Food and Environmental Allergies
and Nutritional Support for Allergies
Controlling The Body's Burden
Chris D. Meletis, ND
The Centers for Disease Control report that
hay fever symptoms result in 14.1 million annual visits to primary care
physicians.1 Overt allergic disease affects 20 percent of the US
populace with an impact on some 50 million Americans.2-3 Of those that
suffer, 35 million are specifically afflicted with seasonal hay fever.
If one was to add in to the statistics asthma and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease the numbers become even more staggering. Without
question allergic disease is a serious health crisis and is currently
ranked the 6th leading cause of chronic disease in the United States.2
Surprisingly, the allergic burden blamed for seasonal and year round
allergies is not limited to environmental exposures. Clinically food
allergies have been identified as a leading contributor to allergy
symptoms. Food allergies can cause numerous respiratory symptoms
including: asthma, cough, nasal congestion, excess mucus production,
hoarseness, postnasal drip, tonsillitis, sore throat, sneezing and
Food allergens can be broken down into two categories: Immediate and
Delayed. It is the delayed or hidden food allergens that erode away ones
health, frequently going undetected since the response is not immediate
but rather delayed up to 72 hours, long after the offending food(s) were
ingested. Patients experiencing delayed (IgG) food sensitivities will
experience a worsening of their environmental allergens. Thus,
identifying and controlling food sensitivities is essential.
As spring arrives plants and trees begin to bloom leading to over 31
million cases of sinusitis alone. With the slightest inclination many of
these cases could be either totally avoided or managed conservatively.
Instead of waiting in anticipation for another season of suffering, one
should begin building the health of his or her respiratory system
proactively by implementing some simple health principals. This
discussion will explain how eliminating offending foods from the diet
along with supplementation to augment the body's natural defenses—with
nutrients like quercetin, bromelain and vitamin C—will help support
Symptoms: A Barometer of the Body's Preparedness
By definition if allergic symptoms flare up at a specific time of year
then they are likely caused by seasonal allergic rhinitis. The body
manifests with allergic symptoms because the personal threshold of
resistance has been overwhelmed. Outdoor or indoor levels of pollen,
spores and pollutants, when combined with daily environmental and food
allergen burdens, become too great a challenge for the body to resist.
Ideally one builds his or her body's defenses in a proactive fashion
prior to the first signs and symptoms. Yet, if allergies have caught an
individual off guard, it is imperative to take action. Though allergy
symptoms vary from person to person, it is important to use specific
symptoms as a personal barometer of the readiness and success of warding
off the infamous biochemical allergic cascade. (Table 1)
Seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis share a common symptom picture.
The big difference is that in the case of perennial allergies
identifying the cause of symptoms is often more difficult since there
can be an overlap between current seasonal allergies and daily allergic
burdens such as house dust mites, animal dander, chemical exposures,
medicines or foods. Yet regardless of allergic symptoms' duration,
supplementing the body's defenses is a must to control suffering. Among
my favorite respiratory-support nutrients both for my own personal use
and for my patients is a combination of quercetin, bromelain and vitamin
C. Before discussing in detail the science behind the use of these
supplements I will touch upon a common condition that can contribute to
the exacerbation of allergic rhinitis and sinusitis—food allergies—as
well as the link between heart disease and allergies/sinusitis.
When it comes to allergies the goal is simple, lessen the body's burden
and strengthen its ability to resist the allergic irritants.
Food + Environmental Allergens = Respiratory Distress
One of the easiest ways to lessen personal allergic burden is to
recognize that food allergy/sensitivities play a large role in the
amount of suffering a person experiences either with seasonal or
perennial allergies. This is because it is the total burden on an
individual's system that ultimately determines how readily the body
releases histamine and inflammatory substances that lead to many of the
miserable symptoms of allergic reactions. Most people are unaware of
their food allergies because we have been led to believe that food
allergies are related only to asthma and hives—the classic "anaphylactic
reactions." Yet, delayed food allergies are also called hidden food
allergies because they can contribute to digestive problems, body aches,
headaches and symptoms typically not associated with classic allergy
symptoms. The combined environmental and food allergen burden result in
total susceptibility to succumbing to allergic symptoms.
ELISA immunoassay testing for delayed food allergies helps identify
delayed IgG immunoglobulin allergens. This technology is used worldwide
and has now been applied to home test kits that can identify 96
different foods reactions ranging from dairy, wheat, corn, fish,
vegetables, fruits, sugar cane, numerous nuts, eggs and other commonly
consumed foods. A simple fingerstick done at home, much like that done
by diabetics, makes gaining insight into ones own personal delayed food
allergies both affordable and convenient. Once collected, the sample is
sent from the home to a CLIA (nationally licensed) laboratory. Within a
couple of weeks, results are sent back directly to the patient's home.
These results indicate low, moderate or high reactions to different
Choosing the correct laboratory is critical for accurate and
reproducible results. The lab that I use in my clinical practice, which
offers this home testing option for delayed/hidden food allergies, has
an international presence that includes Europe and Asia. This clinically
powerful tool can help an individual identify allergies to foods
consumed daily that may otherwise go undetected since delayed food
allergies can take upwards of 72 hours to manifest their full effect.
- A 48-year-old woman
presented with a 10-year history of cough and allergy symptoms.
She was tested for food allergies and was positive for elevated
antibodies to dairy, shrimp, corn, barley, oat, sesame, banana,
grape, pear and rice. With this new gained knowledge she
improved dramatically with complete remission of her symptoms.
- A 40-year-old male
with allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes) that had been on
Allegra® for years to control year around sinus and throat
discomfort was able to discontinue his prescription medication
and become symptom free when he avoided his high and moderate
food allergens that included dairy, banana, peanuts, baker's and
- An 8-year-old boy with history of ear infections and sore
throats was able to stop taking his maintenance dose of antibiotics,
acid blocker, ear drops and antihistamine prescription. Allergies
included wheat, peanuts, oranges and soy
Runny Noses and Heart Disease
For individuals willing to endure allergy symptoms, the consequence
within the body doesn't end with a runny nose. Allergies trigger
inflammatory responses that can elevate C-reactive protein (CRP), which
can accelerate cardiovascular system damage. By controlling allergic
symptoms such as sinusitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis or
conjunctivitis individuals are simultaneously controlling
inflammation—hence the term "-itis," which simply means inflamed.
C-Reactive Protein is a measure of the total amount of inflammation
within the body and can be measured with a simple and affordable blood
test. The higher the CRP, the higher the heart disease risk, even with a
low cholesterol reading.5 Ensuring we maintain a low CRP level is part
of a holistic approach to allergy support, helping fuel individual
potential for maximal wellness.
Moist mucous membranes are resistant and resilient to allergic
irritation and possible secondary infection. Staying well hydrated
during allergy season—and year round—is important since a healthy
individual is comprised of about 70 percent water content.
The smartest approach to battling allergens is avoidance, literally
trying to dodge as many pollen molecules as possible. Table 2 outlines
ways to minimize pollen exposure.
Anyone suffering from allergy symptoms already knows that this condition
can reduce "quality of life" by lessening enjoyment of leisure
activities and decreasing the ability to perform tasks at home and work.
Researchers have measured substantial impairment in verbal learning,
decision making and psychomotor speed in those suffering from
Recommendations for my patients that are serious about battling
allergies include minimizing allergen exposure and supporting the body
in controlling the allergic response. The goal is simple—minimize the
total burden of allergic exposure by:
- Checking the pollen count (with local media)
- Staying indoors when it is high such as early evening when pollen
Sleeping with windows closed
- Driving with vehicle car windows closed
- Wearing a mask when mowing the lawn or better yet hire out the job
- Protecting the eyes with glasses/sun glasses to stop pollen entering
- Washing hair prior to bed (to rinse out allergens collected throughout
- Staying well hydrated: moist mucous membranes are more resistant to
Testing for food allergies
- Minimizing mold and mildew in house
- Using Air filters/HEPA for bedroom
- Cleaning central ventilation system in home or office
- Remembering indoor/outdoor pets (carry pollen and allergens on their
- Cleaning carpets regularly with a HEPA vacuum
Nutritional Support for Allergies
The above recommendations may look simple enough, yet total avoidance is
neither practical or feasible. Therefore proactively strengthening
defenses with strategic supplementation can help an individual cope with
this frustrating condition. Consequently, when pollen, dust and other
allergens begin to fly the body will have been fortified and prepared
for the impending barrage.
The foundation of natural medicine is best captured by the doctrine
stated 400 BC by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, "May your
food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." Indeed, when
supplementing with plant based medicinals like quercetin, bromelain and
vitamin C, one actually nourishes the body rather than merely treating
allergic symptoms, leaving the body stronger and healthier overall.
My strong recommendation for my patients with allergies is quercetin in
conjunction with bromelain. Quercetin is a naturally occurring
polyphenolic plant compound. Quercetin actually helps prevent histamine
release from mast cells (immune cells); this is in sharp contrast to
prescription and over-the-counter antihistamine drugs that merely seek
an "antidote" to histamine's effects. Quercetin supports the body by
increasing its resistance to allergic response.
Mast cells play an important role within the body relative to allergies,
immunity and inflammation. As with all aspects of health one can have
too much of a good thing. For instance, mast cells play a role in
creating the momentary watering of an eye to flush out a speck of dirt,
yet in an undernourished or overwhelmed body excess mast cell
stimulation leads to unnecessary and preventable misery.
Quercetin serves as a potent inhibitor of histamine and cytokine release
from mast cells and basophils. Recent research has concluded that
quercetin is suitable for the support of allergic and inflammatory
diseases.8 When compared to one potent mast cell stabilizing drug,
quercetin had twice the effect on nasal mast cell scrapings when given
at the same concentration as the drug.9
Quercetin embodies the concept of holistic care. While combating the
allergic cascade it simultaneously nourishes and helps protect against
chronic diseases. In a progressive study, it was clearly demonstrated
that those with higher quercetin intakes had lower mortality from
ischemic heart disease, lower lung cancer and asthma rates and a trend
toward a reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes. The researchers
concluded, "The risk of some chronic diseases may be lower at higher
dietary flavonoid intakes."10
Bromelain, a powerful anti-inflammatory, is a glycoprotein with
proteolytic enzyme properties. Derived from the stem of the pineapple
plant, it confers both anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties thus
decreasing congestion and irritation of the mucous membranes bombarded
during allergy season.11 The mucolytic properties are particularly
important, since the addition of excess mucous creates a superb breeding
ground for bacteria. All too frequently a secondary opportunistic
infection tries to move into the sinuses or bronchial airway thanks in
large part to uncontrolled inflammation and copious quantities of
mucous. The result is frequently one of the inflammatory "itis"
conditions: sinusitis, conjunctivitis, rhinitis, pharnygitis and
potential bronchitis. Bromelain's ability to reduce levels of plasma
kininogen down regulates the production of kinin, a group of
pain-inducing polypeptides. It also activates plasmin, the mechanism by
which bromelain reduces edematous swelling of airway tissue, such as
nasal congestion, and helps quench the pervasive inflammation.12-13
A study evaluated bromelain's use in 116 children under the age of 11
years diagnosed with acute sinusitis. Patients were treated with either
bromelain; bromelain combined with standard therapies; or with standard
therapies alone. Symptom duration determined the success of the various
therapies. The shortest period of symptoms were observed in patients
treated with bromelain as an isolated therapy.
According to the researchers, "Patients of the bromelain monotherapy
group showed a statistically significant faster recovery from symptoms
compared to the other treatment groups."13-14
Due to its efficacy after oral administration, its safety and lack of
undesired side effects, bromelain has become an internationally revered
nutraceutical that helps ameliorate sinusitis and bronchitis. It has
also been shown to lessen blood stickiness, angina pectoris,
post-surgical traumas, thrombophlebitis, pyelonephritis and can actually
enhance absorption of drugs, particularly various antibiotics.15
Lower vitamin C concentrations were observed among people with current
or former asthma than among people who never had asthma.16 During
infections and stress, vitamin C concentrations in the plasma and
leukocytes (white blood cells) rapidly decline. Vitamin C
supplementation improves immune function such as antimicrobial and
natural killer cell activities, lymphocyte proliferation, chemotaxis,
and delayed-type hypersensitivity. Furthermore, vitamin C protects
cellular integrity against reactive oxygen species (free radicals)
generated during inflammatory responses like those that occur during
allergic reactivity and infections.17
Further emphasizing the importance of vitamin C and other antioxidants
was a study that points to asthma diagnosis as it relates to antioxidant
status. Lower levels of serum vitamin C, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene,
and beta-cryptoxanthin were noted in those with asthma. The authors
concluded that low vitamin C and alpha-carotene intakes are associated
with asthma risk.18-19
The authors of another study also conclude that vitamin C plays an
essential role in defending against oxidant attack in the airways. In
fact they go as far to suggest that the results point to vitamin C
deficiency as either a possible underlying factor in the pathophysiology
of asthma or as a response to asthmatic airways inflammation.20
Furthermore, vitamin C levels have been found to be lower in children
with chronic sinusitis.21 This indicates that allergic rhinitis or
asthma—both conditions characterized by airway passage
inflammation—require sufficient quenching and control with antioxidants
such as vitamin C, protection with nutrients such as quercetin and
direct anti-inflammatory control with proteolytics such as bromelain.
The scientific research and my clinical experience both lead to the same
conclusion: the use of quercetin, bromelain and vitamin C serve as
important supplements when it comes to helping control allergic
symptoms, sinusitis and asthma. Identifying hidden food allergies also
helps take an unnecessary burden from the body. When combined with
supplementation and an active allergen surveillance program, tracking
food allergies serves as the cornerstone for those serious about allergy
symptom management and whole body health.
Chris Meletis, ND
Dr. Chris D. Meletis is an educator, international author and lecturer.
His personal mission is "Changing America's Health One Person at a
Time." He believes that when people become educated about their health
that this is when true wellness is achieved.
Dr. Meletis has authored 14 books and was awarded the 2003 naturopathic
physician of the year by the American Association of Naturopathic
Physicians. He has also written over 200 nationally published health and
wellness articles. He served as Chief Medical Officer and Dean of
Naturopathic Medicine for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine
and has participated in starting 16 clinics providing care for uninsured
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
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