What if Allergies aren't just a side effect of season change or food sensitivities?
Overview of the article:
- Explore if healing your digestive system and rebuilding your microbiome can help you eliminate seasonal allergies.
- Allergies and Diet Sensitivities may be closely related. Common seasonal allergies may be just another symptom of a deeper imbalance in the digestive system.
- Healing the liver may be a way to remedy seasonal allergies and some food sensitivities.
- Explore the wisdom of the bodies immune system, investigating your symptoms as a language.
If you're suffering from allergies, perhaps its not the pollen or mold that's the cause. These things might just be bringing the symptoms on that point out that your immune system is already on high alert because of some other reason.
Is there such a thing as Allergy Season?
You're excited! It's past time to trade out your winter comfies for short sleeves and sunblock. You open the drawer and...Achoo! Your Spring clothes are dusty. That's okay, you happily finish your clothing swap, but the sneezing only continues or worsens!
Spring comes, and the warmth and wind brings dust and pollen. Say an eye-watering hello to Hay Fever as these irritating substances climb up into the air and into your nose, eyes, and lungs.
Are you one of the estimated 1 in 6 Americans suffering from allergies?! Hopefully not, but 50 million people affected every year qualifies allergies as an epidemic (1)!
So, what can be done? If you're like me, you were led to believe that allergies are something that just happen to some people. But what if that isn't true? What if there is something more to allergies than genetic disposition or pollen? What if allergies themselves are a symptom and a message about a deeper, and remediable imbalance in our bodies. What if there is something more effective than all of the medications and immunotherapies?
What if there isn't allergy season but allergy susceptibility?
Well this is how a yummy morning smoothie led me to discover the deeper causes of my allergies. I was later able to shift until my allergies had all but vanished.
What are Allergies?
Well, there are allergies and there are sensitivities. We often use these two terms interchangeably but they aren't exactly the same thing. Western medicine makes a clear distinction:
Experts define allergies as when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance — name it: pollen, bee venom or pet dander, or even a food — that is normally harmless to the body.
Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful. That means your immune system is reacting to dirt or pollen or food like it were a virus or toxin! As the allergen enters or lands on your body your tissues inflame. Skin, sinuses, digestive tract, it can happen all over and in more than one place at a time.
Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe; from rhinitis (Hay Fever triggered by grass, weed, tree pollen, and molds) to Anaphylaxis (life threatening reactions to food or insect stings). (2)
We can also have sensitivities or intolerances to food where your digestive system has trouble digesting a particular type of food. These sensitivities don't trigger an immediate immune response but they pressure and stress your digestive system and could bring on some of these symptoms (3):
- Gas and bloating
- Constipation and cramping
These symptoms stress your digestive system, which could in turn irritate your tissues and encourage immune responses further down the road. Both allergies and sensitivities tax our bodies and can lead to a circle of symptoms that irritate your whole system.
Discovering Where My Allergies Came From.
Everyday before work I would enjoy a smoothy with my favorite fruits, veggies, and proteins. Ignoring my normal Ayurvedic inclinations, I would have this smoothy throughout the year. Even in winter! It had worked for my body for years.
Now comes March in Colorado. Allergy season. Every winter I seemed to forget how torturous each new Spring was becoming for me. Each one was worse than the last...So next thing I know my allergies are full on. Day in, and day out I felt like I was trapped in my own skin.
At least I had my smoothie! It was my only solace in those days of itchy eyes, runny nose, and raw skin.
But, sad day, the smoothy shop next door to my work closed for the week. Now even my favorite breakfast was gone, leaving me with severe allergies and no breakfast...but two days without my favorite breakfast and there was a relief in the symptoms. They weren't gone, but were much better.
I know what you're thinking. Joshua, you're obviously allergic to something in the smoothie...Well, there's truth to this idea. When the shop opened back up and I could get my smoothie again the symptoms came back with a vengeance. The combination of ingredients enhanced my immune response to the Spring dust and pollen. But, before March the smoothy was fine in my system. And in years before, these smoothies hadn't affected me negatively.
So Which Came First? The "Smoothie or the Spring?"
In my own way, this funny question led me to discover that our bodies are not linear mechanisms where cause "A" = effect "A".
In a very sweet way, my body became my personal laboratory. It became the place I could safely exist in to learn more about being human and having a body.
As I watched my diet and the season changes over the next few months and years I was able to refine my dance with them. Eventually I eliminated my seasonal and food allergies almost entirely. 99% full recovery.
I discovered that the smoothie did not necessarily cause my allergies, nor did Spring.
Instead I discovered that the Spring and the Smoothie were signposts leading me to an underlying imbalance in my body, one that I later balanced with a simple diet, better sleep, and healing my digestive tract.
Allergy Success Story
For my entire life I had experienced what many would call strong allergies, or what are more correctly defined as sensitivities. Both food sensitivities to milk and wheat, and seasonal allergies to dust, pollen and mold. Every year my allergies and food sensitivities got worse, and in my late twenties these symptoms peaked. And so did my suffering. I tried everything. And then I tried more. Somethings relieved the symptoms but nothing seemed to remedy the actual causes of my allergies.
Fed up, I changed healthcare providers again and started working with a Naturopath and Functional Medicine Doctor who encouraged me to take a full panel allergy test, and temporarily implement an elimination diet. She gave me a list of foods considered to be least aggravating for most peoples guts and set me on a routine where I would eat very simply.
And so it began. Again. Right away things seemed as challenging as ever. My allergy test came back with heavy news, and my elimination diet felt more like a prison sentence.
My allergy test showed that I tested for over 500 sensitivities but essentially 0 allergies. Well, then how come everyday my gut hurt, my nose ran raw, and my eyes burned like I'd put pepper in them?
My doctor explained that in the functional medical circles, seasonal allergies were connected to the health of the liver. The fact that I showed so many sensitivities and had such severe seasonal allergies pointed to the possibility that I had severe leaky gut and a very stressed liver.
So I followed her advice, shifted my diet, and payed attention to my body. Results took time but were miraculous.
I learned that by simplifying my diet to foods that helped keep my liver healthy and my digestive system strong I could relieve my body of allergies and pain simply, affordably, and naturally. Symptoms and their causes simultaneously lessened and I felt myself returning to vibrancy.
I learned that my body was an organism not a machine. My gut is community of organisms connecting and affecting one another, and directly responsible for my vibrancy. Like my own little biosphere, or universe, my body buzzed with life in, out, up, down, and intuitively towards health.
This journey led me to see allergies and discomfort as ways to monitor the inherently silent balancing act of my health and immune system and its relationship with the trillions of microorganisms that call me home. Once I learned how to use my "inner ear" to listen to the language of my body and immune system, I discovered allergies are just "words" my body uses to speak to me, updating me like:
"Hi, your liver is a little congested!" or "Hello, just so you know, your gut could use a probiotic and some greens!"
As I healed my gut, I watched my sensitivities and allergies become less common and less debilitating. Just as they had grown worse year by year while I destroyed my gut with irritating foods and life practices, they got better and better as I healed my digestion.
How I Relieve and Prevent My Allergies Naturally:
Here's what I do whenever my allergies or sensitivities are on the rise:
1. I simplify my diet. I lessen or temporarily eliminate irritants like dairy, gluten, and especially sugar!
This is my most effective practice for remedying allergy symptoms. By taking pressure off of my liver and digestion I have immediate relief from my acute allergies and sensitivities.
I also pay attention to how much I eat and how ofter. The size and regularity of my portions influences the pressure being put on my digestive system, and plays part in keeping my immune response in a healthy place. Intermittent fasting can also be an effective way of taking the edge off of the digestion.
2. I check in with my body. How's my energy level? How's my digestion and elimination? How's my sleep?
Time after time, allergies and sensitivities show up when I have an imbalance in my gut, my sleep, or my stress management. This imbalance also can be seen in the quality of my energy level, the regularity of my digestion and elimination, and my quality of sleep. If I have allergies or other rising sensitivities, I make sure I'm being honest with myself about the answers to these questions. If I make the changes that keep these things balanced, I feel better quick.
3. I actually make time to relax: I breathe, I exercise, I sit, I listen to my body.
At first this was a weekly occurrence, then daily, then hourly. But after practicing relaxing regularly I have discovered that we can have a say on if we are operating in our para-sympathetic (rest and digest) or sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze). So many of us have trained ourselves via our daily activities and relationships to be highly functioning sympathetic nervous system addicts. The buzz can be fun and wow we can get a lot done, but it has long term effects on our health and can turn into a way we disassociate from our unmet needs.
4. I give my liver some love. My Liver function correlates with how strong my allergies are each year.
By eating a diet and by using herbs and supplements that supports healthy liver function, I have seen immediate as well as long term relief in my acute allergy symptoms and chronic food sensitivities. A nice bitter tea can help relieve acute symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, or itchy eyes. A diet full of leafy greens, bitters, broccoli and balanced fats has helped me maintain a happier immune system that is less reactive to foods and seasonal allergy triggers.
By finding the diet, herbs, and lifestyle that supports your liver you are showing this very important organ a whole lot of love. Again, we are all unique so your liver has its own unique needs, but there are some general things we all can do to support our livers.
5. I remind myself that it's okay to have needs.
I've found that I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay to have needs, to voice them, and to meet them. Daily, I am finding new ways of meeting my own needs while considering other's as well. By learning to observe my needs, voice them, and develop a strategy to have them met I have taken huge amounts of pressure and guilt out of my energy field. The sweet thing is that by getting real with myself about my needs, I have simultaneously refined my ability to hear and meet other's needs as well. (4)
6. I watch my mind. Is my inner critic or Super-Self-Love (SSL) team controlling the conversation?
What's the narrative that's running in the back of my mind? Often just by reminding my train of thoughts to focus on things that lift my spirits I can feel an immediate shift in my body. I relax, it's easier to breathe, and it's easier to connect with others. This all has a dramatic effect on how my system responds to the general stimulus of life.
7. I remind myself that symptoms are a Love-Language of the body.
Imbalance and symptoms can cause us pain. Pain either catches my attention or diverts it. By defining pain as the well lit path where I will concentrate my love, it becomes an friend. Viewed this way, pain becomes a beacon of light and love calling out for connection and attention. If I can make this choice I prevent myself from disassociating from my from my needs.
8. I remind myself that the body is designed to heal.
Our bodies are fundamentally miracles. These beautiful fabrics of vibration have been sewn from the inherent wisdom of the universe. They know how to heal and they will if we align to their needs. By listening to my body I learned that I can prevent and remedy my Allergies, easily! Woohoo! And if that is possible, then what else is it possible to heal from?
What's Intermittent Fasting?
This is not a pitch for Intermittent fasting (IF). The big point here is that by learning when my body is ready to accept food, and what kinds of foods truly serve it I have experienced a great deal of healing.
IF could be a way to describe how I eat, but my practice is fluid and changes day by day depending on my needs. More food one day. Less the other. Early eating one day. Later another.
Formally, Intermittent fasting is restricting your eating to a certain time period each day. The generalized practice is to eat your meals between 11am and 8pm so that you can give your body the time it needs to eliminate the toxic by products that come with digesting (5).
Dieting is unique to each and every person. There is no "one diet fits all" way to do things. Though elements of IF help me to stay healthy and regular, the practice is going to be unique to you and your ever fluid needs.
Mental vs Emotional vs Physical Diet
Learning from the west, we can focus in on a particular symptom to find a particular cause. With acute trauma and short-term imbalances in health, the world of Allopathic Medicine can perform miracles. We can work with this pain point to leverage our healing. We can relieve ourselves of a symptom long enough to recover some energy to move forward into more vibrancy.
But for long term healing we must go further.
Learning from the eastern medical practices like Ayurvedic Medicine and Chinese Medicine, we can look at our body and health as a whole and very alive system. Seeing how something like allergies could actually be a symptom of deeper imbalance allows us to see how we can shift our health by treating true causes. So instead of just treating the itchy nose and eyes, we also treat liver and gut.
The longterm approach to health looks at all sides of our being, taking in to account what kind of thoughts our mind digests daily, what kind of emotions our heart digests daily, and what kind of foods and exercise our bodies digest daily.
Every 'body' is different, and different contexts of diet, exercise, and daily practices work for different people. For me, continuously supporting my liver and reenforcing my gut microbiome eliminates my allergies almost entirely and boosts my overall quality of life. It was my starting point.
After balancing my gut health, I was able to see and face the imbalances in my thoughts and emotions that lead me to the physical imbalances in the first place. Beautifully, all these different aspects of myself healed together.
For someone else, healing their nervous system might be where to start, and yet another person healing the mental and emotional pain may be the best place to start.
Again, there is no one right way. Regardless of where we are starting with our healing we all end up discovering that health speaks to our whole selves. By following your most acute pain points you can find a path to healing your deepest and most challenging pain points that have always sat behind the surface.
Allergies, Your Immune System, and the Liver
As allergies are the symptoms of the immune system reacting to a foreign substance that is normally not a threat to the body, it is theorized that an over-stimulated immune system could be the next domino to follow in the search for the root affliction behind our allergies.
An deeper imbalance in the body such as a stressed digestive tract could be over-working your immune system. As your immune system produces anti-bodies and releases them into your blood, you liver works to filter and clear your blood of these anti-bodies (REFERENCE). If the liver is stagnate or congested, this could prevent the anti-bodies from being properly filtered out of your blood stream. Again this is a "which-came-first" situation as the clogged liver can up the pressure on the immune system, while a clogged immune system can also up the pressure on the liver encouraging stagnation.
Your Liver's Role in Allergies
The liver is responsible for nearly 500 functions including:
- Filtering your blood.
- Storing, digesting, and producing many important vitamins like A, D, E, K, and B12
- Producing Cholesterol
- Storing and releasing glucose
- Producing bile to digest the fats in your diet
Just this tiny list alone reveals how important your liver is to your health. If your liver is overworked it can become overwhelmed, congested, and even inflamed. This congestion can stress the immune system, and may increase your immune response. With an aggravated immune system and a stressed out liver, the appearance of exaggerated allergic responses can increase in intensity and frequency.
When facing seasonal allergies or increased food sensitivities, I found that by focusing on my digestive health I was able to lessen and in some cases completely remedy my symptoms. This experience has opened up to me the understanding that my body is an organism, with all the parts working with all the others. The practices that help alleviate symptoms from Hay Fever also help me lower inflammation in my joints, clear up brain fog, and boost my overall energy.
After experiencing such sweet relief from my acute allergy symptoms I began a journey of learning about how the functions of my immune system, digestive system, nervous system, and more all worked and danced together to keep a balance of vibrancy.
So let your allergy symptoms be bright invitations to look deeper into your health. Let's let go of signing off to allergies be something that just happens to us, let's let go of just treating symptoms, and let's consider what's to be gained from an even deeper level of healing. Seeing how supporting my microbiome supported my liver health, and how supporting my liver health supported my allergy relief opened a world of magic up to me.
I discovered my body was a little universe, a place where I can explore and learn, and a place that I can actually heal. I went from being at my whits end to becoming excited about the possibilities of healing.
As my commitments to my path of healing have ebbed and flowed, I've discovered that healing is something that happens moment by moment in little ways that bring on the big changes we're craving.
My dance with allergies has taught me that vibrancy is a practice, something that we can learn to cultivate in all of our actions and practices.
So as always is Sarvaa's sweet little reminder that Vibrancy is a Practice. Feeling good doesn't have to be a fleeting experience. By taking 10 seconds to check in with yourself a few times a day, you're setting the stage for healing. Your body, mind and nervous system are continuously sharing updates on your state of being. So take a second, breath, and listen to what you're saying.
You're worth it, and it's so easy. Remember, it's fun to feel good! So make the big changes happen by taking a few seconds a day.
If allergies can be remedied by loving my body, then I wonder what else we can cure ourselves of by learning to slow down, listen, and love.
Trust your body, and trust your intuition. Make sure you're working with a Healthcare Provider that you trust and that respects your input and opinion. No one knows your body like you. And no body can love your body better than you!