Seasonal Allergies and Leaky Gut: Although April showers bring May flowers, they also bring sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes for many people. As allergy season picks up, we’re exploring a topic that may relieve you of your hayfever for the first time in your life. Could healing your gut also heal your pesky seasonal allergies? Find out below!
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies occur as an immune response to an airborne substance that the body identifies as dangerous. As a result, the body releases histamines and other chemicals into the bloodstream that trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction 1.
Typical seasonal allergy symptoms include: 2
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Watery, red, or itchy eyes
- Itchy sinuses, throat, or ears
- Ear congestion
- Postnasal drip
The term seasonal is used because most seasons bring airborne allergens that can trigger this reaction. In springtime, it’s often caused by pollen; in summer, the culprits are often grasses; in autumn, it’s commonly ragweed or a new set of pollens.
Although these seasonal airborne allergens are the triggers, they don’t affect everyone the same. So what’s the deal?
Seasonal Allergies and Leaky Gut: The Gut-Allergy Connection
The gut and the respiratory tract are critical components of the immune system, acting as barriers between the outside world and your inner body. The gut-allergy link is multifaceted and includes how strong your gut lining is and how diverse your microbiome is.
When the gut is not in working order, the entire immune system is compromised 3. As a result, an airborne allergen that may have just passed straight through the body can add to the stress load that the body is already experiencing due to a compromised immune system. Since gut imbalances are associated with chronic inflammation in the body, adding any stressor (no matter how small) can make all the difference when the body is already chronically inflamed.
Gut microbiome diversity in childhood has also been linked to the risk of developing allergies later in life. Specifically, a lack of exposure to microbes in early life increases the risk of allergies in later life 4.
The gut, in particular, plays a crucial role in modulating the immune system, nearly 70% of the immune system is located in the gut 5. The gut microbiome influences almost every bodily function, including mood, digestion, elimination, detoxification, and sleep 6. The gut acts as a barrier to unwanted pathogens, preventing them from entering the bloodstream. This barrier to entry can be compromised, and commonly is, due to leaky gut 7.
Seasonal Allergies and Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which the gut lining loses its integrity. Known as tight junctions, these barriers become porous, and then toxins, bacteria, and other unwanted particles can ‘leak’ through the intestinal wall 8.
Leaky gut is associated with an array of symptoms, including: 9
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Skin disorders
A study of 1,879 adults with allergies has a different gut microbiome than those without allergies 10. A lack of diversity in the gut microbiome was associated with all types of allergies, mainly seasonal or nut allergies.
Leaky gut is also associated with a wide range of autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease, HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes 11. Addressing gut health and healing a leaky gut is crucial for healing from any ailment associated with a compromised immune system.
Seasonal Allergies and Leaky Gut: Ways to Fix the Gut
Foods to Avoid
Since a leaky gut is associated with chronic inflammation, getting rid of inflammatory foods is an essential first step towards healing a leaky gut. Such foods include anything highly processed(especially sugars and fats), as well as alcohol, gluten, and dairy 12-13. Once intolerances have been ruled out, high-quality, correctly prepared organic gluten and dairy can be re-introduced, but better stay clear at first.
Major studies have linked the importance of going gluten-free for those with celiac disease 14. This gluten-intolerant disease leads to intestinal permeability with even trace amounts of gluten in the diet. But what does this mean for individuals without celiac disease?
If you’re not celiac, the bigger issue to look out for is the glyphosate-gluten connection. Glyphosate is a nasty pesticide that destroys the gut’s tight junctions and leads to intestinal permeability 15. The use of this pesticide is exceptionally high with wheat products, as it is used to grow and also to harvest crops. If you are not celiac, odds are your intolerance is to glyphosate, not gluten.
Avoiding glyphosate can be done by buying only certified organic grain products. You will also promote better digestion if you invest in gluten products that use heirloom grains and adequately prepare them (like soaked or slow fermentation) to help remove the harder-to-digest aspects of the grains.
Although it is not a food, one other thing to avoid consuming too regularly (or at all) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can increase intestinal permeability 16.
Foods to Include
Food is medicine, and in the case of healing leaky gut, a nutrient-dense organic diet is vital. Organic matters because glyphosate is the enemy of a healthy gut. Including lots of different fibrous foods (like leafy greens or bright-colored vegetables), high-quality animal meat and fat (like lamb, beef, and chicken), as well as lots of healthy fats (like coconut, avocado, and fatty meat) 17.
Probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods help introduce good bacteria into the gut. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir will introduce probiotics. Foods like garlic, leeks, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes support the gut with prebiotics nutrients to feed the good bacteria.
Supplements to help prevent seasonal allergies should work on healing leaky gut and re-populating the beneficial gut bacteria. Three great supplements that fit the bill include:
ION* Biome: ION*Gut Health increases the body’s production of beneficial enzymes through redox signaling (cellular communication). Those beneficial enzymes strengthen the tight junctions (these crucial seals between cells) in the gut lining – the barrier protecting us from toxic substances like glyphosate and gluten while allowing the entry of beneficial nutrients 18.
ION* Sinus Spray: Made from the same Terrahydrite (aqueous humic substances) as ION* Biome, this nasal spray is a rinse for clearing dust, pollen, and other air-borne environmental irritants we’re exposed to every day. It’s your ally in combating hay fever and in caring for the starting point of your gut. Think of it as strengthening your very first line of defense 18.
Probiotics: Probiotics are a no-brainer when it comes to healing the gut. Introducing a broad spectrum of good bacteria in the gut can help re-instate the health of your microbiome and promote the healing of your gut lining 19.
When taking a probiotic supplement, it’s important to cycle it on and off, ideally introducing different species of bacteria when you do supplement. A healthy gut should have 20,000- 30,000 species of beneficial bacteria for the gut, so taking one supplement over a long period can narrow your diversity 20.
Gut bacteria and overall gut health is harmed by chronic stress 21. This includes physical, emotional, and chemical stressors, so being mindful of stress in a holistic way is essential to heal the gut.
Avoid added chemical stress from conventional body care, household cleaning, and food products. Help manage emotional stress through mindfulness practices and seeking out help from loved ones or a therapist. Tackling physical stress requires balance: avoiding a sedentary lifestyle or an over-active one.
Although seasonal allergies are often spoken about as an unavoidable situation, there is much that you can do to alleviate or prevent them. The gut-allergy link is multifaceted and includes how strong your gut lining is and how diverse your microbiome is. Addressing leaky gut can be done using food as medicine, supplementing wisely, and avoiding stress. Repopulating the microbiome can also be done using fermented foods and a good probiotic supplement.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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