Spring is officially here and it has brought some sunshine and warm temperatures if you are in Calgary. While we have all looked forward to Spring after a long, dark and cold February, some people often dread this season because it means ‘pollen season’. Pollen, grasses, and weeds trigger hay fever and seasonal allergies for many. Do you suffer from itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, headaches when the pollen starts to fly around? Is this the time of year when you start to re-stock your cupboards with Claritin, Benadryl or any other antihistamine?
Here is the lowdown on allergies …
Allergies are mediated by a TH2 immune response and there can be multiple things that can cause a dominant TH2 immune response over TH1. During an allergic response, the antigen (environmental or food) stimulates B cells to produce IgE antibodies. These bind to mast cells and when antigens bind to an IgE antibody molecule it triggers the release of histamine from mast cells or basophils. The histamine is what is responsible for the itch, redness, swelling, nasal congestion/runny nose, watery eyes, headaches, and hives.
As an aside, sometimes asthma and eczema can also be an allergic response and TH2-mediated.
Antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, or Benadryl will inhibit histamine from binding to its receptors on cells and tissues to prevent these effects from happening. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent histamine release in the first place? Even better, balance the immune system so that the TH2 pathway is not as dominant? Preventing the release of histamine can help with acute symptoms while balancing the immune system can help long-term so that you don’t need to consistently be relying on supplements or medications for symptomatic relief.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can help reduce the negative effects of oxidative stress due to inflammation from allergies. Vitamin C also helps prevent histamine release from histamine-producing white blood cells and also promotes the detoxification of histamine through its antioxidant capacities (1) – this is great for those with allergies or even have histamine intolerance (a cascade of various symptoms ranging from gut to possibly hormonal imbalances). Vitamin C also helps to stimulate the immune system increasing the T-cell response to infections. Quercetin is another bioflavonoid that can decrease histamine release and also supports healing of tight junctions in the intestine as often, gut inflammation and leaky gut can contribute to allergies.
Selenium and zinc are an essential component of glutathione peroxidase which helps glutathione perform its antioxidant activity such as quenching hydrogen peroxide so that it doesn’t damage cells (1). In this process, glutathione becomes oxidized and must be recycled via glutathione reductase so yes, glutathione can be recycled in our body but at times, our glutathione supply runs down and we need more glutathione, preferably in the reduced form.
Side note Those with a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, have inefficient recycling of glutathione which can lead to a buildup of hydrogen peroxide contributing to red blood cell lysis. This is why a G6PD test must be done prior to giving high dose IVC.
Glutathione, when present in the reduced form, has been shown to attenuate allergic responses through its antioxidant abilities. As mentioned previously, allergies are mediated by a TH2 immune response that releases cytokines such as IL-4, IL-5, IL-9, and IL-13 which promote the production of eosinophils and mast cells that produce histamine (2). When reduced glutathione (GSH) is depleted within antigen presenting cells like macrophages, TH1 cytokine production is inhibited favouring TH2 cytokine production and TH2 T-cells. This favours the production of histamine-producing white blood cells and IgE antibodies (3). The decrease in the TH1 cytokine production, also decreases the immune system’s ability to fight bacterial and viral infections. Supplementing with reduced glutathione in intravenous form or oral form helps to balance the TH1/TH2 immune system (3). Reduced glutathione pushes via IVs or oral supplements can also help support other glutathione-dependent detoxification pathways which help to remove many drugs (i.e. – Tylenol), estrogen, and alcohol for example.
As always, like any other health condition, you will always find many other natural supplements and nutritional interventions to support allergy prevention and balance the immune system but consulting with a health care practitioner, such as a naturopathic doctor, will help to determine the best approach for you that addresses the root cause of what is causing your allergies – digestive issues and gut inflammation or bacterial overgrowth, hormonal imbalances, low vitamin D, etc – while working on natural symptomatic relief so you can enjoy being outdoors this Spring/Summer. Seeking advice from a regulated healthcare professional also helps determine the dose that is most effective for you based on your health status – something you will not get from speaking to the lovely sales consultants in a health food store.
You also have the option of having an IV treatment to support your immune system with vitamin C, selenium, zinc, reduced glutathione and other vitamins/minerals while we work to address the root cause and re-balance your system for the long-term.
- Chauhan B M.S., Gupta M M.S., Chauhan K PhD. Role of antioxidants on the clinical outcome of patients with perennial allergic rhinitis. Allergy Rhinol (Providence). 2016 Summer;7(2):e74-e81.
- Paul WE, Zhu J. How are Th2-type immune responses initiated and amplified? Nat Rev Immunol. 2010 Apr;10(4):225-235.
- Fraternale A, Paoletti MF, Casabianca A, Oiry J, Clayette P, Vogel JU, Cinatl Jr, Palamara AT, Sgarbanti R, Garaci E, Millo E, Benatti U, Magnani M. Antiviral and immunomodulatory properties of new pro-glutathione (GSH) molecules. Curr Med Chem. June 2006;13(15):1749-1755.