By Viktoriya Zabigaylo and Dr. Orest Szczurko
Ragweed is the main culprit of seasonal allergies that occur in the late summer and fall. A single ragweed plant can produce as many as 1 billion pollen grains, and because they are very light, they can travel through the air over 200 km 1, 2. Those who suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis) are especially susceptible to ragweed allergies, with symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. These symptoms are the manifestation of the immune system’s response to the allergens, with the chemical histamine playing a large role in regulating inflammation, vasodilation and bronchoconstriction.
Hay fever is largely genetic, especially if eczema and asthma are also experienced by the same individual – this is termed the ‘atopic triad’ 3. However, the severity of seasonal allergies can be lessened by addressing the histamine response, reducing other factors that can burden the immune system and working on underlying causes. Such underlying causes may include toxic burden on the liver, gastrointestinal imbalances such as leaky gut syndrome, food allergies and sensitivities, high levels of environmental toxins and heavy metals, and chronic NSAID use 4.
After addressing these factors, it is also possible to strengthen the immune system with various naturopathic remedies and lifestyle changes. For instance, diet and nutrition are important in promoting an optimal immune response. Certain foods can increase or decrease inflammation, cytokine production, antibody production and oxidative stress. Supplements and botanical extracts can further help in regulating the immune response. For example, quercetin has many anti-allergy properties and acts as an antioxidant, reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibits release of histamine and can suppress inflammation 6.
Low vitamin D levels have also been shown to be associated with higher serum IgE levels in those with seasonal allergies 7. A randomized controlled trial study by Dennis-Wall et al (2017) also showed that certain probiotic strains improved the overall quality of life in people suffering from rhinoconjunctivitis. While reducing pollen exposure during allergy season is effective, strengthening the immune system and addressing underlying root causes are also important when it comes to seasonal allergies.