By Lindsay DeHaas, ND
Allergies are a sign of an overactive immune system.
In response to a trigger, depending on the kind of allergy, the body’s immune system will mount a response that releases intracellular, chemical messages of inflammation in various parts of the body, including the ears, eyes, mouth, nose, throat, skin and gastrointestinal tract.
Triggers can include inhalants like pollen from our environment, foods that we eat and chemicals that we inhale, ingest or touch.
Allergic responses can be innate or acquired. They can occur immediately after exposure, or take more time to express as symptoms.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that about 30% of American adults and 40% of children experience nasal allergies.
Many naturopathic doctors would probably estimate that number to be higher, as we find that many of our patients who experience different kinds of respiratory concerns such as chronic sinusitis, repeat sinus infections and chronic post-nasal drip likely have an underlying imbalance that is leading to a slow allergic response in their nasal mucosa that heals when the imbalance is corrected.
Whenever a patient presents with a variety of concerns, including gastrointestinal distress, skin issues, musculoskeletal pain, and ears, nose, mouth and throat issues, a naturopathic doctor will consider that they have an underlying imbalance in one of multiple areas.
The areas we examine as a source for an allergic, overactive immune system response include digestion, hormonal balance and detoxification. Chronic distress in any of these systems often leads to imbalance in another, and eventually a disturbance in healthy immune system function.
To evaluate whether any of these systems are out of balance, a naturopathic doctor will conduct a thorough medical history inquiry, physical exam and potentially order specialty lab tests.
Some of these tests could include tests for food sensitivities, dysbiosis, gastrointestinal inflammation or “leaky gut,” hormonal balance, toxic body burden and/or specific detoxification mechanisms.
Treatments will generally have the goals of removing any injurious agents, restoring health to the injured systems and providing symptomatic relief while systems are healing.
Therapies can include dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, homeopathy, detoxification and IV nutrition.
Allergies can have a higher prevalence in a pediatric population due to their developing immune systems. Many infants, toddlers and children can suffer from a trifecta of allergies, asthma and eczema.
In a naturopathic patient population, many of these concerns are alleviated after evaluating gastrointestinal function and treating any underlying concerns. This sets the child up for improved lifelong health, and also potentially prevents further issues that can arise from an imbalanced immune system.