Many folks out there deal with seasonal allergies. Just turn on any TV channel and you’re likely going to see or hear advertisements that help people “live their best lives outside” again, or be around their animals, or enjoy outdoor activities without the constant sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and cough that comes with these things. However, from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, these medicines (antihistamines, mucus-blockers, etc.) really just put bandaids over the real issue. Antihistamines are effective in that they block the histamine release from cells that cause local swelling of tissue (think nasal congestion) and increased mucus production, but do they really solve the issue as to why people have these allergies in the first place? The long and short answer is, ultimately, no.
Seasonal and environmental allergies are the result of a complex process that happens within the immune system that inappropriately activates it. The immune system is supposed to keep our bodies safe from potentially “dangerous” materials. I say “dangerous” in quotes because that is how the immune system sees these materials, even if they are rather benign in the grand scheme of things (what did pollen ever do to you anyway?).
The question we are left with, then, is how can we resolve the root cause of allergies rather than just decreasing the repercussions/consequences (ie symptoms) of having them? Is there a way that we can truly alleviate ourselves from having allergies? The answer to that question, for most people, is yes, but it’s rarely talked about because the easy route, where we unfortunately continue to struggle and suffer and not get to the crux of the issue, is often the low-hanging fruit recommended first.
There is an increasing body of evidence for the effectiveness of methods available commonly termed “Low Dose Immunotherapy.” Low Dose Immunotherapy, often abbreviated LDI, refers to the opportunity for us to retrain our immune systems to no longer react to the rather innocuous materials found in our environment (pollen, dander, etc.). By introducing customized formulas that contain significantly diluted amounts of these allergens, we are able to introduce them to our nervous system in a way that it starts to renovate its previous patterns. The immune system can “see” these allergens & say, “oh great, we’ve been exposed to this before but we’re safe, we no longer need to respond with sneezes, running nose, increased mucus, watery eyes, and coughing to get it out of the lungs.”
So going back to the question of seasons: why is autumn the best time to work on spring allergies? The immune system needs time and increased exposure to these allergens in order to relearn how to respond when they’re present. Similarly to teaching math to children at school, we introduce very small amounts of these allergens to the immune system at first, and then build up to higher levels (we teach numbers first, then simple math like addition and subtraction, then increase over time to more advanced math till ultimately they learn trigonometry and calculus). This increased learning requires time. So, the ideal time to start working on this re-education process is before the “advanced math” is needed, which for most folks happens in the spring, which means our basic arithmetic starts in the fall. If it’s springtime and you’re reading this post and struggling with allergies, by all means you do not have to wait till autumn/fall to get started. The best time to start working on retraining the immune system is now, but if you are a type-A personality & like to plan like I do, starting about 6 months before your allergy season is at its worst is ideal.
If you’d like to help your immune system relearn it’s basic math so you no longer have to struggle with the plights of allergy season, or would like to learn more, let’s connect! I’d love to work with you on the root cause of why you have allergies, and work towards helping you no longer need the bandages masking your allergy symptoms.