Grab some tissues and the antihistamines, pronto.
Allergies are awful. The endless running nose, watery eyes, constant sneezing, skin rashes, hives, congested sinuses, and stuffy headaches can make it seem like Mother Nature is out to get you, especially because pollen travels in the air.
Approximately 30 percent of us suffer from chronic allergies or rhinitis, and annoyingly, in most cases, they can’t be cured. It usually comes down to managing symptoms and avoiding triggers, which can be hard if you don’t know what’s causing your allergic flare-up in the first place, especially as allergies can be caused by a whole range of different things.
So if you’re still perplexed about what’s causing your allergies to go crazy, here are some of the less known reasons for an outburst…
For people who already suffer from hay fever, continuous daily stress can cause a downhill health spiral.
“Symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes, can cause added stress for sufferers, and may even be the root of stress for some,” says Ohio State University doctor Amber Patterson.
A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology tracked the stress levels of 179 people with hay fever and found the 64 per cent who reported higher stress levels also experienced more flare-ups.
“While alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms,” Patterson says. Taking medication, having a nap, meditating, or doing anything to reduce stress and anxiety will help to make your symptoms more bearable.
2. Adrenal fatigue
If you have gone through a prolonged period of intense emotional stress, you could end up suffering from adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms which occurs when the adrenal glands – which produce the hormone cortisol, that controls stress and inflammation – aren’t functioning properly and can’t produce enough of this hormone. And having a healthy amount of cortisol in your blood is crucial to being able to control the inflammatory reaction to histamines, which cause allergies.
“If stress makes less cortisol available to turn off the allergic response, these individuals will have worsened allergic responses when stressed,” says allergy and hormone expert, Cheryl Reifsnyder.
Adding to this problem, the more allergic reactions you have, the more cortisol your body will try to produce, which can fatigue the adrenal glands all over again, causing the cycle to repeat.
Luckily, taking an antihistamine will immediately treat the allergy symptoms, but you’ll have to work on returning your adrenal glands to their healthy selves again for a longer term solution. You can do this by getting better sleep, improving your diet and working with a naturopath or counsellor to reduce stressful triggers in your life.
If sipping on a glass of red is your way of calming down, don’t rush to the wine cabinet just yet. Studies have found alcohol, particularly red wine and beer, can make allergies go crazy. Beer and wine both contain sulphites – compounds which can induce asthma, and increase histamine production.
The double whammy? The effects of alcohol on allergies are worse in women. A study from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy found women who had two or more glasses of wine a day doubled their risk of experiencing allergy symptoms, even if they didn’t already have allergies.
If alcohol induced allergies affect you, drink less or steer clear of red and white wine, as these are the most common triggers. It would also be helpful to avoid foods that have a high amount of histamines, like aged cheeses, bread, and grapes.
4. Your period
When you go to the store to buy chocolate, tampons and pain meds once a month, you should add an antihistamine pill to that list.
Anything that affects our hormones can affect the immune system, and allergies are just a misguided immune response to something our body deems a threat. Our changing hormone levels around our periods – as well as during pregnancy and menopause – can therefore make our allergies worse, and may also trigger asthma.
“Levels of the hormone progesterone increase immediately prior to the start of menstruation and remain high until it ends. Up to 40 per cent of women find that their asthma symptoms worsen during this timeframe,” says Reifsnyder.
A study also found a connection between allergies and irregular menstrual cycles.
“Women who had irregular menstrual cycles were 29 per cent more likely to develop hay fever and 54 per cent more likely to develop asthma.”
Unfortunately, because this affects us at a hormonal level, and doctors are still not sure why women are greater sufferers of allergies than men, stocking up on allergy medication when you know that time of the month is approaching is the only solution to this particular predicament right now.
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Comment: Do you get bad allergies? What are some of your worst triggers?