Spring brings the chirping birds, sunny skies, and beautiful blooming flowers. Unfortunately, along with that can come the dry, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and post-nasal drip. These symptoms can be even more difficult to manage if you are pregnant, as conventional treatment options are limited. So what is an expecting mother to do?
What Are Allergies?
Simply stated, an allergy is a hyper-reaction by your immune system to a foreign substance, such as pollen or grass in the environment. The first time we are exposed to an allergen, our immune system responds by secreting a large amount of antibodies. In the case of allergies, it is IgE (immunogloblulin E). The role of IgE antibody is to keep an eye out for the foreign agent again, and when it is present in the system, IgE signals an inflammatory response in the body for mast cells to release chemicals such as histamine as a defense mechanism. Large amounts of mast cells are located in mucous membranes, such as in the upper respiratory tract, and can cause the typical allergy symptoms (red, itchy eyes, sneezing and nasal congestion, etc.), by increasing blood flow of small vessels to this area.
What To Do About It
Since avoiding the external environment is not an option for most expecting mothers, here are some safe treatments for you and your baby to help you get through this allergy season.
- It is well known that Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system. However, it also helps prevents the release and formation of histamine. Additionally, Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, helps strengthen blood vessel walls, and increases iron absorption, which is especially important in pregnancy. Food sources high in Vitamin C include dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, citrus fruits, broccoli, and strawberries.
- Bioflavonoids are present mostly in citrus fruits, and enhance the histamine-reducing effect Vitamin C. They are also potent anti-oxidants. Blueberries, citrus fruits, cherries, dark grapes, and bell peppers are all excellent sources of bioflavonoids. With all food sources of these nutrients, try to remember to purchase organic whenever possible.
- Quercetin is a specific bioflavonoid that works along with Vitamin C to prevent mast cells from releasing histamine. It is mainly present in onions and red apples. Although available from food, supplementation may be required to ensure you are receiving a therapeutic dose.
- Probiotics, such as lactobacillus (the good bugs in our digestive system), support immune system and aid reducing hyper-reactivity. They also decrease frequency of infections, and ensure a balanced gut flora, which is especially important after the use of antibiotics or other damage to the digestive system. Probiotics will strengthen both mother and baby’s immune system, and can help decrease allergies and atopic disease in infants.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are good fats such as omega 3s that reduce inflammatory reactions. The two main omega 3s are EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), and are essential in formation of every cell in the body. Most mothers are aware of the importance of DHA supplementation for neural development of the fetus, but DHA and EPA also have anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for the treatment of a variety of inflammatory conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to eczema.
- Homeopathic remedies are safe, effective ways to help both acute and chronic cases of allergic symptoms. They are available orally in the form of a tablet, as well as in liquid form. A study of a specific homeopathic product has been shown to greatly improve if not resolve allergy symptoms after 10 weeks of treatment, with no undesirable effects reported.
- Local Honey has been used to help our bodies adapt to the allergens present in our specific environments. Wedderspoon Manuka Honey is particularly known for its immune-activating and healing properties.
All of these items are available at our Port Moody Health Natural Dispensary.
- Reducing food sensitivities will also help decrease the immune response by the body. Mast cells releasing histamine are present in the mucous membranes of our respiratory and digestive tracts, which can affect intestinal health. Learn more about food sensitivities and testing at Port Moody Health.
- Studies conducted using Acupuncture have shown to reduce allergy symptoms such as runny nose and congestion in patients, with as few as two sessions. It is a safe, alternative treatment option that can provide relief for not only allergies, but also various conditions experienced in pregnancy such as nausea.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of treatment options. If you are seeking prevention or treatment of allergies or another condition during your pregnancy, contact us at (604) 949-0077 to book your appointment.
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Prescott et al. Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Bifidobacterium lactis probiotics in pregnancy increases cord blood interferon-gamma and breast milk transforming growth factor-beta and immunoglobin A detection. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Oct;38(10):1606-14.
Shaik, Y. B., et al. Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006 Jul-Dec;20(3-4):47-52.
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