergies. It is a powerful bioflavonoid that helps reduce your allergic response. It’s best used for at least a month heading into allergy season.
For those with autoimmune, you need to use with caution because it can be overly stimulating to the immune system. That said, we are all unique and here’s why you may want to look at it.
- Anti-oxidant and anti-viral
- Reduces histamine release
- Improves T1/T2 balance (imbalances are common for those with an autoimmune disease)
- Good for bronchial asthma (wheezing) and allergic rhinitis (runny nose)
Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine and immune supporter. In fact, research shows that high dose vitamin C reduces allergic response. However, be careful. The body can only absorb 250 – 320 mg of vitamin C at a time, so you’re better off to divide your doses throughout the day. In some cases, IV therapy can be helpful.
Over 80% of your immunity is found in your gut … unhealthy or imbalanced gut equals a compromised immune system. Probiotics can help improve the immunity in your gut and strengthen your gut lining – a delicate and important barrier to the outside world. Research is starting to show that regulating your gut health can help reduce your allergic response. In particular, there are strains of bacteria that release additional histamine (strep, staph, klebsiella). These can also be abundant in those with autoimmune.
What To Eat With Seasonal Allergies.
Food can help or aggravate allergies, even if you don’t have a food allergy, so start taking note of key triggers and replace them with foods that are known to support your immune system and allergic response.
This is important if you’re finding you’re not noticing the changes you would like while following an anti-inflammatory diet like Itis, Paleo or AIP for autoimmune.
Key foods to watch include high histamine foods (canned, fermented, vinegars, along with select fruit and veg like tomatoes, avocado or bananas), DAO blocking caffeine (DAO stands for diamine oxidase which is the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine), and histamine releasing foods like bananas, cow dairy, nuts, and artificial preservatives and food dyes.
Special note … many people with ragweed allergies don’t realize that melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, Echinacea and chamomile are from the same family and can make symptoms worse!
Not to worry, there are LOTS of food you can enjoy that are supportive and healing. Raw local honey tops the list, along with fresh fruit, vegetables which are high in antioxidants and fibre to support immune and gut health. Stick with freshly cooked animal protein, fish, vegetables, gluten free grains or grain-free starch swaps like root vegetables, healthy fats and herbs for flavour and additional nutrient density, like basil and rosemary.
5 Essential Oils For Seasonal Allergies (diffuse)
I don't sell essential oils (I'm a user, not a pusher), so I reached out to one of my friends to advise. Her recommendations all help reduce inflammation – particularly the kind of inflammation that occurs with seasonal allergies. For seasonal allergies, lavender, peppermint and lemon make an amazing anti-histamine trio (that is if you're not allergic to one of those!).
I also do not recommend “eating or drinking” oils, but these are all safe for diffusing or for use topically. You can put 5 drops in a diffuser, try a drop on the skin, or mix the oils with a carrier, like a fractionated coconut oil. If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to use a carrier oil.
Peppermint helps unclog sinuses and discharges phlegm. It helps open up the airways and relieve head tension.
Basil can help kill bacteria, mold and yeast which can worsen allergic symptoms. It supports your adrenals … your stress glands that become overworked when you have long periods of allergies.
Eucalyptus helps open airways so you can breathe better and improve your circulation.
Lavender acts as an antihistamine and calms irritation. It also calms the skin if it's itchy. Interesting ... lavender applied topically to sore joints can also help bring down pain.
Rosemary reduces inflammation and supports adrenal glands (your stress glands).
3 Effective Lifestyle Habits For Allergies
Just like most of my articles, I’m including lifestyle tips to round out dietary content. Here are three options to consider when allergies are getting the best of you:
Unmanaged STRESS can make allergy and autoimmune symptoms worse! I’m going to sound like a broken record with this because it’s the most overlooked (and essential) skill to help manage inflammation (or in this case, how you’re reacting to the environment).
Keep your stress levels in check and refer back to some stress management techniques I’ve already shared with you, like breathwork and yoga for calming the nervous system down, supporting respiratory health and detoxification through the lungs!
In fact, a research study of Hatha yoga showed significant benefits for allergic rhinitis, including improved nasal flow and cytokine production.
If you’re skeptical about yoga because you have range of motion issues, rest assured any BODY can do yoga with a mindful approach and the best way to get started, is to just try it! It’s benefits for the lymphatic system, stress management and a better immune response are why it’s a key recommendation by all autoimmune-related associations and doctors for women living with autoimmune.
If you need help getting started on a mindful yoga practice, reach out and let me know. We have an entire membership around this that is geared towards all fitness levels and specifically for women with range of motion challenges.
Have a shower before bed to help rinse away the daytime pollen and allergens. I’m a big advocate for sleeping with the window open, but during peak allergy season, you may be better off with the window closed for a time being. Fresh weeks (cleaned weekly) will also help with a better night’s sleep.
Stay hydrated – this helps expel excess mucous and supports digestive and lymphatic health (moving things out of the body). Your lymphatic and digestive systems are major parts of your immune response. Anything you can do to support these systems will benefit your allergic response.