Imagine a chihuahua – let’s call him “Rambo” – safe at home with his people, curled up safe and warm in his doggy bed. Sure, he’ll do his job and alert you to someone at the door, but otherwise he’s gonna be a loving companion. You have an agreement – You look after Rambo, and in turn, he looks after you.
Now picture Rambo is a different circumstance – maybe he’s getting picked on by a kitty cat who likes to mess with him. Or maybe your little nephews play too rowdy. Or maybe your like to turn the TV up LOUD.
What’s that chihuahua gonna do now? He’s going to be on edge. More snappy, more defensive. He might even bite friendly things, like your hand.
Give Rambo a bazooka now and he’s going to go nuts- blasting away at everyone with his tiny bazooka.
And sometime he’s so busy freaking out at the harmless kitty, he forgets to let you know someone has snuck into your house.
What does a chihuahua with a bazooka have to do with allergies?
This scenario above pretty much describes your immune system during an allergy attack. Little, fluffy pieces of pollen aren’t dangerous, but your immune system is over-reacting, thinking that they are.
Your immune system is like little Rambo– defending you and keeping out unwanted visitors. In this case, the unwanted visitors are certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
If your body feels threatened, it’s going to go on high alert. too. And sometimes in the frenzy, it’s going to attack things that are actually harmless. In this case, pollen.
Your immune system isn’t weak. It’s confused!
Looking at things this way. Does it seem like allergies a sign of a weak immune system? Heck, no. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Allergies are caused by your immune system responding too strongly to something that’s not really a threat.
The symptoms you feel – the watery eyes, the sneezing, the runny nose and fever – are actually due to the immune RESPONSE, not because the pollen itself is dangerous.
You can think of it this way: allergies are a sign of a MISGUIDED immune system.
In a nutshell, allergies are really your immune system mistakenly recognizing something as bad and attacking it like a nervous Rambo with a bazooka.
So what to do?
Think about our little buddy, Rambo. He’s snappy and acting aggressive because he feels threatened. Would you put a muzzle on him and consider the problem solved?
You might have to use a muzzle. But you would probably recognise it’s not a good long-term solution. He may not be able to bite, but he’s going to feel even more threatened. And there might be side-effects, like peeing on your couch. Worst of all, he can’t do his job and bark when someone comes into the house.
Muzzling Rambo is the same as taking antihistamines and immune-suppressing drugs for allergies.
Although sometime absolutely necessary, antihistamines and immune-suppressing drugs address the symptoms but do not take care of the underlying cause. And there are often side effects.
Calm that puppy down!
A better approach, both for you and Rambo, would be to make him feel safe. Keep the mean cat away from him. Turn down the TV. Don’t let your little nephews play rough with him. He’ll naturally calm down now that his environment is less stressful.
And he’ll be able to do his job being a loving companion that takes care of you and lets you know when someone is at the door.
This is called taking a ‘functional’ approach”: looking for the root cause of whatever is going wrong and taking steps to correct them so that the whole system is stronger.
What does this mean for you?
Your immune system is crucial to keeping you healthy by identifying and targeting anything seen as an invader. When your immune system is stressed-out and confused it will over-react to little fluffy pieces of pollen causing allergy symptoms.
Think about this: 60-80% of your immune function is in your digestive tract – we’ll call it the “gut” for now. So it makes sense that an unhealthy, inflamed gut – will lead to a misguided immune system and allergies.
Calming your immune system by calming your gut can be broken down into three simple steps:
- A healthy gut needs proper nutrition. Eliminate inflammatory foods, like sugar and processed foods. Many people benefit by removing gluten and dairy as well. A healthy gut needs nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc. Including healthy oils from fish or olives or avocados is especially helpful.
- Keep your good bugs happy! Probiotics are in the news a lot these days and for good reason. These good bugs play a huge role in keeping us healthy and happy. Our good bugs make nutrients to keep our bodies healthy and produce chemicals that are responsible for feeling good emotionally.
- Manage stress. Being stressed out, or “wired and tired” can really damage your gut and fire up seasonal allergies worse. The solution? Get enough sleep. Practice mindfulness, yoga or meditation. Exercise!
Sail through allergy season
Do you have Feels Like Crap syndrome (FLC) because of seasonal allergies? FLC is my specialty. I work with my patients to find the root causes of their complaints and then use natural methods to support the innate wisdom of your body to heal and repair: functional nutrition, acupuncture & herbal medicine, epigenetic coaching.