By Dr. Sara Hart, ND, MSOM
CO registered Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist
Today on my walk I noticed the grasses have matured into an amazing array of color. Some are showing off a deep maroon blaze across their tips, others are glowing bright yellow. There are patches of every shade of green and now golds and browns too. All the while my eyes are admiring this scene, my nose says “Accchoooo!”
June hay-fever is often related to this wonderful display of the grasses, a group of plants I once considered the most boring of them all. Upon closer examination, they are as miraculous in their creation and display of nature’s beauty as any other plant family.
The pollen of grasses has affected up to 30% of the population with an obnoxious reaction. Sneezing, runny noses, itchy eyes are all common symptoms of the immune systems activation towards the grass pollen. It’s as if it were a serious pathogen, in need of attack.
How did the primary food source for our domesticated four-legged friends become an enemy to so many? I’m sure farmers across the country would have lots of ideas, but for immunology here’s the scoop:
The immune system is one of the most complex parts of our bodies. It is ever evolving and reacting to our environments. It plays a significant part in the health of every other part of the body. It’s expression can significantly determine whether we’re even able to get out of bed and can change over night.
For allergy sufferers, the pattern is known as TH2 dominance which results in hypersensitivity to otherwise non-harmful stimuli. TH2 dominance is when histamine releases in excess and creates the many irritating symptoms characteristic of allergies, asthma, eczema and hives. Left untreated, TH2 expression can results in anaphylactic shock in the worst cases. While allergies are an annoyance, they also signify that the immune system isn’t functioning at it’s best.
Ideally, our immune system exists in what is known as TH1 dominance state most of the time. This is when the immune cells are at the ready for bacteria, viruses and also cleaning up cells that are otherwise not doing their job correctly in the body. When a person’s immune system is in TH2 dominance, these jobs go unattended.
While the over-the-counter anti-histamine drugs can get us through a day in the hayfield, they will not correct the immune imbalance and can lead to negative side effects. The majority of our antihistamine drugs including: Benedryl, Claritin, Sudafed and many more are part of the class of drugs known as anti-cholinergics. These drugs are known to cause cognitive decline, even with mild, occasional use. Check out the “Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale” by the Aging Brain Care organization, available at http://www.miltonkeynesccg.nhs.uk/resources/uploads/ACB_scale_-_legal_size.pdf
How to Keep Your Mind and Stop the Sneezing:
Nasal lavage has been used for thousands of years, particularly in dry climates. Most commonly, this is done with a sinus rinse device with saline such as a netti pot. It is important to utilize it’s traditional pair, Nasya oil to moisturize the nasal mucosa after rinsing. This can also, more conveniently be done with a nasal spray. I recommend a non-steroidal cleansing spray because they are non-addictive and do not cause long term changes to the delicate nasal tissue.
Quercetin, Bromelain, Vitamin C = this trio is our most commonly helpful blend of natural substances for stabilizing mast cells and reducing histamine expression. In doing so, they also help re-establish the ability of the immune system to become TH1 dominant.
Allergy desensitizing drops = our local medicinal supplier Mountain States Health Products makes an invaluable array of homeopathic allergy desensitizing drops. Some research suggests oral drops to be as effective as prescription allergy shots, with varying results from prescription vs homeopathic forms. What are you waiting for? Start desensitizing your allergies to pollen (grass or tree blends), pets, bee’s and other stinging insects today!
HayNettle and euphrasia are two wonderful allergy treatments from our herbal medicine world. Utilize as tincture, tea or in food for routine support.
Any case of allergic symptoms is an example of an immune system that could function in a better way. TH2 dominant individuals are at a higher risk for other chronic diseases of immune dysfunction such as auto-immune diseases and cancer. Take care of your immune system with an integrative medicine approach to support a path to optimal health today! Individualized care and natural medicine tools available at Stillwater Clinic & Apothecary here in Lyons, CO.
"Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale," Aging Brain Care.org
"Common Anticholinergic Drugs Like Benadryl Linked To Increased Dementia Risk." J. Merz, Beverly, www.health.harvard.edu
"Comparative Anticholinergic Activities Of 10 Histamine H1 Receptor Antagonists In Two Functional Models," Orzechowski RF1, Currie DS, Valancius CA.
"Efficacy of Sublingual Immunotherapy versus Subcutaneous Injection Immunotherapy in Allergic Patients," Saporta, D., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22523505
"The Role Of Histamine In Allergic Diseases," White MV, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1699987