Allergy season has come early this year for the Vancouver area.  I tend to get symptoms of a runny nose, itchy eyes, sinus congestion, fatigue, and foggy thinking and am looking for ways to prevent this or even stop them outright.  Is there anything that I can do?

Allergies are a very common affliction, affecting up to 25 percent of the population.  Around this time of the year when pollen from trees, grass and flower is in the air symptoms can get particularly bad.  A very important thing to note is that allergies indicate an impaired or imbalanced immune system whether they occur seasonally or year round.  A temptation to take an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve symptoms should be put off or only done in conjunction with attempting to identify causes of the impaired or unbalanced immune system.

There are a few basic functional approaches to identify causes of allergy and thus to relieve symptoms.  These include adrenal gland insufficiency, chronic yeast infection, and increased toxin burden.  Almost every allergic patient will have one of these issues as the underlying problem, that once corrected, leads to a healthy immune system, better energy, clearer thinking and no more allergies!

The first issue, adrenal gland insufficiency, has the most components to it.  The adrenal glands are two small groups of tissue situated above each kidney.  Within the body, they partake in a variety of functions including contributing to the control of blood volume, blood pressure, energy, and probably most importantly, reacting to stress.  These are some hormones that it secretes:

Aldosterone: responsible for control of the levels of salts in the blood

DHEA: a mother hormone that becomes converted to other sex hormones

Adrenaline: responsible for the "adrenaline rush", makes blood vessels clamp down and become less permeable or leaky

Cortisol: the body's natural anti-stress hormone and responsible for modulation of the immune system

From the functions of the hormones you've probably guessed correctly that the adrenals play a role in keeping allergic symptoms at bay because of cortisol and adrenaline.  Cortisol is probably the most important as it prevents an over-active immune system from getting out of control.  It is related to the well known immune suppressants called prednisone and cortisone, but physiologically in the body the natural cortisol serves the important role of keeping a balanced immune system and giving a healthy, energy-providing response to stress.  Daily cortisol rhythm may be altered, which may be associated with increased daytime tiredness and/or trouble sleeping at night.

Keep in mind we are not talking about an outright deficiency of cortisol in the blood.  The importance of adrenal insufficiency is very subtle in allergies, and blood levels are often normal.  It's the pattern of tissue delivery through the day that may be off.  Normally cortisol secretion to the tissues looks like the shaded green (highest in the morning, reducing throughout the day, lowest at night), but in allergies in can be "flat-lined".

 Cortisol should be highest in the morning.  In many patients with allergies, salivary analysis throughout the day shows the second pattern, with outright deficiency many times and sometimes only in the morning (hence the morning symptoms being worse).

We should keep in mind that allergies are of course not the only stressor on the adrenal glands.  Someone is more prone to have this subtle insufficiency if the other daily stressors are not handled appropriately.  The single biggest stressor under individual personal control are blood sugar fluctuations during the day.   Having blood sugar that rapidly rises and then falls forces the adrenal gland to work to stabilize the sugar levels.  Adrenaline plays a large role in this, (as does the pancreas).  Stabilizing dietary sugar intake is generally encouraged.

The second part of a proper individualized work up looks towards the possibility of a yeast connection to allergies.  This is most important in patients who recognize that their allergies are of new onset. In other words, a patient realizes that all of a sudden they notice that they are allergic in the spring time, whereas they have lived in the same place all their lives.  

Here's the connection and what happens in the body.  Yeast, usually candida, is a normal inhabitant of our gastrointestinal tract.  It lives there in community with other organisms such as Lactobacilli and E. coli bacteria.  However, if a patient's diet is high in refined carbohydrate or sugar, or there is a strong history of antibiotic use, the yeast can grow out of control.  In the first instance, yeast overgrow because they tend to thrive in a high sugar environment.  In the second situation, the yeast are not affected by antibiotics but other normal bacteria are, and thus because of lack of competition, yeast is allowed to proliferate and take hold.  Once this situation has arrived, the stage is set for a pathological polarization of the immune system.  Yeast have two forms, one is a micelle form and one is a bud form.  In the micelle form, the yeast have extensions of their cell bodies, similar to long "arms".  These extensions reach across the intestinal wall and allow large molecules of foreign material (such as food antigens or allergens) to cross into the blood and stimulate the immune system.  Unfortunately, this constant stimulation may polarize the immune system toward the side that produces allergy-generating proteins  hence the development of new food allergies and new environmental allergies.

 This condition should be checked for by two of three methods: stool culture for candida, blood analysis for candida antigen, and blood immunological analysis for antibodies against candida.   If this is established, a combination of oral medications (undecenylic acid, berberis extracts, vitamin C) and IV vitamin C or ozonated treatment of the blood may be recommended. 

Toxin overload is the third place to look, and is important in many patients but especially so in those that have a universal reactivity or year long "allergies".  These patients are often sensitive to chemicals, and will get headaches from strong scents or exposure to chemicals such as bleach.  Additionally, they will often have symptoms throughout the year instead of simply seasonally.  History is often enough to suggest this functional contribution, but sometimes testing for chemical sensitivities by blood or even provoking the body to test for a burden of heavy metals may be useful.  Intravenous treatments of IV vitamin C or ozonation of blood may be recommended.  In addition, if heavy metals are found, chelation may be recommended.

When dealing with a functional approach to medicine, it is often found that treatments are useful for a variety of conditions.  Interestingly, in the case of identifying causes in order to relieve and restore health to allergic sufferers, treatments are relatively similar.  As such, there are basic measures that can be taken to begin to help almost any allergic patient.

Intravenous immune bags may be recommended, which are intravenous infusions of vitamin C at a dosage of 12.5 grams to 50 grams. Once again, by bypassing oral absorption and getting blood ascorbate levels very high.  If indicated, salivary testing for the adrenal hormones is can be done, or toxin loads are assessed and then treatment administered accordingly. 

Steps often recommended to help restore health during this allergic season: 

1.Avoid sugar: this hits two of the common causes. First, sugar stresses the adrenal glands and makes it more difficult for optimal production of the natural cortisol. Second, a high sugar diet makes for a favorable environment for yeast overgrowth in the bowel  this can lead to a polarized immune system and thus allergies.

2.Vitamin C orally.  This addresses all three of the common causes. Vitamin C is concentrated in the adrenal glands, is used by the immune cells to fight yeast, and can directly help with the free-radical mediated damage from toxins. At the biochemical level, it quenches and acts as a natural anti-histamine.

3.Salmon body oil. This doesn't go to any direct cause of allergies, but our modern diet makes most of us deficient. With a higher level of fish oils, the inflammation involved in allergies is lessened.

4. HEPA air filter. Decreasing allergen load in the home may help to decrease the pathological polarization of the immune system.  The air filter has to be powerful enough to cover the size of the room, and should be portable so it can be moved from room to room if needed.