Q: I’m concerned about taking antihistamine and decongestants so frequently for my seasonal allergies. Is there anything else besides allergy shots to control my allergies?

A: Allergies can make you miserable. Sadly, allergic diseases are among the major causes of illness and disability in the U.S., affecting over 40 million Americans. Although there is no single solution to allergies (natural or medicinal), there are some factors within your control to consider.

Learning how to reduce allergy symptoms without resorting to medicine will require a basic understanding of what an allergy is. The body’s immune system works by first recognizing when allergens (e.g., dust, pollen, animal dander, etc.) are present. Then a healthy immune system launches a response to get rid of the irritating allergens. For example, eyes will water to wash allergens out and the nose will become clogged with mucous to block allergens from entering. This is a normal protective response. However, misery can occur when the immune system overreacts leading to what is commonly known as “allergies”.

What causes allergies? Pollen? Dust? Mold? These irritants are around us all, so why do only some people suffer from allergies while others don’t? The answer is that the immune system of allergy sufferers has gone haywire. Scientists who study immunology have found that the immune system functions better when pressure on nerves is eliminated. Since chiropractors work to remove nerve pressure, it is no wonder that many chiropractic patients have reported fewer allergies. An improvement in immune system function can be thought of as a welcome “side effect” of chiropractic adjustments.

Building a strong immune system starts at birth. Clinical studies reveal that breastfed babies have fewer allergies (and infections) than formula-fed babies. Going beyond the infant stage, eating nutritious foods throughout your life is vital in maintaining proper immune function.

An obvious recourse for allergy sufferers is to limit the exposure to allergens known to trigger symptoms. For example, wearing a mask over the mouth and nose while mowing the lawn or gardening. Some people even relocate to areas of the country where the climate is different, hoping to dodge allergies. Unfortunately, these people often develop allergies to different substances native to that region. For this reason, allergy experts believe that relocating is a poor long-term solution for allergy sufferers.

Dr. Kurt Donsback of the International Institute of Natural Health Sciences conveys the message clearly: “…the emphasis on allergies must be on building a healthy body, not on trying to use evasive tactics by eliminating all the allergens.”