It’s that time of year again - gorgeous spring flowers in bloom, trees donning green leaves once again, gardens springing to life - and you sneezing your head off. Oh the love/hate relationship we have with this season! It’s one of the most beautiful, but also most miserable times of the year for many thanks to allergies.
What are allergies? Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to specific substances called allergens that either enter or come in contact with the body. Allergens can be common things such as pollen, pet dander, pharmaceuticals, or certain foods, though it is possible to be allergic to anything, and sensitivities vary from one person to another. Most allergens are harmless and the majority of people are not affected by them. If you’re allergic to a substance such as pollen, your immune system responds to it as if it were a pathogen (a foreign harmful substance) and tries to fight it. People with allergies often blame the allergen for their symptoms - a pet, pollen, or a specific food. However, it’s not the allergens that are harmful, but rather the allergic person's immune system which mistakes these harmless substances as pathogens. Allergies affect all body systems
Some people have allergies and may not even know it simply because they have milder symptoms. Nonetheless, these symptoms still serve as a clue to an underlying imbalance in the immune system. For instance, you might sleep restlessly, experience mild congestion, or have difficulties breathing but not necessarily attribute these things to allergies. As one gets older, allergies can cause more even more unusual symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, anxiety and even depression.
Due to the stress allergies create on the immune system, they can negatively affect every major system of the body. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) for example, goes into a state of “fight or flight” in the presence of substances such as allergens that it perceives as harmful. This creates a hypersensitivity that not only causes symptoms but complicates the healing process. "The nervous system controls and coordinates all organs and structures of the human body." (Gray's Anatomy, 29th ed., page 4). This is why it is critical to seek a holistic approach to treating your allergies and not just reach for the fastest-acting over-the-counter medication for symptomatic relief. Chiropractic and allergy relief When an allergen comes into contact with your body, your immune system springs into action to fight it. Special immune cells called mast cells release a substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody that seeks to destroy the allergen and causes the body to produce the chemical histamine. Histamine is what causes the characteristic symptoms of allergies: dilatation of the blood vessels (flushing, rash, itching), increased mucus production (runny nose, productive cough), and bronchoconstriction (wheezing, cough). And because histamine is contained in nearly all bodily tissues it can be the source of a wide variety of symptoms. Adequate production of cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the adrenal gland is necessary to combat these symptoms. Not surprisingly, many allergy sufferers also have weaker adrenal gland function. The adrenal gland is fed directly by the T9 spinal level nerve root, so any degree of misalignment can further weaken its function. Vertebral subluxations of any kind can also suppress mast cells - the ones responsible for histamine production. If these cells are experiencing any level of stress, they are unable to operate effectively to help the body naturally fight allergy symptoms. The strength of your body’s immune system depends largely on proper communication between the brain and spinal cord via the nervous system. When there is stress anywhere on this pathway such as misalignments of the neck or back, interruptions in this communication can compromise your immune system and thus weaken the body’s natural healing ability. Through manipulation of the joints and soft tissue, a chiropractor can help restore alignment and open the necessary pathways of communication between the brain and spine and help allergy sufferers find relief. Chiropractic care beyond pain If you are among the millions of Americans who suffer from a wide range of allergies, a chiropractor can help by detecting any underlying neck or back misalignments which may be compromising your immune system and triggering your symptoms. Additionally, a healthy nervous system can help with a long list of other health concerns. There are many symptoms, such as tingling sensations, congestion, difficulty urinating, or poor sleep that could be associated with a stressed nervous system that a chiropractor can help to identify. For many people interested in holistic treatment of any signs of imbalance, a chiropractor will be their first stop. For others, a chiropractor is a last ditch attempt at solving a what may have become a complex health issue. At Carney Chiropractic we want to be your first stop, so understanding how chiropractic can help with many symptoms beyond pain, such as allergies, is another way we care for our patients. If you’re suffering through spring, make an appointment for an adjustment today!