Eat.Fit.Well

Sneezing and Itching and Wheezing….Oh, My!


by Tonya M. - October 5, 2015


is a professional publisher and owner of a small trade book publishing house from New Westminster, BC. Currently she worked as a freelance writer for Canadian drug pharmacy.

Sneezing-and-Itching-and-WheezingOh-My

A little bit about allergies and three interesting allergy theories that just might give you some relief (or at least some non-itchy food for thought.)

These days, it seems as if people, particularly children, are becoming much more allergic to food and such than they were in the past. Is this the case, or are we simply becoming more aware that allergies, including food sensitivities, won’t just go away if we ignore them?

What are allergies?

An allergy is your immune system’s way of reacting or over-reacting to a substance or food product that it comes into contact with that isn’t usually a danger. In other words, your body goes on the defensive, treats the substance or “allergen" as the enemy, and tries to get rid of it. These reactions can be mild like a small, short-term rash, or extremely severe and life-threatening like anaphylactic shock.

According to CBC News/Health, at least 1 in 6 Canadians have hay fever or have to deal with allergic rhinitis each season. And “season" doesn’t always mean Spring to Fall. Depending on where you live, you can be sneezy and snuffly from Late Winter to Early Winter. Fun? Not so much.

So, pollen is at the top of the common allergens list, but which pollen is to blame?

1) Weeds. Yep. They’re not just a pain when it comes to your lawn. The pollen from ragweed, sagebrush, and goldenrod---to name a few---can make you pretty miserable if you’re susceptible to them.

2) Trees. Cottonwood, Oak, Cedar, Birch, Aspen, and more (also depending on where you live). When they start to begin with all the pollen, you start to begin to sneeze.

3) Grass. My father always wore a bandana over his face and mouth, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, and gloves when he cut the lawn. As a kid, I couldn’t figure it out: Was this odd suiting up a lawn-cutting regime for everyone? Was he a lawn-cutting superhero? Would I, too, need to find my own version of this pre-mow outfitting? Now that I’m an adult and sneezing, my father’s grass-pollen protection suit makes perfect sense. Indeed it does.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to…Achoo!

Dust. Ah, dust. Dust is obviously not pollen, but dust holds a very special position in the allergen crew. Did you know that the dust mites, the enzymes they produce, and their droppings can cause a pretty serious reaction in some folks? Keep in mind that dust mites live everywhere we do and love pillows, mattresses, stuffed toys. Therefore, vacuum cleaners, “airing out" your beds, and tossing your pillows in a hot dryer for a bit might be very helpful to stop the sneeze and the itch during any time of year.

Mould. Mould? Mould!

Mould spores are also notorious allergens and can be found almost anywhere in your home. Try to keep your indoor gardening to a minimum, as the soil could become a mould source. Also be aware of mildew in the bathroom, including wet clothing in the hamper. Mould can also be very useful in a penicillin kind of way. But if you are allergic to mould, be sure to check your food (without smelling it) before you eat. And speaking of food...

And then there were eight. The most common food allergies (via the FDA):

1) Milk

2) Eggs

3) Fish

4) Shellfish

5) Tree Nuts

6) Peanuts

7) Wheat

8) Soybeans

The reactions that can be caused by these potential allergens range from hives to loss of consciousness. This can be pretty serious stuff, so proceed with caution if you or someone you know thinks they may have food sensitivities or a full-blown allergy.

Okay. So you have the basic info on what allergies are. Here are three interesting theories as to why we have them:

Allergies: Follow Your Gut?

There are quite a few studies being devoted to identifying whether some food allergies are directly related to what you have, or don’t have, in your gut. There are “trillions" of bacteria in your gut, and specific bacteria seem to prevent certain allergic reactions. When this bacteria is killed off by antibiotics as a newborn, food sensitivities can arise. University of Chicago Researchers conducted studies that suggest reintroduction of the missing bacteria may be the part of the solution to minimizing or eliminating reactions. Pretty amazing stuff, no?

Allergies and Anxiety: Are They a Less-Than-Dynamic Duo?

It would seem that the allergy and anxiety question is very similar to that of the chicken or the egg. Allergies have been known to cause anxiety, and anxiety has been linked to causing allergies. In other words, if you have a food allergy, it can cause you to have stress: Can you eat at a certain restaurant? How severe will the reaction be if you accidentally eat something you’re allergic to? Why me? Stress has been linked to compromising your immune system, so if you’re “sensitive" to an allergen, stress could actually make your body’s response to that allergen more severe. So it may be best, on both counts, to recognize when your stress levels are higher than normal.

Have Allergies Evolved to Keep You Safe?

Research conducted by Ruslan Medzhitov, an immunobiologist at Yale University, suggests that the increase of people with allergies may be a directresult of our immune systems evolving to protect us. You may be thinking: “Protect us from what?" Well, “what" can include harmful chemicals like pesticides and ammonia-based cleaners, parasites, irritants like pollution or cigarette smoke, and natural or created toxins. According to a recent article in Popular Science, those who have immediate reactions---and get rid of, or away from, the allergen(s)---may be at less risk of developing a more serious complications like infection.

So if we go with theory, following your gut, keeping your cool, and paying attention to warning signs might be a way to keep some allergies at a minimum.

What do you think?

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