The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that more than 50 million Americans are affected by allergic diseases.

What are allergies?

Allergies are a result of abnormal immune system reactions to allergens, things that are usually innocuous to most people. When you are allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that the substance is harmful and a foreign invader to your body. Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as particular foods, pollen, dust mites, or medications, are known as allergens.

How does the body react to allergens?

In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces defenses called IgE antibodies specific to each allergen. Those antibodies then cause various cells in the body to release chemicals into the blood, histamine being an important one. Histamine acts on the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract to produce the symptoms of the allergic reaction. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger the exact same antibody response again. Allergic reactions can be fairly mild, like a runny nose or itchy throat, or they can be serious, like trouble breathing. An asthma attack, for example, is a frequent allergic reaction to something that is inhaled into the lungs by one who is susceptible. Some types of allergies produce numerous symptoms, and in sporadic cases, an allergic reaction can become very dangerous. This severe outcome is called anaphylaxis. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include labored breathing, trouble swallowing, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat , dizziness and potentially death.

What causes allergies and how do you prevent them?

Food sensitivities are a common cause of pediatric allergic reactions, which if detected early enough can be eradicated by early adulthood. It is a good idea to take preventative measures from infancy in order to minimize the potential of allergies. Limiting the amount of dairy, wheat and sugar consumption can serve to significantly reduce allergic tendencies. Environmental allergens are also very common. Keeping the air as clean as possible is vital to increasing overall immunity and a healthful state. Minimizing dust mites, mold spores in homes, animal dander (saliva, dried skin etc.) and plant pollens are especially important.

Conventional vs. Naturopathic treatments:

Most conventional medications given for allergies are anti-histamines or steroids. Familiar side-effects of these medications are drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, difficulty urinating and confusion. Additionally, allergy medications often need to be changed since the body has an innate response to build a tolerance to these medicines, whereby they will stop being effective. Aside from various supplements and natural anti-microbials you likely have at home (i.e allicin- the constituent found in garlic), homeopathic medicine is a wonderful traditional modality used to treat allergies. Here are a few you may like to consider: Allium cepa: For symptoms of watery eyes and nose, tickle in the throat, better with open air and cold towels on the face. Arsenicum album: Symptoms of burning discharge from the nose, stuffed up nasal cavity, sneezing, watery eyes, restless and irritable. Very weak, and better with heat. Euphrasia: Symptoms of itchy, watery, red and inflamed eyes. Bland discharge from the nose, worse at night, and worse lying down.