Managing allergies throughout the year

by Dr. Miranda Demierre

What is an allergy?
“Allergy” is a broad term used to describe a hypersensitivity reaction by the immune system to a substance that is harmless to the population at large (as opposed to toxins which are dangerous for all of humankind) but reactive in certain individuals.

An immediate hypersensitivity reaction may result in such diverse symptoms as itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, swelling of the tongue, tightening of the airways, hives, and eczema. The immune system registers the presence of protein to which it was exposed and considered threatening at some point in the past, and in response it sets loose a cascade of events that trigger the body to release histamine.

Another type of hypersensitivity is delayed in nature as the reaction to the offending agent uses a different pathway and other cells of the immune system. Symptoms from this pathway may not be experienced until 24-72 hours after the allergenic protein entered the body. This can make identification of the allergen for an individual much more difficult as exposure to the allergen on Monday may not manifest in symptoms until Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Symptoms of a delayed hypersensitivity include the same symptoms seen in an immediate hypersensitivity reaction, but may also express as generalized itching, digestive disturbances, migraines or other headaches, hyperactivity or restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle aches, and/or dark circles under the eyes (known as “allergic shiners”).

What can I do?

Naturopathic doctors use a variety of techniques for restoring healthy physiology in their patients. Various nutritional supplements, herbal formulations, or homeopathics may be used based on the needs of the patient and the symptoms that they express. Allergy and sensitivity testing for foods, inhalants, spices, etc. may be warranted in order to determine which agents are at the root cause of the imbalance.