Globally, allergies are on the rise. A recent study on European adults suggested that, just looking at ragweed allergies (not any other type of allergen), the number of affected adults is predicted to double in upcoming decades.1 What is behind this stunning rise, and how do you help patients with overactive immune systems?
Allergic rhinitis currently affects approximately 10–30% of adults and up to 40% of children.2 Based on projected temperatures and seed dispersal patterns, a recent European study estimated that ragweed allergies will double in the next 25–40 years.1 The authors also noted that other species of plants may result in other allergies, and that the changes would not be restricted to Europe.2
While antihistamines may offer some relief, other methods can actually reduce or reverse the underlying immune dysfunction. One approach is to consider the many factors that affect an individual’s predisposition to allergies and match treatments to potential triggers and causes. Factors that increase susceptibility to allergies include:
- Dust in the home3
- Exercise and physical activity levels4
- Mold exposure5
- Thyroid disease6
- Parental smoking5
- Early-life antibiotics7
In one study, high levels of stress were also correlated with increased allergic rhinitis.6 Mites also contribute to allergic rhinitis, and can be present in food and/or the environment.8
Evaluating a patient’s Functional Medicine Timeline can help to target lifestyle interventions with the highest impact. Allergies reflect the state of the immune system, and they also affect patients’ ability to lead the lives they want. Addressing allergies and the many interlinked factors that build their severity is key to reducing their impact and improving health overall.
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