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Natural Support for Allergies and Asthma
One modality emerging as an effective treatment for allergies and asthma is acupuncture. A prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trial investigated the efficacy of acupuncture for treating asthma in children aged 6 months to 6 years.
The researchers randomly selected preschool children with medically diagnosed asthma and assigned them to an intervention or control group. Fifty-two children (26 intervention, 26 controls) were available for evaluation at 12 months. Although there were significant reductions in subjective asthma symptoms and in use of inhaled steroids in both groups at 3 months, the reduction in asthma symptoms and the reduction in use of inhaled steroids were significantly larger in the group being treated with acupuncture compared with the control group.44
Furthermore, in a randomized trial of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis, acupuncture treatment resulted in an improved quality of life.45
Breaking The Inflammatory Cycle
Each factor that increases total burden in the body also increases inflammation. The inflammation that occurs in people who have asthma and allergic rhinitis creates a vicious cycle: the inflammation weakens the body, causing it to become less able to fight the inflammation, weakening the body even more.
The inflammation that results from chronic allergies triggers long-term changes in the structure of the affected organs and causes them to function abnormally.3
Participating in an anti-inflammatory lifestyle that includes 8 hours of restorative sleep and going to bed before 11 p.m. as well as minimizing sugar intake and participating in stress-reduction techniques and exercise is foundational to reducing inflammation.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) also is an excellent choice for reducing inflammation in people suffering from allergic rhinitis. In vitro, a nettle extract inhibited several key inflammatory events responsible for seasonal allergy symptoms.46 In one double-blind randomized study of 98 subjects with seasonal allergies, 58% of the subjects reported relief of most of their symptoms and 48% rated nettle leaf as being more effective than other over-the-counter medications.47
Protecting the Mucous Membranes
A dried yeast fermentate known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (EpiCor) also has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory while at the same time protecting the mucous membranes.48
The mucous membranes serve as the passageway through which allergens can gain entrance to the body. Saccharomyces cerevisiae can help protect the mucous membranes by increasing levels of salivary IgA, which creates a protective coating that keeps out allergens.49,50 EpiCor also has reduced nasal congestion and rhinorrhea in subjects with allergic rhinitis during the 12-week period of the highest recorded concentrations of total pollen counts for a Midwest geographic area.49
Controlling histamine is another critical approach to battling the inflammation associated with seasonal allergies. Petasites hybridus (butterbur extract) has been shown in numerous randomized, controlled trials to act as an antihistamine and to reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
One review of the medical literature found that in six randomized, controlled studies of subjects with allergic rhinitis, butterbur extract was superior to placebo or equally effective as nonsedative antihistamines.51 More independent studies are needed, since a manufacturer of butterbur extract provided financial support to three of the largest trials.
Another frequently effective approach is supplementation with vitamin C and quercetin.
In one study, children aged 6 to 12 years old who had increased vitamin C consumption had fewer allergic rhinitis symptoms, despite the lack of a difference in total serum IgE level or allergen sensitization.53 Vitamin C also has acted as a powerful antihistamine.52
Quercetin not only inhibits histamine, which is responsible for the early phase of the allergic reaction, it also suppresses activation of eosinophils, the main type of cells called into action during the late phase of an allergic reaction.54-56 Eosinophils play an important part in the development of persistent inflammation and tissue damage.56 Quercetin also reduces clinical symptoms in animal models of asthma.57
Another important supplement to add to an antiallergy/antiasthma regimen is N-acetylcysteine (NAC).
Environmental chemicals can produce immune-system imbalances. Many of the environmental chemicals and pollutants associated with increased allergic tendency have been shown to enhance type 2 helper T cell (Th2) dominance, the T-helper cell pattern found in asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other type 1 hypersensitivity disorders.
Researchers have shown that glutathione depletion may be one possible reason for this T-helper cell imbalance. Preliminary evidence indicates that restoring glutathione levels with oral supplementation of NAC might be an effective option for reducing allergic rhinitis and asthma caused by environmental toxins.58
Additionally, in a rat model of allergic rhinitis, NAC - through its role as an antioxidant - suppressed the allergen-induced nasal inflammatory cascade.59
NAC also reduces the viscosity of mucus, so that the mucus is more easily expelled.60
The most effective way to heal the body of allergies and asthma is to reduce the total burden while at the same time supplementing with key nutraceuticals and engaging in lifestyle support measures. Addressing the total burden will make any supplement regimen or lifestyle approach more effective.
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Dr. Chris D. Meletis is an educator, international author, and lecturer. His personal mission is "Changing America's Health One Person at a Time." He believes that when people become educated about their bodies, that is the moment when true change and wellness begins. Dr. Meletis served as dean of naturopathic medicine and chief medical officer for 7 years at National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) and was awarded the 2003 Physician of the Year award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Kimberly Wilkes is a freelance writer specializing in health, science, nutrition, and complementary medicine. She has written more than 300 articles covering a variety of topics from the dangers of homocysteine to sugar's damaging effects on the heart. She is the editor of Complementary Prescriptions Journal and enjoys scouring the medical literature to find the latest health-related science.
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