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Condition - The irritation of allergies - nature may have the answer!


It’s National Allergy Week from 11th to 17th April, which will be focussing on new allergy awareness programmes. Asthma is frequently an allergy-driven condition and is becoming increasingly common in children.

The word asthma is derived from a Greek word meaning “panting” or short drawn breath. It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways, characterised by recurrent episodes of restricted airflow which, depending on the severity of the attack, can produce symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing.

Asthma currently affects more than 150 million people worldwide with almost half of them experiencing symptoms that disrupt their everyday lives. It is a condition that has not improved with modern lifestyles and medication, but rather its prevalence has rapidly grown, particularly in young children. Indeed, it is estimated that 180,000 people still lose their lives to asthma each year.

Asthma is either classified as allergic or non-allergic. Non-allergic asthma is not related to allergies and does not involve the immune system. Instead, factors like anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, smoke, hyperventilation, viruses and other irritants trigger an attack.

Allergic asthma is one of the most common allergic diseases triggered by environmental allergens that can either be inhaled or ingested. The other most common is hay fever. Where mould spores or plant pollens usually cause hay fever, the allergens that cause asthma are mostly found indoors; dust mites, cockroaches, rodents and household pets. Allergens are not limited to the air we breathe, however, but could also be found in the foods we eat.

Our immune systems respond to an allergic reaction by producing antibodies. The immune systems of non-allergic people respond weakly to allergens and mainly produce antibodies called IgG. However, allergic individuals produce large quantities of antibodies to the same allergens, called IgE. It is this overproduction of IgE antibodies that cause the symptoms asthmatics and allergic people experience. They are like the alarm bell in the body stimulating a cascade of asthma symptoms that leave a sufferer gasping for breath.

If we take a look deeper into why some people are more allergic than others, we can go right back to childhood and consider our exposure to bacteria and allergens. There is a “hygiene hypothesis” formulated in 1989 by an observer who discovered a relationship between the size of family and the number of allergic disorders. The more children a family had, the less likely they were to develop allergies. His hypothesis for this was due to other siblings exposing their infections to all the children. This belief led to the theory that because exposure no longer occurs in early childhood and there is a trend towards smaller families the likelihood of allergic disease increases. “Improved” personal and household hygiene is also a factor. Restricted exposure or keeping our children in a “clean”, “anti-bacterial” household can lead to increased allergies later on in life.

What can we do to support our immune systems and perhaps reduce the havoc associated with an IgE mediated attack?

If you are a smoker, unsurprisingly stopping cigarette smoking will improve allergies and asthma as it is associated with accelerated decline of lung function, increased mortality, and worsening of symptoms.

Inadequate vitamin D status throughout pregnancy can be associated with vitamin D deficiency in the child leading to childhood asthma. If you are pregnant, it is important to make sure that you are supplementing with vitamin D to prevent deficiency in your newborn as it has also been linked to food allergies. Indeed, supplementation is now a specific recommendation from the Department of Health.

It would be wise to become aware of possible food allergens that might trigger an attack. Specific diets where you eliminate all possible food groups for six weeks and then gradually introduce them back one by one to note the effect on your body, or by taking a food intolerance test which will give you a traffic light system of foods to definitely avoid have, in moderation, identified foods that are deemed safe.

If you have young children, switch your chemical-filled, anti-bacterial sprays to alternative household cleaners to make sure that your children are exposed to bacteria and antigens. It will also help with household members who are the allergic-type, as it will reduce their exposure to chemicals, which may trigger an attack.

For a traditional remedy, salt cave therapy has been used as a natural healing aid for respiratory conditions. Using a porcelain, handheld saltpipe, you draw air in through the mouthpiece, which then flows over natural salt crystals. This stimulates the cleansing process in the respiratory system, improving breathing. Just a few minutes of regular daily use can help asthma and other allergy sufferers breathe more easily and generally assist respiratory conditions.

Created by nature over millions of years, the salty atmosphere in salt mines has been used for centuries to ease respiratory problems.

It has been found that the salty microclimate calms the cells lining the respiratory system and stimulates their natural cleaning mechanisms. The saltpipe has been known to help everything from asthma and hay fever, to chronic snoring.

It also helps if you suffer from shortness of breath, severe coughs and colds, or the effects of a smoky, polluted environment.These saltpipes are also suitable for children and can be used alongside prescribed inhalers. 

It just goes to prove, yet again, that nature has provided us with some wonderful health-giving remedies.

Created by nature over millions of years, the salty atmosphere in salt mines has been used for centuries to ease respiratory problems. 

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