4 Surprising Things Making Your Seasonal Allergies Worse
We are well into the Spring allergy season here in North Carolina. Some days it feels like everything, and we mean EVERYTHING, is covered in pollen. It is hard to escape “The Pollening,” and our allergies can become very problematic this time of year. Before you go popping more Antihistamines, take a look at these four surprising things that can make your seasonal allergies worse. When you address some of these factors, you may find relief and even long-term solutions for your allergies.
Are you surprised to see stress listed here? Don’t be. Stress factors into many elements of your physiology and affects your wellness in a lot of surprising ways, including your body’s ability to manage your allergies.
Stress can make allergies worse by affecting our body’s immune system and inflammatory response. Our immune system plays a crucial role in how our bodies respond to allergens. When we are stressed, our body produces hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that can suppress our immune system, making us more susceptible to allergies.
This response can worsen existing allergies, causing symptoms to become more severe. The release of those inflammatory chemicals in the body can worsen allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and congestion. Stress can also make existing allergy symptoms last longer, leading to more chronic conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, and mast cell activation syndrome.
To counter the effects of stress in your daily life, Dr. Brooke encourages her patients to engage in regular self-care, add something fun to their weekly schedule, and utilize bilateral music to calm their brains and relax.
Similar to stress, certain foods can worsen allergies by triggering a reaction or causing inflammation in the body. For example, some people with hay fever may experience cross-reactions to certain fruits and vegetables.
- Tree nuts: If you’re allergic to tree pollen, you may also experience allergic reactions to tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
- Fruits and vegetables: Certain fruits and vegetables can cause cross-reactions in people with pollen allergies. If you suffer from hay fever, you may experience allergy symptoms after eating apples, peaches, pears, celery, or carrots.
- Spices: Spices such as coriander, cumin, and fennel can cause cross-reactions in people with ragweed allergies.
- Beer and wine: These beverages can contain sulfites, histamines, and other compounds that trigger allergies or exacerbate symptoms.
- Processed foods: Processed foods, such as canned soups, deli meats, and snack foods, often contain preservatives and other additives that can cause inflammation in the body and worsen allergy symptoms.
- Dairy products: Dairy products can thicken mucus in the body, worsening allergy symptoms. Some people with pollen allergies may also experience cross-reactions to milk and other dairy products.
Dr. Brooke has found that there may be a surprising link between gluten ingestion and the severity of your allergies. When patients present with significant seasonal and environmental allergies, a gluten-free diet has achieved a substantial reduction in allergy symptoms over time.
If you are suspicious that one or more of these foods may be contributing to the severity of your seasonal allergies, try cutting them out of your diet for a while. Take notes on how the change affects how you feel. You just might find that one of these is the culprit to your sneezing and congestion.
Your gut health is another surprising factor in how your body handles exposure to seasonal allergens. We’re sure you have noticed the common thread in many of the things that affect your allergies – inflammation! That is true with your gut health, too.
Emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and seasonal allergies. The gut contains trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiome, which play a crucial role in the immune system and inflammatory response. These studies have shown that people with seasonal allergies often have an imbalanced gut microbiome, with reduced levels of beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
When the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can lead to chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction, which can trigger and worsen your allergy symptoms.
Some studies also suggest that improving your gut health through probiotics, prebiotics, or dietary changes can reduce inflammation and improve allergy symptoms.
Last on our list of surprising things that factor into the severity of your seasonal allergies are the medications you may be taking. Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines can exacerbate existing allergies or cause new ones.
- Decongestant nasal sprays: These sprays can provide some temporary relief from nasal congestion, but if used for more than three days, they can actually worsen symptoms by causing rebound congestion.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can exacerbate asthma symptoms in some people and cause allergic reactions in others.
- Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure, can worsen asthma symptoms and cause breathing difficulties in some people.
- ACE inhibitors: ACE inhibitors, which are used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, can cause a chronic cough and worsen symptoms of asthma.
- Some antibiotics: Antibiotics, such as penicillin and sulfa drugs, can cause allergic reactions in some people.
- Certain antidepressants: Some antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, can cause dry mouth and worsen allergy symptoms.
Allergies are no fun! When you understand the underlying causes of what may be triggering your reactions, you can make the necessary changes to minimize and better control your allergies. If you are interested in a functional medicine program to optimize your gut health and clean up your diet to improve your allergies, schedule a Discovery Call with Dr. Brooke to discuss options.