Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to foreign substances such as pollen, dust mites, mold, or pet dander that are harmless to most people. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against harmful invaders, but in the case of allergies, it overreacts, triggering a series of symptoms that can range from mild, like a runny nose, to severe reactions like asthma. For that reason, it is important to explore the relationship between seasonal allergies and immunity, primarily focusing on how the immune system responds to allergens, how allergies can impact our immune response and function, and what steps individuals can take to support their immune system and reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
Your Immune System & Allergies
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against harmful invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and even parasites. When the immune system detects a foreign substance and allergy triggers, it mounts a response to eliminate it from the body. This response involves the production of specialized proteins called antibodies, which bind to the foreign substance and neutralize it. Unfortunately, in the case of allergies, the immune system can sometimes mistakenly identify harmless substances such as pollen or dust as dangerous and trigger an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions typically involve the release of histamine, a chemical that causes inflammation and other symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose. These symptoms are the body’s way of trying to rid itself of the allergen. While allergy symptoms can be uncomfortable and inconvenient with pollen floating in the air this time of year, they are generally not life-threatening. However, severe allergic reactions can sometimes lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention.
Immune Response & Inflammation
The immune system’s response to allergens can impact immune function in several ways. For example, chronic exposure to allergens can lead to inflammation, which can cause damage to tissues and organs over time. Inflammation has been linked to various health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, allergies can cause stress on the body, impacting immune function. When the body is under stress, it produces cortisol, a hormone that can sometimes suppress the immune system. Chronic stress can lead to prolonged cortisol production, weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of infections and other health problems.
Another way allergies can impact immune function is by altering the gut microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome plays a vital role in immune function, as it helps to train the immune system to recognize and respond to harmful invaders. However, studies have shown that allergies can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, leading to dysbiosis (a condition in which harmful bacteria outnumber good bacteria). Dysbiosis has been linked to a range of health problems, including autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, and even allergies.
A Healthy Diet & Immune Function
Despite the negative impact that seasonal allergies can have on immune function, there are steps that individuals can take to support their immune system and reduce allergy symptoms. A healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to support immune function. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein can provide the nutrients and antioxidants needed to support immune responses and reduce inflammation. In addition, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut can help to restore balance to the gut microbiome, supporting immune function and lessening allergy symptoms.
Exercise & Immune Function
Another way to support immune function is through regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to boost immune function by increasing the production of immune cells and reducing inflammation. In addition, exercise can help reduce stress, positively impacting immune function. However, individuals with allergies should take precautions when exercising, such as avoiding outdoor activities during peak pollen season.
Another way to help your immune system is by using products such as BioShell Germ Defense for Your Mouth. This product works to kill germs in your oropharynx (the space where the back of your nose and mouth connect) before they spread to the rest of your body. Staying proactive with guarding your body against germs is a significant step to helping your overall health. There are additional ways to lower the impact of seasonal allergies, such as over-the-counter antihistamines, allergy shots, and other allergy treatments.
Remember, as allergy season is among us, and with May being National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, you can do several important things to keep your body as healthy as possible. In addition to the above helpful tips to lessen mild allergy symptoms, speaking with your physician about medical advice specific to your body and needs is always recommended.