If you suffer from both allergies and digestive complaints, you may find relief of allergies by addressing the health of your digestive system, and visa versa.
Allergies and hay fever are an immediate hypersensitivity response to pollen and other substances, caused by the release of mediators from mast cells.
Research is finding more correlations between gut health and allergies. For example, several epidemiological studies show a link between Irritable Bowel Disease and Asthma, Atopic Dermatitis, and Allergic Rhinitis.
Your body wants to rid itself of irritants, so when you’re exposed, you may sneeze to blow it out. Or produce mucus to rinse your sinuses. This isn’t really an allergy… just your body taking care of housekeeping.
When the immune system regulation is primed to have more allergy-mediated responses, it activates Type-2 IgE-mediated hypersensitization. IBS has been linked to defects in the integrity of the intestinal lining, leading to intestinal permeability and subsequent diarrhea. Mucosal immune activation results in the production of immune mediators such as cytokines, histamine, and prostaglandins which stimulate epithelial ion secretion. The synthesis of allergen-specific IgE antibodies to allergens leads to binding of the IgE antibody to mast cells and basophils, triggering their release of inflammatory mediators into the intestine. When the lining of the gut is impaired, it can allow food proteins to be absorbed into the lymph and blood, where other immune cells label the foods as foreign invaders, triggering additional inflammation. There is also a correlation between an imbalance of healthy gut micro-organisms in the development of allergies and IBS.
Strategies to address allergies include:
- Identifying the offending allergies – this can be performed through skin testing at an Allergy Medical clinic, or through a blood test, however skin testing is considered the gold standard.
- Elimination of food born allergies. If allergy testing is not available, and elimination diet trial can be done with the top 10 most common food allergens. Because adverse reactions can be delayed sometimes, it’s recommended to stay on the elimination diet for at least 2 weeks, then begin to re-introduce foods slowly, one food every 2 days, to observe for adverse symptoms. The top ten common food allergens you may want to avoid:
- Eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, and peanuts will often have an immediate reaction.
- Milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus fruits, and artificial colorings often have a delayed reaction.
3. Some allergists may recommend desensitization injections, or sublingual immunotherapy to reduce the body’s reactivity.
4. It is also important to try to heal the lining of the intestines to restore the integrity of the epithelium. There are also strategies to reduce the response of mast cells and basophils, so they are less likely to release damaging inflammatory mediators. Another important step is re-establishing a healthy micro-biome of the digestive tract.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends using a Neti pot to irrigate your sinuses daily with saline solution. This safely flushes out pollen and other irritants. Though it won’t cure your allergies, it can help with symptoms, taking some of the pressure off while you’re getting to the root of the problem.
Association between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Allergic Diseases: To Make a Case for Aeroallergen. Loo et al.,
Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2020;181:31–42. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/503629