Spring is here, and if you are like most people, that means you’re looking for ways to prevent, reduce, and even eliminate your seasonal allergy symptoms.
It is estimated that 55 million Americans (that’s 1 in 4 people) suffer from allergies of some kind – seasonal, food, skin, and medication. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology states that as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergic rhinitis each year.
For those of you who are living on daily doses of over-the-counter allergy medication, I’ve got some great news: you CAN banish seasonal allergies naturally and ditch the side effects of those drugs! Let’s talk about how!
The Seasonal Allergy, Gut Health Connection
Seasonal allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion, are caused by your immune system responding to something in the environment, such as pollen in the air. The reason your responses to these environmental allergens is heightened is often because your immune system is on high alert due to chronic inflammation. Your overactive, overstimulated immune system becomes hypersensitive to seasonal allergens, and the response manifests in symptoms such as congestion, coughing, itchy eyes, and sneezing.
And, as you probably know by now, your gut plays a huge role in your immune system health. In fact, nearly 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. It’s the place in your body that interacts with the outside world more than any other, taking in nutrients from food and keeping out bacteria, pathogens, and undigested food.
That’s why the key to reducing seasonal allergies is to calm the inflammation in your gut in order to restore your immune system’s balance. Here are the three steps I use to help my patients do that.
Step One: Complete an Elimination Diet to Identify Food Sensitivities
If you are eating foods on a regular basis that you are sensitive to, your immune system is working overtime to create inflammation in response to those foods. A food “sensitivity” is not the same as a food allergy, and you could be sensitive to a particular food without knowing it. The purpose of an elimination diet is to determine which foods are causing problems for your immune system. We are looking for IgG or delayed reactions to foods rather than IgE or immediate reactions or allergies to foods. If you have an allergy to a food, you likely already know it. For example, if you eat a strawberry and break into a rash within an hour, you have an allergy to strawberries, and that is an IgE reaction. If however, you eat a bagel and two days later you have a headache or stuffy nose, then that could be a sign of a gluten sensitivity, which is an IgG or delayed immune reaction.
I start every patient who comes to see me on an elimination diet to identify their food sensitivities. During the elimination diet, you remove a number of toxic and inflammatory foods from your diet for a period of a few weeks, and then you add them back in to see which ones cause an inflammatory response.
While following an elimination diet you’ll want to remove toxic foods for two weeks, including:
- Processed, package, and junk foods
For a standard elimination diet, you will also eliminate the most common inflammatory foods, including:
- Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers)
If you have thyroid dysfunction or autoimmunity, I also recommend removing:
After two weeks you will add each food back in, one at a time, by eating it three times a day for three days. If you experience any symptoms after reintroducing a food, such as a headache, fatigue, skin issues, digestive issues, joint pain, or mood changes, you’re likely sensitive to that food and will want to avoid it.
For a deeper dive on food sensitivities and a “done for you” approach, check out The Myers Way® Comprehensive Elimination Diet eCourse. In it you’ll find four hours of guided video instruction, plus a meal plan and recipe eBook for the elimination portion, shopping guides, a reintroduction recipes eBook, plus tons of other downloads and checklists to make the process as easy as possible.
Once patients remove the foods they are sensitive to and their inflammation calms, they typically see their seasonal allergies subside.
Step Two: IgG Food Sensitivity Testing.
In addition to completing an elimination diet, many of my patients opt to get a blood test called an IgG Food Sensitivity Test to determine any other foods to which they are sensitive. The advantage of the Food Sensitivity Testing is that it test for 155 foods, whereas in The Myers Way® you are only testing for the topmost inflammatory foods. I do believe that your body knows better than any test, so I highly recommended going through an elimination diet as well as doing the Food Sensitivity Testing.
The Food Sensitivity Test is different than traditional allergy testing in that it is checking for IgG or delayed immune reactions. Allergy testing checks for IgE or immediate immune reactions.
Food sensitivities or intolerances can develop over time, often because of a poor diet and a leaky gut. The consequences of improper food choices can manifest as food sensitivities and cause weight gain, fatigue, sinus problems, acne, mood swings, and other inflammatory symptoms. As I explain in my book, The Autoimmune Solution, putting your body into a constant state of inflammation can place you on the autoimmune spectrum and eventually push you over the edge into autoimmune disease.
Because the reactions can take up to 72 hours to occur they can be very difficult to recognize. Eating a diet low in these inflammatory foods reduces excess swelling and fluid accumulation in your tissues, which will assist with your body’s healing and detoxification processes and reduce seasonal allergies symptoms.
Step Three: A Comprehensive Stool Test.
If you have seasonal allergies, you often end up with sinus infections and are prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t discriminate between the good bacteria you need, and the bad bacteria that are making you sick. When antibiotics kill off most or all of your good bacteria, you can end up with intestinal yeast or Candida overgrowth.
Candida alone can worsen seasonal allergy symptoms as well as cause intestinal damage leading to increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. Leaky gut then increases your susceptibility to food sensitivities, which exacerbates the problem and worsens seasonal allergy symptoms.
Typical symptoms of Candida overgrowth include itching (especially in the anal or genital region or ears), bloating or gas, eczema-like rash or diaper rash, dandruff, intense sugar cravings, headache, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and even mood imbalances and ADD/ADHD. Candida infections can be confirmed by either a blood test or a comprehensive stool test. I tend to find that the comprehensive stool test picks up Candida more often than the blood test. A functional medicine physician can order a stool test for you, or you can order the test online and my Registered Dietitian and Wellness Coach can review it for you in a Wellness Coaching session.
If you do find that you have Candida Overgrowth, the good news is that you can overcome it with a low carb diet (to starve the yeast, which feed off of carbs), Candifense™ and Caprylic Acid, supplements that kill the yeast, and probiotics to restore your friendly bacteria. For a complete 30-day program to beat yeast overgrowth, check out my Candida Control Program.
How to Repair Your Gut
Repairing your gut is the first step to warding off seasonal allergies by restoring the integrity of your immune system. I walk you through this process step-by-step in my Guide to the Gut eCourse, using the 4R approach below.
- Remove the bad. Get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, including toxic and inflammatory foods (gluten and dairy in particular), and intestinal infections such as Candida and SIBO.
- Restore the good. Add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption, such as digestive enzymes and Gut Restore with Betaine and HCL.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria. Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. You can start with a high-potency dose of probiotics with 100 billion CFUs (colony-forming units), and then transition to a maintenance dose of 30 billion CFUs once your gut is repaired.
- Repair your gut. Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. Leaky Gut Revive™ is my most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut, containing l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm and marshmallow root, all of which help mend your gut lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen can also help.
Reverse Chronic Illnesses So You Can Take Back Your Health!
Are you ready to beat your symptoms, regain your energy, and feel like yourself again? Whether you have Hashimoto’s, Graves’, or any of the hundreds of other autoimmune diseases, I want you to know you CAN reverse your condition!
In each book you’ll learn how to address the true underlying causes of your symptoms using simple yet proven dietary and lifestyle changes. Best of all, you’ll get step-by-step, four-week plans to put all of the principles into practice and truly make optimal health a way of life!
If you’re on the autoimmune spectrum or have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, check out my interview with Darin Ingels on how Lyme, autoimmunity, and allergy can affect thyroid function.