Allergies, Autoimmunity + Immune Boosting
The next few months will be fairly taxing on the immune system as we might start to experience symptoms of hay fever. Many of us look to boost the immune system but, especially with autoimmune and allergy symptoms, it is more important to modulate the immune response, as a lot of these symptoms are the immune system overreacting.
What is an autoimmune condition?
Autoimmune disease is defined as a condition in which tissue injury and loss of function is caused by t-cell or antibody injury to self. It is a major cause of concern in the modern world and spans over many different systems of the body.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include diabetes type 1 & 2, IBD, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ Disease and ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints).
Some factors that increase the risk of autoimmune, immunity and allergies
- Genetic factors
- Infective triggers – often mixed with genetic factors, can dramatically increase the risk of autoimmune disease.
- Environmental triggers – smoking
- Poor diet – low nutritional stores of nutrients needed for immune function or irritating foods
- Psychological factors
- Sex hormones and gender – 75% of patients with autoimmune disease are women.
Ways to modulate the immune response
Caring for the gut epithelial barrier
While triggers may end up being the causative factor to tip the scales, the gut shouldn’t be underestimated as it is the barrier. The gut controls and decides between the self and what needs to be defended against. If the gut isn’t properly operating, the immune response it may send out could be an improper signal. By utilising herbs, nutrients and food as medicine, we can help to repair the gut lining and reduce inflammation at the gut wall.
Research shows that different ranges of microbiome make-up in the gut can predict a higher chance of developing an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis later in life.
If you are pregnant or looking to get pregnant, implementing probiotics into your treatment plan for pregnancy and lactation can help prevent food allergies and autoimmune conditions.
Caring for your microbiome will also help to support the health of the epithelial layer of the gut.
Caring for liver detoxification
When there is an increased load, the liver becomes overwhelmed. It only has so much capacity for waste removal. By reducing this, it reduces the load on the immune system to clear up dead cells, waste, toxins and reduce inflammation from trigger exposure.
Spring is a great time to focus on liver detoxification and support. We can easily clean up our diet to ensure that we are not adding more load to our liver and including bitter foods in our diet can also help to support and stimulate detoxification pathways.
Avoiding trigger foods
Keeping a journal is a great way to work out your trigger foods as these foods can disrupt immune functioning. Common foods that can cause reactions include cow’s milk, gluten, yeast, trans fats, alcohol and sulphur-containing foods.
Food as medicine
These are crucial in every diet but so important for protecting the immune system. Antioxidants help reduce free radicals in the body which cause inflammation. Many of the components such as polyphenols also have a distinct action on our gut bacteria, helping to support the ones we want and kill of the nasty disease-causing bacteria.
Including at least five serves per day of foods rich in colour (berries, rosemary, turmeric, green tea, dark chocolate, citrus, apples, red cabbage) will help to reduce inflammation, look after our gut and modulate the immune response.
Papaya, kiwi fruit and pineapple
While some of these can cause a reaction in certain people, these fruits contain enzymes to aid digestion and are extremely anti-inflammatory. To get the best out of a pineapple, eat the core which is where it holds the most bromelain (active component). These fruits have been well researched and can help significantly improve symptoms. The active components can also be isolated and used in any treatment plan to see quick improvements.
We love this wonderful herb because it can be used in practitioner doses to get some amazing results. It also can be used as food as medicine easily. Turmeric exhibits some incredible properties that fit well with autoimmune conditions – it’s an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and depurative (purifying and detoxifying). It has also been well researched for pain conditions, a common feature of many autoimmune and immune complaints.
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc
Get a head start on hay fever this season by working with one of our naturopaths to get your gut healthy, control your immune response and discover the best ways to use food as medicine. Book an appointment.