Spring is when Vancouver comes back to life. The days are noticeably longer, the crocuses and daffodils have been around for a little while now, and the plum and cherry blossoms are starting their annual show that transforms our city streets. Unfortunately, for the approximately 1 in 6 of us that suffer from seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis – this spring beauty can be associated with a feeling of dread.
Allergic rhinitis is a hypersensitivity mediated by your IgE antibodies, the same ones responsible for true food allergies (like life-threatening anaphylaxis caused by exposure to peanuts). Allergens (in this case, pollen) bind to these antibodies, causing the release of histamine and other inflammatory molecules stored in mast cells.
The severity of your symptoms depends on a lot of factors outside your control – the type of plants in your area, your particular sensitivities, how early and how long they bloom. Another thing about living in a city – particularly Vancouver – is that city planners typically plant only male flowering trees, to avoid the inevitable fruit and the resultant mess. But the male trees are the ones that produce all the pollen that causes your allergies.
All that aside though, there are also lots of factors that you CAN control, to help minimize your suffering.
Allergies are a form of inflammation – and if you already have a lot of underlying inflammation, then it doesn’t take much more to push your symptoms over the tipping point. Diet and lifestyle can have a lot to do with it. Smoking, undiagnosed food sensitivities and a diet high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates and trans fats are all major causes of inflammation. In particular, certain foods are high in histamine (that inflammatory molecule at the center of seasonal allergies). Ways to reduce inflammation include moderate aerobic exercise and a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables.
And if after all that you’re still experiencing symptoms, it’s time to sit down with a naturopathic doctor for a personalized treatment plan. This will involve all of the above suggestions, as well as things to support your body’s elimination of the allergens and reduce the severity of the reaction.
Finally – look into long-term treatments to desensitize your allergies. It’s too late to do it for this year, but there are various treatment techniques that act to train your body not to react as violently in the future when it’s exposed to the same species that have tormented you all these years. These treatments include SLIT (Sub-Lingual Immunotherapy), NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), and LDA (Low Dose Allergen) Therapy.
Make an appointment with me at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic today, and make this the year you can stop and actually smell the roses!
Reuben Dinsmore is a naturopathic physician in Vancouver, BC interested in opening up the lines of dialogue around health.