While we typically look forward to warmer weather and beautiful blooming flowers after the long winter, and a relief from the heat and fall foliage at the end of summer, many of us find these times of the year especially challenging when it comes to allergies. If you’re someone who experiences seasonal allergies, you’re not alone. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, over 24 million people in the United States experience allergies, which can be triggered in the spring, summer, and early fall. These symptoms include running or stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, itching, and other symptoms associated with an activated immune response.
Allergies can be caused by various triggers – from trees, grass, pollen, mold, dust, animal dander, and foods. Oftentimes it can be challenging to identify the actual cause of the irritant, which is why many people seek the care of an allergist for testing and evaluation of specific triggers.
And while we may be able to avoid certain foods, we can’t always avoid pollen in the air or dust in our homes, and therefore often seek relief from allergy medications as the main course of action when we’re experiencing these symptoms.
So, what does the gut have to do with allergies?
You may have heard that the gut plays a significant role as it relates to our immune system. The gut microbiome is home to many cells and bacteria that help balance our body’s natural immune responses. And studies show that imbalanced gut bacteria can play a role in developing allergic reactions (Han et al., 2021).
Changes in the microbiome that contribute to allergic development can occur at any time during our lives. Factors can include childbirth (vaginal vs. c-section), breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, early exposure to antibiotics, and dietary factors (like a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet) (Pascal et al., 2018). Still, much study has been done on the impact of our childhood exposures and allergy development early in life.
In addition, some research suggests that permeability in the intestinal lining (also known as “Leaky Gut”) can play a specific role in the development of food allergies and sensitivities, especially those developed later in life (Camilleri, 2019).
The good news about understanding the role that the gut plays in the development or persistence of allergies means that we can also make changes in our diet and lifestyle that can potentially positively impact our symptoms.
5 Ways to Help Improve the Gut-Allergic Response:
1. Rebalance the Microbiome
Rebalancing the microbiome can be done by increasing our probiotic bacteria through both foods and supplementation. Fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and fermented dairy (like kefir and yogurt), contain healthy levels of probiotic bacteria. Just be sure to avoid excess sugars found in yogurts and beverages. A probiotic supplement can also be used to help improve the microbiome and can help aid in reducing allergic symptoms, improving bowel habits, and more. resB Lung Support is a targeted probiotic supplement option for respiratory health. You can learn more at www.resbiotic.com.
2. Eat Foods With More Prebiotic Fiber
Prebiotic fiber is the “food” for our healthy probiotic bacteria. Prebiotic fiber is found in foods like bananas, asparagus, artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, oats, plantains, garlic, onions, leeks, and apples. Incorporate one of these prebiotic-rich foods into your diet each day to help support a healthy microbiome and better digestion.
3. Eat More Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only beneficial for a healthy gut lining and a healthy immune response but also support the brain and cardiovascular system. Wild-caught seafood is an excellent source of omega-3s, especially salmon, mackerel, halibut, and sardines. Other sources of Omega-3s are seeds like chia, hemp and flax, and walnuts. Many people find that supplementing Omega-3s is the easiest way to ensure these healthy fats are in the diet.
4. Eat More Foods That Contain Quercetin
Quercetin is an antioxidant nutrient shown to help minimize histamine levels and calm the body’s allergic response (Jafarinia et al., 2020). Quercetin can be found in foods like red onion, shallots, citrus, apples, capers, grapes, scallions, and teas (like black and green tea).
5. Cut Back on Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can trigger changes in the gut microbiome and contribute to changes in the intestinal lining associated with allergic development. In addition, alcohol is a high-histamine beverage that can aggravate allergic responses in the body. By eliminating or limiting alcohol in your diet, you may notice that allergic responses are minimized.