Diet for Allergies, Hay Fever & Asthma
Dietary choices can play a large part in alleviating the burden of allergic diseases, including hay fever and asthma. These problems have increased in recent decades with less healthy lifestyle changes and food choices.
At our clinic, we focus on dealing with the influence of inherited factors with homeopathy and naturopathic medicine. We can modify the way the genes express, through treating at the epigenetic level. Research into epigenetics shows us that genes can be silenced or expressed. This is the deeper level of healing. But we also examine the role played by the patient’s diet and lifestyle in this.
In time, we can work towards reducing the body’s response to allergens with these remedies. We also have treatments to relieve the immediate symptoms. But the patient can also assist this process with diet and lifestyle modification. This can also change the expression of the genetic pattern.
The Hygiene Hypothesis in Allergies
There is also the hygiene hypothesis. The idea is that in western countries in particular, there has been a growing emphasis on sanitation, clean environments, vaccinations and keeping children away from exposure to germs. This means the child’s body doesn’t have the necessary exposure to deal with bacteria, viruses and potential allergens and build immunity. Hence the increase in allergies and autoimmune diseases, so the theory goes, and there is much evidence to support it.
A balance is needed here. In our clinic, we believe we should have a healthy respect for pathogens, but not a paranoia.
As we are part of nature, germs and potential allergens have a role to play in strengthening immunity. We need to look after our health and immunity naturally, so we are strong enough to deal with that and reap the good effects. This is fundamental naturopathic understanding. Homeopathic treatment and diet are an important part of that.
Overview of Diet for Allergies
In overview, the diet should be nutrient-dense and mostly composed of plants and good fats. While relatively high in protein, wild caught fish and vegetable proteins should be the main source, especially those high in omega 3 fatty acid. The diet should keep simple carbohydrates such as processed grains to a minimum. That includes sugar and sweet foods. These things increase inflammation, which triggers allergies.
Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants that support the immune system and reduce inflammation. So do good fats, that work to dampen inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables are also high in fibre, which is a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed and promote good bacteria in the gut, which also improves immunity. Certain probiotics, or sources of these good bacteria are also good to include in your diet.
We will look more closely at these dietary factors below.
Homeopathic Understanding of Allergies
These things are the dietary keys to help fight off seasonal allergies. Asthma, hay fever and eczema and dermatitis are all atopic diseases, based on an inherited weakness. In homeopathy we call it a constitutional weakness: a fault in the whole system that is reflected on all levels of the person.
However, they are all slightly different. That also means the role of dietary factors may be different in all three. There is also a deeper homeopathic understanding of how these atopic diseases are all related, and how this influences the treatment approach.
Eczema and dermatitis are usually the least obviously allergic. That is, in the sense of being able to tie the issue down to a specific food, which when avoided, results in improvement. It is also the most superficial level of the same underling problem in all allergies.
Hay fever is deeper than that, and often is the first response of the body when the initial eczema is suppressed with steroid creams. Further suppression or drug treatment often leads on to asthma, which is the most life threatening of the three.
This is the homeopathic understanding. It is what homeopaths have seen over the last two hundred and twenty years. We ourselves have also noticed that in our more than thirty years of practice. It does also sometimes mean that the previous symptoms may recur temporarily, though less severely, as part of the body’s curative response to treatment.
This is a good thing, and nothing to worry about. It is easily managed and passes quickly. The patient always feels better in themselves if this happens. Homeopathic treatment is not suppressive. It works towards restoring the balance in the body’s self-regulation mechanisms, not working against the symptoms of eczema, hay fever or asthma.
The Role of Symptoms in Allergies
These symptoms are actually the best attempts the body can make in the circumstances. It is not the problem itself. Restore harmony to the body: heal the gut, the emotional imbalance and over-reaction to stress, the sleep patterns, the immunity, the whole person. Then the symptoms disappear. There is no more need for them.
Homeopathic understanding also tells us that things that may trigger the allergies are not the problem itself. They are just that: triggers. That is why we don’t always suggest the patient removes allergens unless they are severe. When we fix the underlying imbalance they can often tolerate these things.
On the other hand, if they just avoid them, they may become allergic to something else. It is better to fix the real problem, the systemic imbalance, otherwise the body will seek out whatever trigger is there. That inevitably means the weakness is driven deeper and becomes harder and takes longer to treat.
This is a new and foreign concept to some patients. The medical approach believes there is no way to “fix” allergies. They don’t see the bigger connection. The only way they know how to treat is to suppress the symptoms with cortisone, other steroids or antihistamines.
Otherwise they just tell the patient to avoid the allergens if possible. So even when they seek alternative treatment, patients usually come to us with the mindset that the allergies are the culprit themselves. If they don’t already know the triggers, they want to know what food is causing the problem, as if that would be the end of the issue.
Even though there is a genetic component in atopic allergies and we can’t change genes, natural treatment can change the way the genes express. We achieve that by modifying at the epigenetic level. Anything that works in harmony with the life processes can make a positive epigenetic change.
Although naturopathic and homeopathic approaches work deeply at that level, diet and lifestyle is the fundamental aspect.
Inflammation in Allergies & How Poor Diet can Cause it
Diet is the foundation of health. The foods we eat and the lifestyles we pursue have a great influence on how our genes express. Genetics is not destiny. If we change our lifestyles and diet, we can also change the genetic expression positively for the next generation.
The main reason why diet affects atopic allergies is that they are inflammatory diseases. The more serious the allergy, the more the inflammation. Asthma is the most inflammatory of all, and studies have shown the importance of a low-inflammatory diet in asthma.
Much current research is showing that inflammation underlies all chronic disease. The question is, is it the cause or the result. It’s complex, but in many cases inflammation is one of the main causative factors.
Inflammation is a normal response to body injury. It should settle does after it does its job. But in chronic disease it doesn’t settle. It cause a whole host of troubling symptoms.
Cytokines are involved. These are inflammatory markers that are an important part of the immune reaction to infection, inflammation, and injuries. But some of them are promote inflammation. Pro-inflammatory cytokines and chronic inflammation can make all kinds of diseases worse. Diet contributes to the persistence of these markers.
In this study, researchers investigated populations of Inuit living in Greenland who followed their traditional diet. They compared them with a similar group living in Denmark.
They found that those living in Denmark had significantly higher levels of inflammatory markers and much more asthma. The researchers thought that this was due to the more westernised diet that the Denmark Inuit followed, leading to higher inflammatory markers and more asthma.
This occurs largely through the connection between asthma and obesity and the role of dietary fats. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of asthma and to a lesser extent, other allergic diseases, as this research shows.
Obesity is associated with chronic low grade levels of inflammation. Indeed it may explain the link between obesity and chronic disease, especially in asthma. There is an increased incidence and severity of asthma in those who are overweight.
How to Reduce Allergy Inflammation with Good Dietary Fats
This “chronic low grade systemic inflammation” is strongly affected by diet. Studies have shown that the type of fats included in the diet are crucial to dealing with allergies like hay fever, sinusitis, dermatitis and especially asthma.
In the study quoted above, the Inuit in Greenland were eating more of their traditional high fat diet, one that was rich in Omega 3 oils from seafood. On the other hand, those who had moved to Denmark were consuming more Omega 6 vegetable oils. The omega 6 oils are more prevalent in a typical western diet.
Omega 6 fatty acids come mainly from sources such as sunflower, safflower, peanut and canola. They promote inflammation, which worsens allergies, particularly asthma. They are often also genetically modified, which has also shown to be an issue.
Trans fats are also common in the western diet. Commercial baked goods, snack food, cakes and biscuits, pies and pasties, chips, crisps and margarine are the main source of these. They are pro inflammatory, and research shows they have multiple health risks, including promoting allergies.
Saturated fats can assist asthma by suppressing components of the allergic response. The natural trans fat conjugated linoleic acid, found in grass-fed meat, could be particularly useful. For example, in a mouse study, CLA from milk fat reduced airway inflammation.
Other Dietary Nutrients that Benefit Allergies
There are a wide range of antioxidant compounds in fruits and vegetables that have an anti-inflammatory action that is beneficial in allergies. These are known as phytonutrients. A healthy diet is the best source of these. Many studies on supplements have been inconclusive. They seem to work best with all the co-factors found in a healthy diet.
Studies on higher intake of antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene have shown reduced seasonal allergies in both adults and children. Once again, it appears to be the synergistic effect of a healthy diet that confers the most benefit, not the addition of one “wonder supplement.
Another important nutrient, that does show some benefit in supplement form is Vitamin D, especially for asthma. This hormone-like vitamin reduces allergic inflammation. Studies show that many people with asthma are deficient in this vitamin, especially those who are obese, which also is a problem in asthma.
In summary, the best way to ensure a range of dietary antioxidants that will be beneficial in allergies is to focus on diet. A healthy diet full of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, organic if possible, is the way to manage allergies.
In addition, ensure an intake of healthy fats. Focus on wild caught fish, and supplement with fish oils. Not too many vegetable fats in ratio to the Omega 3 oils. Consume no trans fats, meaning no baked commercial goods. Have grass fed meats only, where possible. Have a test for your vitamin D levels and supplement where indicated.
Contact us at Cottesloe Naturopathic Clinic for effective treatment that can immediately relieve the acute symptoms and treat the underlying recurring tendency.
Back TO Blogs