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Alleviate allergies: How to treat hay fever & Co. naturally

15 July 2021
Dr. Dorothee Bös et al.

Allergies are widespread everywhere in Europe and worldwide in modern societies. In particular, the number of people suffering from hay fever is continuously increasing. Often they even do not recognize their hay fever symptoms as an allergy – especially in the beginning, because they are very similar to those of a cold. Food allergies are similarly difficult to recognize. But they are also becoming more and more widespread.

Since allergies usually persist for years, often even for a lifetime, treatment options with few side effects are invaluable. Natural remedies are particularly important for relieving the symptoms of hay fever. In this article you will learn more about the physiological basis of allergies, possible causes and alternative treatment options. We would like to introduce you to a particularly promising natural therapy, the therapy with vital mushrooms.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system. It acts vehemently against a substance from the environment that is actually harmless. Experts distinguish between different types of allergies on the basis of these “allergens”.

What are the different types of allergies?

The following allergens are now known:

  • Pollen from trees, bushes, grasses and cereals = “hay fever”
  • Animal hair from cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, etc. – the allergen is not the animal hair itself, but the secretions attached to it such as saliva from the animals.
  • House dust – This is also the colloquial term. The excretions of the dust mites actually act as the allergens.
  • Foods such as nuts, grains, fish, egg, vegetables, fruits or milk
  • Mold – The allergens are the spores of various molds that are more prevalent in the air under certain weather conditions.
  • Insect venom from bees, wasps or mosquitoes
  • Various medications
  • Fragrances
  • Metals such as nickel, but also cleaning agents or cosmetics can cause a so-called contact allergy on the skin
  • Food additives – The reaction to ingredients marked with E numbers in processed foods is a so-called pseudoallergy. In this reaction, no antibodies are involved and no prior sensitization has taken place.

Where do allergies come from?

The development of allergies is an extremely complex process. To date, it is not clear who gets an allergy and why. Known is that there are always several factors involved, one of which is certainly an imbalance in the immune system. Many allergies are probably also based on a genetic component, which, however, is not deterministic. The actual outbreak of an allergy is always preceded by sensitization. This means that the organism comes into contact with the allergen for the first time, but does not yet show an allergic reaction. This only develops over the course of days to years. When contact with the allergen occurs again, the immune system overreacts and symptoms appear.

Which symptoms are typical for allergies?

To trigger an allergic reaction, the allergens must come into contact with the skin or mucous membranes. That is why allergic symptoms occur primarily in these areas. AllergieThere is redness, swelling, burning, rash and itching. Urticaria is characterized by the formation of wheals. Irritation of the mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract is accompanied by stomach pain and diarrhoea, among other symptoms. In the area of the eyes, an itchy conjunctiva with increased lacrimation up to conjunctivitis is typical. If the mucous membranes in the throat or bronchial area of the lungs swell, breathing difficulties may occur. In allergic asthma, this is exacerbated by a tightening of the bronchial muscles. Neurological symptoms such as headaches and migraines or psychological upsets and even depression can also occur as a result of allergic reactions. The extent to which a change in body weight is related to intolerance reactions is currently still being discussed by experts.

Weiße Anführungszeichen in dunkelblauem Kreis
C. S.

TESTIMONIALS
"I suffer from food and pollen allergies. Over the last 18 months, my condition has increasingly worsened to the point of allergic shock reactions. Unfortunately, conventional desensitisation did not help. With the intake of the Reishi mushroom, there was a significant improvement. The food allergy has subsided and the pollen allergy is gone. I can even tolerate nuts again, which always led to a state of shock before."

Weiße Anführungszeichen in dunkelblauem Kreis
Mr K. from Gotha

TESTIMONIALS
"For about four years I have been free of complaints, except for a few days," is how Mr. K. from Gotha sums up the effect of the medicinal mushrooms. "I am very satisfied with the results. In contrast to various asthma sprays and desensitisation, which remained without lasting success."

Weiße Anführungszeichen in dunkelblauem Kreis
Mr E. R. from Neuhof

TESTIMONIALS
"By regularly taking Reishi, my life has become worth living again," Mr E. R. from Neuhof tells us. "The fear of allergies has disappeared. And with it burning eyes, sneezing, swollen nose and whistling bronchial tubes."

    Pollen allergy

    Since hay fever or “seasonal allergic rhinitis” is the most common allergy in Europe, we would like to go into more detail about its symptoms. Many newly affected people do not know at first whether they are suffering from hay fever or a cold. A first clue would be the time when the following symptoms appear. While colds typically break out more in autumn and winter, pollen mainly flies in spring and summer.

    Typical symptoms are:
    – red, watery and itchy eyes
    – tingling or scratching in nose and throat
    – swollen mucous membranes
    – inflamed conjunctiva
    – blocked nose or runny nose
    – bronchial asthma
    – sensitivity to light
    – Headaches
    – Fatigue or tiredness
    – Insomnia

    These symptoms sometimes severely affect the quality of life of those affected. When they ask the question “What helps against hay fever?”, they are usually recommended strong medications, which in turn lead to side effects such as severe fatigue. However, there are also natural remedies for hay fever that provide relief.

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    Every person is unique!

    Our experienced team of mycotherapists will be happy to advise you in detail and free of charge on all matters relating to your health:

    Cross allergies

    In the case of an existing pollen allergy, a cross-allergy can develop over time, also called “pollen-associated food allergy”. Especially people who react to early-flowering shrubs and trees such as birch, alder or hazel with allergic symptoms, tend to be allergic to nuts and raw fruit such as apple, pear, plum, cherry. If, on the other hand, there is an allergy to mugwort, spices and herbs are more likely to be a problem. Most frequently, those affected cannot tolerate celery. But also pepper, chili, tomatoes, anise, fennel, caraway, basil, thyme and other herbs can cause symptoms. However, if the pollen of grasses is the problem, soy products, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts and wheat and rye flour are often not tolerated.

    Differentiation allergy vs. intolerance

    With food it is important to distinguish an allergy  an intolerance. The patho-physiological processes are different and this should be taken into account in naturopathic therapy. It is important to know that an allergy is always a reaction of the immune system. With an intolerance, on the other hand, the problem lies in the digestive tract. Here, certain enzymes are missing to break down milk sugar or fructose, for example.

    Allergy types

    In 1963, Coombs and Gell introduced a classification system according to which all allergies can be assigned to one of four reaction types. These differ in regard to the reaction mechanisms and the time interval between allergen contact and symptom.

    Type I allergy

    90 % of all allergies are of type I. It is also called “immediate type” because the immune system reacts within seconds to minutes. Type I is present, for example, in allergies to insect venoms and various foods, allergic asthma and anaphylactic shock. Pollen allergy also falls into this category. The starting point for the immediate reaction to contact with the allergen are the mast cells. They are located in the skin and mucous membranes. On their surface there are special antibodies, immunoglobulins E (IgE). Inside there are granules with histamine. If an allergen is bound on the mast cell surface via the immunoglobline E, histamine is released. This then triggers allergic reactions such as itching, swelling, rhinitis, asthma, skin reactions, nausea or diarrhea.

    Allergy types II and III

    Types II and III according to the classification of Coombs and Gell occur much less frequently than type I. Blood group incompatibility and allergic reactions to some drugs or occupational allergens (farmer’s lung) are among them. The reaction does not occur until between six and twelve hours after allergen contact. Different antibodies are involved. The type II reaction is called the “cytotoxic allergy type”. The complement system plays an important role in its course. In type III, on the other hand, antigen-antibody complexes, so-called immune complexes, are deposited and trigger tissue-damaging reactions. The triggers are particularly difficult to identify in this case, as the reaction occurs after a long delay, sometimes only after a few days.  The allergic reaction is mediated by class M or G immunoglobulins. This group includes, for example, vasculitis (allergic inflammation of the blood vessels), nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys), arthritis. Such reactions can also be triggered by food. Symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, migraine and eczema.

    The late type

    In the case of type IV, experts also speak of the “late type”, since the body reacts only after 12 hours, sometimes after three days. After type I, this allergic reaction occurs most frequently, for example in the context of contact allergies, in the rejection of transplants or allergic rashes after taking certain medications. In these cases, it is the T-lymphocytes that trigger the release of cytokines. As a result, inflammation occurs in the affected areas of the body.

    Development of allergies

    Excursus - the immune system

    Our immune system is a very complex structure with specially coordinated regulatory mechanisms. Various leukocytes, antibodies and messenger substances are involved in allergic reactions, which is already shown by looking at the different types of allergies.Allergien Lymphozyte T-lymphocytes, so-called T-helper cells (TH cells) play an important role. They regulate the formation of the frequently involved immunoglobulins of class E (Reagins). A distinction is made between the TH1/TH2 system. The system has important tasks in the defence against diseases. While the TH1 cells eliminate infected and degenerated cells, the TH2 system is directed against external invaders such as bacteria. In healthy humans, TH1 and TH2 are in balance. As a result of a defence reaction, one of the two systems can dominate, but the balance is immediately restored after successfully fighting a disease.

    Our immune system is a very complex structure with specially coordinated regulatory mechanisms. Various leukocytes, antibodies and messenger substances are involved in allergic reactions, which is already shown by looking at the different types of allergies. T-lymphocytes, so-called T-helper cells (TH cells) play an important role. They regulate the formation of the frequently involved immunoglobulins of class E (Reagins). A distinction is made between the TH1/TH2 system. The system has important tasks in the defence against diseases. While the TH1 cells eliminate infected and degenerated cells, the TH2 system is directed against external invaders such as bacteria. In healthy humans, TH1 and TH2 are in balance. As a result of a defence reaction, one of the two systems can dominate, but the balance is immediately restored after successfully fighting a disease.

    Development of a type I allergy

    An allergy occurs when the natural TH1-TH2 balance is lost. This can happen, for example, through prolonged distress, heavy metal exposure, the intake of medication or candida exposure. As a result of contact with an allergen, a so-called TH2 shift occurs. This means that the TH2 system permanently dominates. As a consequence, IgE production increases and a type I allergy develops.

    Neuroendocrine processes may also be to blame for the TH2 shift. An increased release of stress hormones such as cortisol or noradrenaline disturbs the balance. For this reason, allergies occur more frequently in phases of strong negative stress. Existing type I allergies often worsen during psychological stress.

    Why are allergies on the rise?

    There is debate that increasing environmental exposure to toxins and foreign substances is driving an increase in allergies in the population. Our foods are highly processed and contain many additives and preservatives. Cosmetics contain more and more new chemical compounds, some of which have hormonal effects.  We are constantly coming into contact with these chemical substances. They irritate the skin and mucous membranes, destroy the body’s natural barriers and open the door to allergens. In terms of pollen allergy, air pollution and climate change are key contributors to its rapid spread. Warmer average temperatures, for example, extend the pollen season, while higher CO2 concentrations in the air encourage plants to release more pollen at once. Fine dust and ozone in the air we breathe irritate the respiratory tract and act as catalysts for allergic reactions.

    What to do in case of allergies?

    When the immune system is “out of sync” and imbalances in the immune reactions are recognizable, it is important to take therapeutic measures to relieve and balance the system. With medicinal mushrooms one has very good possibilities to direct immune reactions and at the same time to strengthen the immune power, so that we are at the same time well protected against pathogens and tumor formation. The beta-glucans contained in the mushrooms play a significant role in this. They are the strongest immune modulators that nature has to offer. In addition, mushrooms contribute significantly to the relief of the organism and thus the immune system through their detoxifying effect. They also promote the growth of physiological intestinal bacteria, the so-called intestinal microbiota, through their many fibres. Improving the health of the intestine with its associated immune system should be an important goal in therapy. A healthy diet and optimal support of the digestive organs are key variables in alleviating symptoms in the long term.

    Important nutrients

    A good additional supply of vitamins and minerals can promote an improvement of allergic symptoms in allergy sufferers. Vitamin C is at the top of the list. It is followed by magnesium, calcium and zinc. These micro- and macronutrients reduce the release of histamine by the mast cells and help the body to break down histamine.

    Healthy gut

    Since the immune system is closely linked to the gut, strong, balanced defenses are always backed by a healthy gut environment.  Dysbiosis can increase the risk of allergies, as pathogenic germs in the intestinal flora can damage the intestinal mucosa by producing toxins. In addition, some of them also produce histamine themselves, which can raise the level in the blood significantly. Therefore, within the framework of a holistic therapy of allergies, the focus should always be on building up a healthy intestinal flora and restoring a strong mucous membrane. It is here that vital mushrooms can make a great contribution, as we will show you in the second half of this article.

    Promote digestive juices

    To ensure good digestion, it is important to optimize the secretion of the digestive juices of the stomach, pancreas and also the flow of bile. Good digestion is very important so that food proteins in particular can be broken down well so that they lose their allergenic potential. To stimulate the digestive juices, bitter substances such as those found in bitter salads or also artichokes are suitable. The latter especially promotes the flow of bile. This makes it easier for the liver to excrete toxins and thus relieves the burden. In addition, pancreatic enzymes help in the degradation of IgE antibodies, which, as already described, have a key position with regard to allergy mechanisms.

    What helps against hay fever and Co?

    You can do a lot against allergies with your choice of food alone. Organic products, for example, are relatively less contaminated with toxins and harmful substances that can upset the immune system. Also, some foods, such as wine and long-aged cheese, have high histamine content. If you already suffer from a type I allergy, you should avoid such products if possible. Many cosmetics also contain allergy-promoting additives. Therefore, give preference to less contaminated natural cosmetics. A simple nasal douche also provides relief from hay fever. This natural remedy is completely free of side effects and you can use it as often as you like. Equally gentle but helpful are acupuncture and homeopathic remedies. By the way, it is always worth learning relaxation techniques to get stress under control.

    Alleviate allergies with vital mushrooms

    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been making use of the strengthening effect of medicinal mushrooms for centuries. The therapy of allergies is very well suited for the use of medicinal mushrooms, as they can regulate excessive immune reactions by helping to balance TH1/TH2 imbalances. In addition, they can reduce various stresses on the organism. Unfortunately, however, far too few patients know about the benefits of mycotherapy. We would like to change that herewith.

    Mädchen mit Besserung AllergieMushrooms contain very valuable bioactive substances which, in the case of allergies, can strengthen the organism and directly alleviate allergic symptoms: reduce itching of the skin and mucous membranes, reduce mucus production in the respiratory tract, have an anti-inflammatory effect. As adaptogens, they are able to maintain the body’s resistance and efficiency even in times of strong negative stress. The use of mushrooms is suitable both for relief of acute allergic symptoms (except anaphylactic shock) and for long-term therapy. The aim is to have a modulating effect on the immune system in order to reduce allergic reactions. In case of hay fever, the therapy with vital mushrooms should ideally be started in the symptom-free period, e.g. in autumn/winter, when the immune system can be influenced very well. However, taking mushroom capsules also helps during spring and summer to make burning, tearing, itching and a runny nose more bearable.

    Anti-allergic effect of the vital mushrooms

    Medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Hericium, Pleurotus and ABM support the body in many ways to get allergies and their symptoms under control. In principle, their detoxifying effect is very advantageous, since, for example, heavy metal and toxin loads can very strongly impair the immune function.  The enzymes contained in the mushrooms play a decisive role in this. Enzymes are proteins which are quickly inactivated at higher temperatures and then can no longer do their job. Therefore, we would like to emphasize at this point how important the processing of the mushrooms is, so that the enzymes remain stable.

    The beta-glucans are primarily responsible for the immunomodulating effects. These polysaccharides activate or modulate different immune reactions, which has been proven by many scientific studies. Since allergies are mostly accompanied by inflammatory processes, the triterpenes contained in medicinal mushrooms also play an important role. They have an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effect. The reishi mushroom is particularly rich in triterpenes, especially its spores. Oxidative stress, i.e. an excess of free oxygen radicals in the organism, intensifies allergic symptoms in particular. Furthermore, inflammations that occur during an allergy also produce increased oxygen radicals themselves. It should therefore always be the goal of therapy to reduce this oxidative stress. Medicinal mushrooms contain various antioxidants, e.g. enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalases and peroxidases. But also phenolic compounds that have an antioxidant effect.

    Vital mushroom Reishi

    Reishi is by far the most important medicinal mushroom for the treatment of allergies. The reason for this is mainly its high content of triterpenes. We have already mentioned their anti-inflammatory effect. However, due to their high concentration in the Reishi, they also reduce histamine release. Thus, reishi can effectively improve allergic symptoms such as swelling, itching, and symptoms in the eyes. It also strengthens the bronchial tubes, soothes coughs and loosens stuck mucus there. This is a boon for hay fever and asthmatic symptoms.

    On closer inspection, the triterpenes  have a very similar effect to cortisone, which, however, can bring strong side effects. When choosing a Reishi preparation, always make sure that the whole mushroom is included. The triterpenes are mainly found in the fruiting body and spores of the mushroom. In addition to the triterpenes, the Reishi has other valuable ingredients and properties that provide relief for allergy sufferers:
    > The germanium contained increases the oxygen saturation of the blood and thus the supply of the entire body. This means great relief for both allergic and chronic asthma.
    > The beta-glucans from the Reishi alleviate excessive immune reactions.
    > By taking Reishi, the liver is activated in its function. Thus, according to the 5-element theory of TCM, especially allergic symptoms of the eyes are weakened, since the eyes belong to the functional circle of the liver.
    > In the area of the psyche, the Reishi has a balancing and calming effect. This prevents the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which increase the risk of allergies.
    > Overall, the ingredients of the reishi have a calming effect on the intestines and soothe irritations of the intestinal mucosa. Thus, the medicinal mushroom maintains the natural body barrier against allergens.
    > In a study with children suffering from neurodermatitis, the Reishi achieved a significant improvement in the skin condition within three months.

    Vital mushroom Hericium

    Together with Reishi, Hericium forms a solid basis in the fight against allergies. Hericium specializes in the area of food allergies and the often associated leaky gut syndrome. It supports the development of a healthy mucosal barrier in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that allergens have less chance of penetrating the body and thus the risk of sensitization is reduced. This is because a large portion of our immune system is associated with the intestinal mucosa, so if the mucosa is defective, immune mechanisms can become irritated much more quickly. So by supporting gut health, Hericium simultaneously strengthens the immune system. In addition, Hericium, like all other vital mushrooms, has a pronounced prebiotic effect, which means that the intestinal flora is built up. Above all, their diversity is promoted, which determines the quality of the microbiota in the intestine.  In addition, there is a protective effect on the nervous system. Thus, the vital mushroom can reduce stress and promote inner peace. Allergic symptoms such as itching, sneezing attacks and constant runny noses can already make people very nervous and affect those affected. It strongly influences the so-called intestinal-brain axis, i.e. through its intestinal effect it also supports psychological-emotional processes.

    Vital mushroom Pleurotus

    Pleurotus, like Reishi, can reduce histamine release  and is thus able to directly alleviate acute allergy symptoms.   Significant for its effect is the contained beta-glucan Pleuran. It showed a clear anti-allergic effect in a study on children with respiratory complaints. The combined therapy with the mushrooms Pleurotus, Reishi and Hericium is advantageous. If different mushrooms are used at the same time, they work very nicely together, synergistically, and improve the success of the therapy.

    The positive effect of Pleurotus on the intestinal flora has been very well studied. Due to its prebiotic effect, it strengthens a healthy intestinal flora, as already described. Especially lactobacilli and bifidobacteria proliferate. These physiological intestinal bacteria play a decisive role in determining the environment of the intestine. By producing various acids such as lactic acid, they slightly lower the pH value (acidity) of the intestine. This displaces pathogenic germs, which themselves also produce histamine. This is especially important after antibiotic therapy, because it kills off more of the important “good” bacteria. The more histamine is present in the organism, the higher the risk of allergic reactions. It is also very helpful that the Pleurotus medicinal mushroom stimulates the absorption of B vitamins in the intestine. First and foremost, vitamin B6 is important for the breakdown of histamine. It acts as a co-factor for the enzyme diamine oxidase, which breaks down histamine.

    Vital mushroom Polyporus

    First of all, Polyporus – like Poria cocos, by the way – reduces the formation of mucus in allergic rhinitis. This is why this vital mushroom is considered a natural remedy for hay fever that can significantly improve the quality of life during the pollen season. However, the most important area of action of Polyporus is the lymphatic system. It stimulates this and thus improves lymphatic circulation. Allergy sufferers often benefit from the support of the lymphatic system. Cures with Polyporus are ideally carried out in winter. According to TCM teachings, the cleansing of the lymphatic and kidney-bladder systems is particularly effective during the cold season. In this way, you will enter the spring stronger and less susceptible to allergic reactions.

    Vital mushroom Cordyceps

    Cordyceps is one of the vital mushrooms that help the psyche to achieve more harmony. The Asians appreciate this medicinal mushroom because of its positive effect on the functional circle of the kidney. According to their view, the kidney stores our kidney energy, which decisively determines our constitution. This medicinal mushroom has a strengthening and balancing effect on the kidney and the adrenal cortex. The latter is a central production site for stress hormones. A low level of stress hormones in turn reduces the risk of allergies. On top of that, cordyceps increases the quality of sleep. On the one hand, this means a good opportunity for the body and immune system to regenerate. On the other hand, cordyceps counteracts sleep disturbances due to allergic symptoms. Besides the psyche, cordyceps also supports the lungs in their work. It forces the exhalation of CO2 on the one hand and improves the absorption as well as the utilization of oxygen on the other hand. Together with Reishi it is therefore the standard team in the treatment of allergic asthma. Finally, like other medicinal mushrooms, cordyceps modulates the immune system and counteracts inflammation.

    Vital mushroom Agaricus Blazei Murill

    Of all the vital mushrooms scientifically studied so far, Agaricus Blazei Murill (ABM) has the highest concentration of beta-glucans.  This is the reason for its strong immunomodulating effect. It strengthens the immune system just as it dampens excessively violent reactions. In addition, it directly inhibits the release of histamines, which can be a great relief in type I allergies. ABM even prevents anaphylactic shock to a certain extent. In addition, the ingredients of the ABM promote the development of a healthy intestinal flora, which makes it more difficult for allergens to penetrate. According to TCM teachings, its contribution to spleen health is an essential component in the treatment of allergies. For one thing, the spleen is the center of vital energy (chi) in general. For another, the spleen and lungs are closely related, which is why the lungs’ defenses are stronger when the spleen is working well.

    Vital mushroom Maitake

    The medicinal mushroom Maitake also contains very significant beta-glucans, especially Grifon D, which have a very promising effect in the therapy of immune imbalances. This mushroom is able to attenuate excessive TH2 immune responses. The entire reaction cascade, which is mediated by the release of interleukins by TH2-cells, stops. In addition, maitake is also a benefactor of the intestine and inhibits inflammatory processes there. In the case of an allergy to certain foods, this vital mushroom also offers acute help because it has a constipating effect.

    Important information on taking vital mushrooms for allergies

    If you also suffer from an allergy, vital mushrooms can provide you with relief. However, as a layman it is hardly possible to find the perfect combination and dosage of medicinal mushrooms for your own constitution. Therefore, always consult a mycotherapist you trust or directly our experts, who will advise you competently thanks to their many years of experience.

    In general, medicinal mushrooms must be taken over a long period of time in order to develop their full effect. Since the body may at most initially react slightly to the natural remedy, but long-term or severe side effects are excluded, the period of intake is not a problem. The simplest and safest are those mushroom preparations that are packaged as powder in capsules. Also make sure that the manufacturer of the vital mushroom powder complies with the German guidelines for organic farming. Only then side you can be sure that no toxins enter your organism via the mushroom powder.

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