Saturday, November 08, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Natural Approach for Allergies

  NOTE:   All the studies we will review are tagged with citation numbers like this:   [2]
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Natural Approach for Allergies

   "An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of Cure"
   ~ Benjamin Franklin   

Every year, allergies cause untold suffering, incredible medical expense, and uncounted lost-days from work and school.   Allergic Disorders attack our respiratory and digestive systems, as well as the skin. The best-known allergies are asthma, hay fever, and eczema.   Allergic reactions vary widely, from the sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal congestion of "hay fever", to more severe systemic responses like rashes and swellings, and infrequently with the most extreme and terrifying reaction: anaphylactic shock.   [1]

All those symptoms are triggered by exposure to harmless substances, such as pollen or certain kinds of proteins.   Skin reactions may develop from repeated contact with an ever-increasing list of unregulated chemicals and fragrances used in the spectrum of personal care products.

This issue of HealthQuest is devoted to discussing nutritional solutions for allergies like asthma and hay fever.   They both respond favorably to "alternative" management with supplementation.   Although we won't specifically review food allergies, most of the following recommendations will also be supportive.


What are Allergies?

Allergies are an inappropriate immune response to normally harmless substances.   The key take-away from that statement is that the allergic response represents a malfunction of the immune system.

Background Information

The Immune System — which includes white blood cells, mast cells, antibodies, complement proteins, and various other substances — defends the body against foreign invaders commonly referred to as antigens.   However, in susceptible individuals, the immune system can overreact to a certain class of antigens called allergens, which are harmless to the average person.   The result is an allergic reaction. Some people may be allergic to one substance, others to many.   It is estimated that one third of the people in the United States have some form of allergy.   [2]   Millions of Americans are allergic to pets.   Allergies to dogs, cats, and horses are caused by hypersensitivity to proteins found in the animal's saliva or their dander (skin flakes).

The Centers for Disease Control (the CDC) report that more than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, causing 11 million visits to doctors or emergency rooms every year.   [3]   Allergy-induced asthma is the most common form of asthma in the United States;   in fact, 60% of people with asthma suffer from the allergic type.   [4,   5]

Even more disturbing, the incidence of asthma in children has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).   Nearly one in ten children in the US (9.4%) now has asthma, with the fastest rate of growth in preschool-age children.   [6]   Asthma is also very closely linked to allergies, and allergy-induced asthma is the most common form.   [4]  

Hay fever is the most common form of allergy, affecting about 30% of the population. Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like signs and symptoms, including runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure.   But unlike colds, a virus does not cause hay fever.   Hay fever is caused by an over-reaction to harmless allergens like pollen, dust mites or pet dander.   [7]

Whole aisles of pharmacies and supermarkets are devoted to various allergy remedies.   The annual cost of allergies is estimated to be nearly $14.5 billion dollars.   Nearly 85% of that figure involves the direct costs, including $1.3 billion for doctor visits, and $11 billion for medications ($7 billion prescription, $4 billion over-the-counter).   [8]  

A recent FDA recall of numerous children's decongestants and cold remedies is a potent reminder that the pharmaceutical management of allergies involves significant risk and unpredictable results.   [9,   10] is the medical reporting arm of the highly esteemed WebMD website.   Medscape's recent review of the FDA warning stated that these children's products have "not been shown to be safe or effective".   [10]   They go on to say that:

"OTC cough and cold preparations commonly include nasal decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, and expectorants.   These drugs can cause serious and potentially life-threatening adverse events in young children, according to an alert sent from MedWatch, the FDA's safety information and adverse event reporting program.   Death, convulsion, rapid heart rates, and decreased levels of consciousness have also been reported."

That's pretty strong motivation for exploring natural and safer alternatives.


Our Immune System

Before we review the natural approach to allergy prevention and management, let's discuss the immune cells that are involved with allergic reactions, and ponder why they over-react to harmless particles in the environment.

The humoral (or blood-based) immune system contains numerous specialized cell lines, and they choreograph an amazing array of chemical reactions. Five-credit college classes in immunology barely scratch the surface of that complexity.   To make this process more accessible, let's use the simple analogy of the judicial system to outline the activities of each immune cell.

The first cells called to the scene of any allergic response are the Macrophages. They are like our neighborhood Policeman, roaming the "streets" of your body, investigating everything they come in contact with.   When they detect an invader, like a virus or bacteria (antigen), they signal the T-cells for assistance.

T-Cells are the detectives of the body.   They determine if the antigen needs to be "arrested".

If they do, they signal B-Cells, who play the part of the prosecuting attorney.

B-Cells then "prepare their case", by producing specialized proteins called immunoglobins (Ig), which attach to the antigens, just like handcuffs.

These Ig "handcuffs" help identify antigens to Mast Cells, who play the part of executioners in the body.   Mast cells produce histamine, which destroys the criminals by disrupting their cell membrane.   [11]   Once released, histamine also causes airway constriction in the lungs, over-production of mucous, and system-wide symptoms of pain, swelling, and itching.   That's lot of havoc in the body.   Histamine also stimulates the increased release of stomach acid, and overproduction of the neurotransmitters that cause muscle spasm.   [**]   Very similar to a viral cold... but it can drag on all the way through the allergy season.   Now that we've met all the players, lets discuss what goes wrong with the system.


What Causes Immune Failure?

Immune cells are very high maintenance.   They must operate at a very high metabolic rate, which enables them to respond quickly to attack.   And like other high-activity cells, they need to reproduce more frequently to replace fallen warriors.   To fulfill this constant energy requirement, we must have optimum levels of nutrients in our blood at all times.

Things that we eat, drink, or inhale can depress our immune system.   It is well documented that alcohol, sugar, and second-hand smoke depress immune cell activity, as well as depleting many nutrients that are required by the body to process and eliminate them.   [12,   13]   It's important to understand that these 2 events are closely associated.   This cascade of immune suppression and nutrient depletion is key to explaining why supplementation is so effective in improving immune function.   [14,   15,   16,   17]  

High cholesterol levels suppress immune function.   Research has shown that there is an inverse relationship between cholesterol levels and macrophage potency — the more your cholesterol climbs, the lowers the function of your white cells.   [18,   19]  

Stress is also a major contributor.   [20,   21]   Stress-induced decline in health is directly associated with increased production of stress related hormones.   Studies investigating the blood chemistry of couples that were experiencing marital conflict revealed a direct relationship between their high cortisol levels and decreased immune function.   [22]  

Constant release of cortisol also can damage every organ system in the body, leading to depressed immune function, memory loss, heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels, osteoporosis, and several other degenerative diseases.   [23]  

Cortisol release, during a fight-or-flight stress response, floods the blood stream with glucose, and inhibits insulin release to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring its immediate use.   High blood sugar levels experienced due to prolonged cortisol release (chronic stress) thus increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.   [24]   Cortisol also reduces inflammation in the body, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system.   Finally, cortisol compromises digestion and absorption, leaving the body less able to capture nutrients from our food.   [24]


The Nutrition Solution

Several randomized multi-vitamin supplementation trials with elderly individuals demonstrated more than a 65% reduction in the number of infection-related illness days. [25,   26]   Other studies have demonstrated significant improvements in immune function [27],   as well as significant reductions in breast   [28]   and colon cancer.   [29]   These and many other studies make it clear that it is no single miracle nutrient that can protect and maintain our health. It is the full complement of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all working together, that maintain our health.

Shaklee Immune System Support

The alternative approach to managing allergies involves several overlapping processes:   rebuilding immune competency, reducing inflammation naturally, restoring the health of the sinuses and digestive tract, and removing toxic substances from your environment.

Nutriferon (product #20962) Developed and extensively tested by the world-renowned immunologist Dr. Kojima, this proprietary blend of natural plant extracts supports and stimulates the immune system by increasing the activity of macrophages and inducing natural interferon production.   [30,   31,   32]   In a study of 35 individuals with chronic hepatitis C, a 3-month trial using the herbs in Nutriferon reduced viral titers, and was found to be a safe form of treatment for patients with chronic hepatitis C.   [25]   It also appears to optimizes the body's immune response against environmental irritants and airborne substances. No adverse reactions to these plant extracts have ever been reported.

Alfalfa Complex (#20160)is made from organically grown alfalfa plants. Scientists have discovered that non-conventionally grown plants produce a powerful family of different phytochemicals called phytoalexins, as a defensive "immune response" to an assault by bugs, bacteria, viruses, molds, or mildews.   [33]   Shaklee's Alfalfa contains one of the most interesting of the phytoalexins, called Medicarpin.   This compound has been found to be so effective that Merck Pharmaceutical Company patented a synthetic version of it as a therapeutic agent to treat allergic conditions, asthma, cardiovascular disorders, and inflammation.   [34,   35]   This helps explain why Alfalfa Complex has always been popular in the Shaklee Field for managing respiratory and allergic disorders.   Alfalfa is a natural antihistamine and decongestant, acts as a digestive aid, and is an important source of trace minerals.   It is very effective for sinus problems, especially allergies and hay fever.   Additionally, it reduces swelling, pain, and stiffness of the joints.

Stress Relief Complex (#20656) If stress is contributing to your allergies, you will benefit from SRC. This is the only product on the market that relieves stress without causing drowsiness. Stress Relief Complex contains L–tyrosine, which restores normal levels of norepinephrine in the brain, thus reducing anxiety.   [36]   It also contains Ashwaganda, a natural adaptogen from India, which has been used to reduce stress for generations, and has been found to activate and strengthen white blood cells and (killer) T-cells. [37]   It also contains beta-sitosterol, which has been clinically shown to blunt cortisol overproduction, while also supporting improved immunity.   [38]  

Protein is an essential building block for the repair and growth of healthy cells.   It is also vital to maintain vibrant immune function.   [39]   Shaklee uses non-GMO, non-chemically treated soy to create a natural, low fat, and completely balanced protein.   Besides containing 14 grams of protein in Energizing Soy Protein or 24 grams in the 180 Smoothees per serving, they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids so required for cellular maintenance.

Shaklee's sophisticated manufacturing process of both these soy-based products also guarantees delivery of high levels of the phytonutients (Isoflavones) most associated with improved prostate and breast health.

Sustained Release Vita C (20095) This powerful and well-known antioxidant has natural anti-histamine properties. It's also an infection fighter, speeds healing, and protects from free radical damage. It's supports the healing of connective tissue, and for that reason can prevent bruising and nosebleeds, by correcting capillary fragility. Vitamin C is depleted by stress, fatigue, infections, anxiety, pollution, and extremes of temperature.   [40]  

Vita-Lea or Vitalizer: A high quality multi-vitamin is core to any basic nutrition program, because it helps fill in ALL the gaps in our daily diet.

The new and improved Vitalizer System contains 80 different, optimized nutrients, including an amazing 26 different antioxidants, to counteract the free radical damage most associated with allergic reactions. The patented sustained release gel-diffusion system also provides 12 hours of time-release vitamin C. The triple-layer encapsulated OptiFlora guarantees delivery of the friendly bacteria that strengthen intestinal immunity.

Vita-Lea ( For women, with iron (20288),   For men, without iron (20286),
or for those of us above 50, Vita-Lea Gold, with vitamin K (20290), or
Vita-Lea Gold, without vitamin K (20291), is the most complete and balanced basic multi-vitamin and mineral tablet available.   It contains 23 essential vitamins and minerals, including high levels of immune building Beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium.   Beta-carotene is essential for rebuilding and maintaining the mucosal linings of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Immunity Formula I (20241) This product combines water-soluble vitamins (B's and C's), with fat-soluble vitamins (Beta carotene and vitamin E) with the minerals most required for immuno-competency (zinc, selenium, and copper).   It's the one-stop shop for immune support for those who hesitate to swallow the multiple nutrients already reviewed in this section.

VitalMag: (#21223) Magnesium is extremely effective in the relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle tissue, resulting in a reduction of bronchospasm and increased airways diameter.   Magnesium has also been demonstrated to reduce the histamine response.

Cholesterol Regulation Complex: (#21219) High cholesterol levels also depress immune function, so there is a sizeable portion of allergy sufferers who can maximize their benefits by lowering high cholesterol levels and strengthening their macrophage function.   [18]  

Shaklee's Non-toxic Get Clean Healthy Home Cleaners and Personal Use Products

People with allergies are also more reactive to chemicals and aerosols than the rest of us.   Why use laundry,   household, or personal care products that may aggravate your condition? These personal care products contain no dangerous chemicals or synthetic fragrances.

Shaklee's non-toxic and 100% biodegradable cleaning products have been embraced by diverse entities, including the Pentagon cleaning staff, and the Cousteau Society.   Shaklee products have been supporting the health of families (and our planet) naturally since 1956.

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