A recent study finds that stress may bring on symptoms of allergies in seasonal-allergy sufferers.
Researchers monitored 179 people with hay fever for 12 weeks; 39 percent of them had more than one flare-up. People who had the flare-ups had more stress in their lives than those who remained free of allergic symptoms during the study period.
Among people who had higher stress levels, 64 percent got more than four flare-ups in each of two 14-day periods. The attacks most often happened within days of experiencing the increased stress, rather than on the day that the higher stress level was felt.
The study’s author, Dr. Amber Patterson, of Ohio State University, noted that stress can have a number of negative effects on the body, including the worsening of allergy symptoms.
In the study, more frequent allergy flareups were also associated with the sufferer having a more “negative mood.” Patterson added that while reducing stress won’t cure allergies, it could help decrease the number of times the person gets intense symptoms.
For years, scientists have known that ongoing stress weakens the immune system, the body’s system that fights germs and diseases that try to take over our cells or that succeed in doing so. Stress reduces the number of white blood cells that are released into the blood in response to the presence of organisms or substances that could harm us (or in the case of allergies, simple allergens trigger that response).
Keep in mind that occasionally feeling stress is normal and unlikely to harm your health; but the type of stress that starts to make a person vulnerable to disease is chronic, or ongoing stress.
Frequent or ongoing stress can also diminish our immunity indirectly, by causing us to turn to harmful substances (i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, junk food) to try to cope with our anxiety. It can also cause a person’s appetite to dwindle, which could decrease the immunity-building nutrients that the person consumes.
There are good, natural ways to handle daily stress in your life. These include doing regular aerobic exercise; eating a healthy, balanced diet; getting plenty of sleep every night (eight hours, for most people); talking with a trusted friend about what’s worrying you; and taking even a little time for yourself daily, to meditate on the day’s events or to do something relaxing such as reading a novel or taking a leisurely bath.
There are also foods that you can eat habitually, which will strengthen your immune system. For hay fever sufferers, these include:
- Honey (buy honey from local producers when possible, as it will contain pollens from your area, helping to decrease your sensitivity to them)
- Citrus juices — packed with vitamin C and many other antioxidants, citrus fruits and their juices strengthen your immune system and help you fight many maladies — from the common cold and flu, to hay fever and asthma
- Tomatoes, red grapes and cranberries: these fruits or their juices are also high in vitamin C and have an assortment of other healthy nutrients. In addition to apples, they have been found in studies to help with hay fever allergies, as well as asthma
- Garlic and onions: their potent compound allicin is serious medicine to keep immunity strong and fight disease
By Jamell Andrews