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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

A Lifestyle Approach to Allergies: Dr. Jonathan Psenka tells us how to reduce risk factors that may increase the severity of allergies

Mar 31, 2014 10:22AM ● By Dr. Jonathan Psenka

For most people, the arrival of springtime in Arizona is also the time of year when they experience allergy symptoms that include itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. Some people only develop fairly mild symptoms, while others have symptoms that are nearly debilitating. More and more people are finding that their allergy symptoms are lasting longer than usual, and some people are finding that they are suffering from allergies almost all year long.

For those lucky individuals that are only slightly bothered by allergies, a naturally-based antihistamine, like quercetin, may provide ample support. Those with more severe or persistent symptoms may find that using antihistamines doesn’t provide enough relief. For those people, a lifestyle approach to allergies may help to reduce their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

A lifestyle approach to controlling allergies aims to reduce any risk factors that may increase the severity of allergies or to eliminate things that may make someone progressively more allergic. One of the first things to consider when using lifestyle to reduce respiratory allergic symptoms is the relationship between eating some types of foods and allergy symptoms. Those foods have the potential to aggravate allergic symptoms, and some can even predispose a person to the development of environmental allergies. Certain foods, namely corn, dairy, soy and wheat, may cause increased allergic symptoms in people that have a sensitivity to them. Other foods to which a person may have an allergy or sensitivity increase inflammation levels and aggravate respiratory allergic symptoms. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidant-containing foods can be very helpful for many allergy sufferers.

Avoidance is another factor to consider with seasonal allergies. It certainly makes sense to try and avoid exposure to known allergens, but what has been discovered is that it is also very important to avoid pollution. A recent study found that exposure to diesel exhaust particulate increased a person’s allergic response to a common airborne allergen (ragweed) by 16 times. Diesel exhaust emissions are a major contributor to Arizona’s air pollution, but they are not the only type of pollution, nor are they the only type likely to exhibit allergy-enhancing effects. It is a great idea to have a high-quality air filter in our homes that can remove both chemical and particulate matter from the air. This is especially important if we live in a metropolitan area or if we have children.

It’s probably safe to say that most people associate the use of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live symbiotically on and in us, with gastrointestinal health. Many people might not realize that having a healthy population of probiotics in the gastrointestinal system can protect us from allergic disease. An overgrowth of the non-beneficial types of bacteria in the gut, often referred to as a dysbiosis, has been shown to precede the development of allergic disease. While research is still trying to determine the full impact of probiotics on allergy, it seems that taking a high-quality probiotic or incorporating probiotic-containing foods into the diet is a worthwhile endeavor.

Any lifestyle-based program would be remiss not to include the importance of the mind-body connection. An interesting study done in 2012 tried to determine what factors could predict whether a person would respond to treatment. The researchers collected data on people with an established diagnosis of asthma and concluded people that demonstrated the ability to accept their condition, while maintaining a sense of control over their choices or an attitude of “change as challenge” or a “willingness to fight,” were more likely to respond to treatment. Those that approached their condition with uncertainty and anxiety were less likely to respond to treatment.

This study highlights the importance of maintaining a positive attitude towards healing and believing in the efforts we make towards optimal health.

Dr. Jonathan (Jake) Psenka has been practicing naturopathic medicine at Longevity Medical Health Center, in Phoenix, since 2002. For more information, call 602-428-6151 or visit

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