Australia has some of the highest allergy rates in the world. Some people suffer allergies chronically, for others they’re a seasonal affliction, with spring often the worst time of year.
Even non-allergy sufferers can experience symptoms of ‘hayfever’ (allergic rhinitis) due to environmental allergens such as pollens, grasses and dust mites. Inflammation of the mucosal membranes in the nasal cavities result in redness, itching, and a clear, serous, exudate (runny nose) in between sneezes. 1 in 5 Australians are affected to some extent.
Over-the-counter antihistamine medications are the most popular treatment option, but many sufferers develop a tolerance that reduces their effectiveness. If you find everyday antihistamines are no longer working, or want to avoid some of the common side effects of these medications — such as a dry mouth, drowsiness and dizziness — you might like to consider some of the ‘alternative’ approaches here.
Perilla is famous for its anti-allergy effect, with the flavanoid compound luteolin inhibiting histamine release.
The mustard oils in Horseradish help decongest, dilate and clear respiratory passages.
Garlic can relieve hayfever and rhinitis through the action of sulphur compounds.
Vitamin C helps to support the immune system.
Other herbs such as astragalus, andrographis and echinacea can all be beneficial in supporting a healthy immune system by improving the imbalance of T1and T2 immune cells often seen in allergy sufferers.
Red and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in the flavanoid Quercetin which has been found to act like an antihistamine. It exhibits an anti-inflammatory action and may control the release of chemicals in immune cells that initiate the allergic response.
Essential fatty acids like omega-3 fats reduce excessive inflammation. Oily fish such as salmon are the richest animal source, but foods like chia, flaxseed and the herb purslane provide generous vegetarian sources.
Probiotics that support a healthy gut will assist with a healthy functioning immune system.
Saline solutions can easily be delivered through the nasal passageways to wash out allergens trapped in the nose.
Essential oil diffusers act as humidifiers and ionizers, which can benefit allergy sufferers. Useful oils to add include eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint and thyme as found in various different Breathe Easy blends.
Immunotherapy trace amounts of the allergen are administered orally or via injection over a period of time (anywhere from 3 months to 5 years). This approach has been proven very effective against insects, dust mites and pollens, as well as some childhood food allergies such as cows’ milk and hen eggs.
Urticaria, or hives, is a common presentation of a skin allergy. The precise cause often remains unknown, in which case it comes under the classification idiopathic dermatitis.
If you’re prone to irritable skin, you should:
• Avoid enzyme-based washing powders.
• Chose natural and preferably organic face and body products. Known skin irritants to avoid include sodium lauryl sulphate, EDTA, perfumes, isopropyl alcohol, paraffin, parabens, propylene glycol, DEA and phthalates.
• Try to use gloves when washing up or cleaning, as over-cleansing, hand washing and hand sanitising all strip the skin’s protective oils and moisture.
• Apply topical applications containing calendula, urtica and aloe vera throughout the day to help sooth redness and itching.
Coeliac disease is a unique allergic response by the body to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This causes chronic inflammation in the small bowel and damage to the intestinal villi, which can result in long-term nutritional deficiencies — iron and calcium are the most prominent.
Coeliac sufferers can be completely asymptomatic, but others experience mild to severe gastric symptoms such as pain, bloating and flatulence, and even a unique rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. Coeliac disease affects 1 in 70 Australians, but it’s estimated that 80% of people with the disease are still not diagnosed. A strict gluten-free diet is the only recognised medical treatment.