Many of us don’t think about allergies for most of the year, but comes Spring—they’re impossible to ignore. But what are our allergies really telling us? According to our integrative health experts they’re hinting at problems with our stress levels, inflammation, and gut health. This week, we’ll share our best advice on how to treat allergies from the inside out—by addressing what’s going on in our bodies and what in our environment is triggering them in the first place.
It may seem like a bit of a stretch that our seasonal allergies could be connected to our digestion, but the more we learn about gut health and our microbiome, the more we realize that it actually influences almost every aspect of our well-being. In other words: Gut health is all-important, and it's hard—if not impossible—to achieve truly optimal health without a healthy gut.
If you're still not convinced, we get it. So we asked one of our favorite integrative medicine experts, Dr. Frank Lipman, a few questions about how exactly our pesky seasonal cough, itchy eyes, and sniffles are connected to our gut, our microbiome, and our overall immune health.
1. What's the link between our gut health and our immune system?
About 70 percent of our immune system surrounds our gut, so the health of our microbiome directly affects the functioning of our immune system.
2. Why is our overall immune health important when it comes to seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are a result of the immune system reacting to an external factor, and if the immune system is already functioning in a compromised state due to an unbalanced gut, one would likely experience more extreme seasonal allergies.
3. Is it possible that damage to our microbiome (like from taking antibiotics) could cause us to develop seasonal allergies?
Yes, absolutely. Whenever the gut is compromised, our immune system is also affected, although how it's affected and how it presents in each person will differ from person to person.
4. What role does candida play in seasonal allergies and allergic reactions?
Candida overgrowth implies that one has a compromised microbiome and probably a leaky gut, too. As mentioned before, when the gut is compromised, our immune system can be more sensitive and therefore contribute to more extreme seasonal allergies and allergic reactions. A leaky gut (where food particles actually break through the digestive wall) has a direct impact on the immune system because the immune system recognizes these food particles as foreign substances and creates antibodies against them. Over time, this can lead to food sensitivities, worsening seasonal allergies, and in more serious situations, autoimmune disease.
5. What are your five best gut health tips for patients for seasonal allergies?
- Clean out and rebalance your microbiome (a cleanse can be helpful for this).
- Take a good-quality probiotic and eat fermented foods.
- Avoid foods that can contribute to a compromised microbiome (gluten, sugar, GMO foods).
- Support your immune system by getting enough sleep, managing stress, and moving your body.
- Avoid antibiotics, prescription medications, or other over-the-counter drugs, if you can. Take them only when absolutely necessary.
6. What foods are great for combating allergies?
Local honey and local bee pollen can be helpful for seasonal allergies as they introduce local pollens into the body in small amounts without having a negative effect on the immune system. Nettle tea can also be helpful.
7. When someone comes into your office complaining about allergies, do you always look at their gut health?
Yes. The health of the gut affects everything in the body, so we consider the gut in most—if not all—situations. In addition, the standard American diet, abundant in processed foods, compromises the health of our gut and probably plays a large role in the high prevalence of seasonal allergies.
So there you have it! Leaky gut, dysbiosis, and candida can all play a central role in the development of allergies of all kinds. And that includes a seasonal reaction to the trees, grass, and flowers blooming outside. But the good news is that once you heal your gut and adopt a diet and lifestyle that's kind to your immune system and digestion—you may just be able to enjoy springtime in a way that you never have before.