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WELLNESS: Understanding allergies and immunity

Suffering from hay fever, allergies and asthma is no fun. Spring brings lots of patients to my office in search of relief from hay fever symptoms.

Suffering from hay fever, allergies and asthma is no fun. Spring brings lots of patients to my office in search of relief from hay fever symptoms.

Hay fever symptoms, asthma and other allergies are all signs that the immune system is over-reacting to substances entering the body. This reaction involves antibody secretion and a release of histamine by immune cells, which causes the sneezing, rashes, congestion, hives, asthma and other hay fever symptoms.

What about anti-histamines?

Using antihistamines will suppress the histamine release for a short time but will not work to calm the immune system or correct the problem. Often, people abuse anti-histamines and end up needing them on a daily basis for years, which leads to a host of problems in the body. The goal of allergy treatment should always be to support the immune system and correct imbalances.

Can you explain the imbalance?

New research is showing that part of the problem in the case of hay fever is an imbalance between two kinds of immune system cells called T-cells, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 seems to be overpowering Type 1 in individuals experiencing asthma, allergies, hay fever symptoms and even some other conditions such as auto-immune diseases, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, ADHD, etc.When Type 2 is over-produced in comparison to Type 1, the body will become hypersensitive to foreign substances and will react with allergies.

Why does it happen?

A variety of causes are thought to promote this imbalance within the immune system, including increased toxicity in the body, heavy metal exposure, inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to malabsorption of undigested particles (triggering the immune system), prolonged use of certain medications, food sensitivities and other environmental allergens.

How can I address the underlying issues?

Every individual requires a different and unique treatment plan when treating hay fever and allergies, depending on his or her health history and current symptoms. Beyond testing food sensitivities and other allergies, it is important to see a practitioner who understands the importance of boosting the immune system and balancing the Type 2 dominance taking place.

In my practice, I use a combination of targeted nutrient therapies as well as plant-based products, including sterols and sterolins, herbal formulas and dietary adjustments. Depending on the case, there may be need for detoxification programs, stress reduction and hydrotherapy to get the immune system strengthened and balanced.

Here are some important points for immune health:

Avoid sugar. It compromises the ability of the immune system to function properly.

Drink lots of water.

Clean your house. Make sure there is no mould or excessive dust, mites, insects or chemicals in your environment.

Avoid processed foods.

Manage your stress with breathing work, yoga or other stress-reduction methods that work for you.

If you are so inclined, see a naturopathic physician to help you heal your digestive tract, test for foods that are contributing to reactions in the body, explain important immune support therapies with correct dosing, and correct the Type 2 T-cell imbalance.

Understanding hay fever and the immune system, and taking the right steps to correct the underlying causes, will make all the difference.

Discover a better spring season.

- Hailey Kanester has an undergraduate degree in nutrition and psychology, as well as a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. She practises at Port Moody Naturopathic Health and Wellness (,, 604-949-0077).