Ask Dr. Julie / Health & Wellness

Well-Controlled Seasonal Allergies Are the Key to a Stronger Immune System

Prevention is always the best medicine, especially when it comes to immune health. Giving our immune system extra care is one of the most effective ways to prevent against future illness and disease. Sadly, many of us suffer from health issues that continually wear down our immune response and leave us susceptible to future illnesses. One of the most common culprits? Allergies.

Allergies can range from mild to miserable. But no matter the intensity, many people still fail to manage them properly. Allergies may seem like a simple inconvenience or just “part of the season,” but they can greatly reduce your immune system’s ability to properly protect and defend.

Let’s restore our immunity and learn how managing allergies now can lead to better health in the future.

The Allergy – Immunity Connection

The runny nose, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure of seasonal allergies are an all-too-common reality of daily life for many people. Allergies are one of the most common health conditions we face, with over 50 million people in the US alone suffering from allergies each year[i].

At the core of all allergic reaction and disease is poor immune health. Allergic reactions are caused by the immune system to help fight potentially harmful invaders. The trouble occurs when these “invaders” aren’t really that harmful at all. Dust, pollen, mold, or other allergens don’t pose a real threat to the body, but an over-stressed immune system still fights them. Antibodies are released and inflammation ensues. The immune system’s response causes a miserable slew of symptoms like itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, skin irritation, hives, headache, and even severe issues like anaphylaxis[ii].

Millions of Americans sniffle and sneeze through bouts of seasonal allergies while their immune systems are left in this constant overdrive. Over time, this allergic response can lead to either a weakened or over-reactive response. Either way, the immune system struggles to do its most important job of protecting us from actual, harmful threats.

The Best Supplements to Manage Allergies and Boost Immune Health

Getting allergies under control is the first step to helping the immune system thrive. Thankfully, Mother Nature has provided us with some amazing natural remedies to help kick allergies to the curb and strengthen our immune system. These top vitamins, minerals, and herbs are some of our strongest allies in achieving an allergy-free life.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D, or the “sunshine” vitamin, is a fat-soluble steroid produced in the skin after contact with the sun’s rays. Vitamin D has many important roles, including regulating the immune system. When it comes to fighting allergies, vitamin D helps by reducing inflammation and improving the lung’s function[iii]. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is often a contributing aspect of respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic allergic diseases[iv]. It can be difficult to safely get the necessary amount of vitamin D through sun exposure, so a supplement is often a good way to maintain healthy levels.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C may be the most famous immune-boosting vitamin and is a go-to supplement for many people when they’re feeling under the weather or battling allergies. But vitamin C can do more for us than help speed our recovery from a cold – it also helps to reduce allergies and prevent illness with its antioxidant power[v]. By encouraging white blood cell development and fighting free radicals, this vitamin is one of our best allies for a healthy immune system[vi].

Zinc
Zinc is a crucial mineral our bodies need to properly heal and fight disease. Without adequate amounts of zinc, we are at a higher risk of frequent colds, flus, infections, asthma, and allergies.   Zinc has both protective and stimulating effects on the immune system. It works to heal damaged epithelial tissue in the respiratory tract[vii] while also activating key white blood cells[viii] for a well-rounded immune response. For those with allergies, zinc can greatly help to reduce inflammation and the intensity of allergies.

Elderberry
Elderberry is a popular folk medicinal used to strengthen the immune system naturally. The current research on elderberry shows that it can help protect against issues like airborne diseases, sinus infections, inflammation, allergies, and general immune dysfunction[ix]. Elderberry’s power stems from its high concentration of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins[x].

Spirulina
Spirulina is a vibrant blue-green alga with a host of health benefits. It contains many nutrients that support the body’s functions including B vitamins, vitamin E, beta-carotene, as well as a high-concentration of disease-fighting antioxidants. Studies on spirulina show that it has a particularly strong effect on improving allergic rhinitis[xi] and reducing symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and nasal discharge.

Astragalus
Astragalus is a revered herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it is most commonly used to enhance energy and boost the immune system. Modern research also suggests that this root can be helpful in fighting chronic allergies and weakened immunity. Antioxidants called astragalosides have been found to defend the respiratory tract from pathogens while other compounds boost the health of our disease-fighting gut microbiomes[xii].

Andrographis
While Andrographis has recently caught the attention of researchers and wellness leaders, it has been an important medicinal herb in traditional medical systems for centuries. Andrographis is best known for its antimicrobial effects which help to stop the growth and spread of infection[xiii]. It also shows strong antioxidant effects and stimulates the immune response to better fight disease[xiv]. In helping to reduce inflammation and support the body’s fight against disease, Andrographis can help reduce and prevent allergies.

What Are Your Allergies Telling You?

The body speaks, we just have to listen. If you are suffering from chronic allergies, it may be your body’s way of alerting you to a bigger underlying issue: the immune system needs support. A strong immunity is our biggest protection against both acute and chronic illnesses. Build up your immune health and fight your chronic allergies with the support of natural herbs and vitamins.

 

[i] Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “Allergy Facts and Figures.”

[ii] Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Allergies and the Immune System.”

[iii] Hooman Mirzakhani, MD, et al. “Vitamin D and the development of allergic disease: how important is it?“ Clin Exp Allergy. 2015 Jan; 45(1): 114–125.

[iv] Hui-Qin Tian and Lei Cheng. “The role of vitamin D in allergic rhinitis.” Asia Pac Allergy. 2017 Apr; 7(2): 65–73.

[v] Ströhle A, Hahn A. “Vitamin C und Immunfunktion [Vitamin C and immune function].” Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2009;32(2):49‐56.


[vi] Claudia Vollbrach et.al. “Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of allergies: an interim subgroup analysis of a long-term observational study.” J Int Med Res. 2018 Sep; 46(9): 3640–3655.

[vii] Ozdemir O.  “Zinc and Allergy Relation.” MOJ Immunol 1(1): 00005 DOI: 10.15406/moji.2014.01.00005

 

[viii] Prasad AS. “Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells.” Mol Med. 2008;14(5-6):353‐357. doi:10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad

 

[ix] Jessie Hawkins, et.al. “Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials” Complementary Therapies in Medicine Volume 42, February 2019, Pages 361-365.

[x] Pedro Silva, et.al. “Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) by-products a source of anthocyanins and antioxidant polyphenols” Industrial Crops and Products, Volume 95, January 2017, Pages 227-234.

[xi] Cingi C, Conk-Dalay M, Cakli H, Bal C. “The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis.” Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008;265(10):1219‐1223. doi:10.1007/s00405-008-0642-8

 

[xii] Qi Y, Gao F, Hou L, Wan C. “Anti-Inflammatory and Immunostimulatory Activities of Astragalosides.” Am J Chin Med. 2017;45(6):1157‐1167. doi:10.1142/S0192415X1750063X

 

[xiii] Agbonlahor Okhuarobo, et.al. “Harnessing the medicinal properties of Andrographis paniculata for diseases and beyond: a review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology.” Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2014 Jun; 4(3): 213–222.

 

[xiv] Shahid Akbar, MD, PhD. “Andrographis paniculata: A Review of Pharmacological Activities and Clinical Effects.” Alternative Medicine Review Volume 16, Number 1.

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