The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 40 million Americans are affected by seasonal allergies. Symptoms vary widely and run the gamut from mild and temporary to debilitating and persistent. Regardless of how springtime allergies impact your family, there are a whole host of simple actions and natural remedies you can take to make the season more enjoyable for everyone.
Before considering how to lessen the impact of allergies, let’s first consider what an allergy really is – your immune system on overdrive. Those who suffer from allergies have an immune system that is oversensitive and therefore reacts to substances in the environment that we would normally consider to be harmless. The substance in question, be it pollen, mold, dust, grasses, weeds, or animal dander, is called an allergen.
A common misconception about allergies is that they are caused by the allergens. Although allergens play a key role in triggering the allergic symptoms, the underlying cause is a compromised and out of balance immune system. The causes of this imbalance vary, and may be the result of genetic, dietary and lifestyle factors. Clearly we can’t change our genetics, but we can modify our diet and lifestyle to decrease our allergies.
What leads to immune system imbalance? One important consideration is the balance of healthy vs. harmful bacteria and yeast in our digestive tract. The human colon is lined with trillions of microorganisms that are essential to our digestive and immune systems. In fact, a healthy digestive tract contains more microorganisms than there are total cells in the human body. These organisms (such as Lactobacillus acidophillis ) are known as probiotics, and help prevent permeability defects in the gut – otherwise known as leaky gut syndrome. They do this by supplying the cells that line the colon with essential nutrients, which enhances cell health and therefore helps to maintain a barrier between the bloodstream and potential allergens.
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet of processed foods, an overload of environmental toxins, chronic stress, and the overuse of antibiotics have created an epidemic of dysbiosis (an imb