Understanding Allergies

If you are reading this, I am guessing you might have seasonal allergies or know someone who does.

You might also think that you are stuck with allergies.  After all, they seem to have been there FOREVER. 

The truth is that allergies develop over time and the process by which they came to cause you such misery can actually be reversed or at least significantly helped. 

Some of you may be shaking your head saying...

"No way, not my allergies.  Mine are REALLY bad!" 

But I can assure you that scores of my rash free, KLEENEX free, deep breathing clients can attest to this truth.  And it is really not that far fetched when we come to understand how allergies work. 

First understand that the definition of allergy is a misguided reaction to foreign substances by the immune system.

This misguided reaction produces histamines, a compound that is released by immune cells in response to injury and in allergic and inflammatory reactions, causing contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries. This dreaded histamine is the reason for bottles of Benadryl, Zyrtec and Claritin and endless puffs of Flonase.  Most of my clients complain that these medications only work a little or stop after a short time.

Why does our body release this flood of histamines? 

Immune cells called mast cells are part of this process.  When these specialized immune cells are triggered by a foreign invader they degranulate or "fall apart" and release histamines that make you feel swollen, weepy and inflamed.  But why would a normal cell in the body primed for protection against invaders care about flower pollen or grass?  



Most of us have either taken or been exposed to antibiotics in our life.  It may not be too far fetched to assume that you also have never taken the time or knew how to recover your gut after antibiotics.  Because of our long history of antibiotic overuse in medicine, agriculture and personal products, it is highly likely that your gut could be deficient in good microbes.  These microbes are found all over our bodies and they regulate our immune reactions, assimilate nutrients and do so much more! These power house bugs are highly effected by antibiotics, medication, stress and the foods we eat.  With a microbial deficiency you could have a permeable or leaky gut.  A leaky gut is when particles from your gut crossover into your blood stream and the immune system activates contributing to inflammation.  

In addition, these gut microbes play a HUGE part in breaking down histamine.  So, once the histamine flood begins with a deficient microbiome there is major limitations in degrading this chemical.   

Many studies are now showing that children born lacking certain strains of healthy microbes have a significant increase in allergies later in life.  One particular study also highlighted that indigenous cultures have a major decrease in the incidence of allergies and healthier gut microbes than those born in a more sterile evironment.  

Read on to learn how to restore these little buggers.


Food allergies usually occur when the GI lining is permeable or leaky as discussed above.    Foods like dairy (which is mucous promoting) and gluten can be a major trigger for leaky gut. It is estimated that 1/3 of the population may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  I personally think this is a low estimate.  A healthy gut microbiome also prevents food allergies and sensitivities.   A food allergy panel or Advanced Allergy Therapeutics assessment can help you identify which foods may be over causing inflammation and contributing to immune activation.


Most of our population is very low in this vitamin for a multitude of reasons related to a modern lifestyle.  Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system and with out adequate vitamin D your immune response may go rogue releasing inflammatory components when not needed.  Vitamin D makes sure our immune system behaves itself and does not over respond or only responds to substances that need responding to.  Remember that the definition of allergy is over-reaction or "misguided" reaction.  Vitamin D can help to guide your immune responses.

In my office, I routinely see less than optimal vitamin D levels.  The current conventional lab reference range is way too low!  I aim for a level of at least 40-50 and in cases of autoimmunity sometimes higher.  Please do not take your lab reference range as your measuring stick as it is based on the average population.  The average population is very sub-optimal.  


I know many people in good conscious that have decided not to eat animal products.  I can definitely get on board with the ethical and moral reasons around this. What you might not know is that there are active B vitamins and co-factors that we need to degrade histamine in these food types and are not easily found or bioavailable in plant foods.  These B vitamins aid in a process called methylation. Histamines are broken down through this biochemical process. Some people have difficulty with methylation due to a genetic difference in the MTHFR gene. These people require more active B vitamins than the average person.  Eating vitamin B rich foods are important in this process.  A simple blood test can tell you if you have the MTHFR genetic difference or if you are low in B vitamins. 

In addition a gut that does not assimilate nutrients well will also cause B vitamin deficiency.  Many of my clients need digestive support with enzymes and herbs to make nutrients like B vitamins more bio-available.



Considering all these factors together it is not hard to fathom that a person may not have the capacity to degrade normal amounts of histamine... let alone a higher load.  Some people naturally lack a major enzyme responsible for histamine degradation.  This enzyme is diamine oxidase (DAO).  In this case, we may temporarily advise a low histamine diet to give the body some rest in trying to degrade histamine.  We may also give specialized supplements with meals that help degrade histamines in foods.  This would be done while healing the gut, restoring nutrient optimization and decreasing inflammation.


Your liver is a very important organ.  It is busy cleaning out toxins from the environment both internal and external.  HISTAMINES are a chemical that need to be bio-transformed by the liver.  When the liver is overloaded or too busy dealing with toxins from food, air, water, personal products and more it can prevent the break down of histamines in our body and cause an overload of this perfectly natural chemical.  Our bodies know how to break this down, but an overloaded liver can be too tired and overloaded to release histamines.


STEP 1:  Stop Over Reactions

-Consider utilizing Advanced Allergy Therapeutics technology designed to turn off over reactions by the body to normal substances through activating the parasympathetic nervous system.  
-Replete vitamin D in order to get a rogue immune system in check.
-Heal and seal your gut lining by eating an ancestral diet loaded with bone broth and fermented foods.  If you feel your gut is not healthy make an appointment with a Functional Medicine practitioner.
-Eat plenty of Omega 3 fats like fish oil to stabilize mast cells and turn off inflammation.
-Consider anti-histamine herbs like Bee Pollen or Local Honey, Quercetin, Nettle, Tumeric, Ginger and Albizia to reverse inflammatory cascades associated with allergy type reactions.

Root 2: Drain and Degrade Histamines

-Take pre -methylated B vitamins work to take histamine apart or find out if you need methylation support by checking your MTHFR status through a simple blood test.
-Support your liver with Dandelion Root or Milk Thistle to aid the detoxification of histamines.
-Consider a pre-spring cleanse to get your liver all tuned up and ready to process the pollen.
-Take a soil based probiotics like Megaspore and/or a broad spectrum probiotic to heal and prep the gut for histamine degradation.  


You are not stuck with your allergies.  A good functional medicine practitioner can help to walk you through the steps to an allergy free life. Personally, I like actionable items.  So if you are going to try one thing...always start with diet.  I would recommend 30 days of a paleo style diet to see how your allergies behave.  Consider consulting a nutritionist to walk you through this process of elimination and gradual reintroduction.  I have often times seen dietary changes alone heal allergies.  Remember that your gut, liver and genetic type can play a major role in histamine degradation and tolerance.  All of these factors can be addressed in a natural and effective way to relieve and heal your allergies. 

Andrea Telfer