Can zinc alleviate your allergy symptoms?
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The seasonal shift from winter to spring signifies a great deal; warmer weather, lots of sunshine, flowers blooming, and an unfortunate reality for so many - allergies. Often associated with symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing, allergies are the result of the immune system's overreaction to substances that are considered harmless for the vast majority of people. Researchers mostly attribute the development of allergies to genetic disposition. Although, changing habits (such as the overuse antibiotics) are also being studied for their role in the increased rate of allergies. The good news is that strengthening the immune system can help alleviate some of the common symptoms of allergies. Ensuring adequate zinc levels is an important consideration for those with allergies.
What is an allergy?
An allergy occurs when a person's immune system identifies a normally harmless substance as dangerous and reacts to it to protect the body. Once the immune system becomes sensitive to the substance, now considered an allergen, it will react to any exposure by creating antibodies to attack it, leading to irritation and inflammation.
Allergy symptoms in the eyes, nose, and skin occur because of this reaction. For example, the constant sneezing associated with seasonal allergies is the result of the immune system triggering the release of chemicals (such as histamine), signalling the brain to sneeze out the allergen. Depending on the severity of the allergy and exposure to it, symptoms can also include anaphylaxis.
Different types of allergies
Allergic reactions can be caused by food, environmental factors, as well as medications such has penicillin. Peanuts, milk, soy and wheat are common food allergens, while environmental allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust, and bee venom. Some allergies, such as hay fever (pollen allergy) are seasonal, with most reactions in early spring. In all cases, getting an official diagnosis from your healthcare practitioner is key in confirming the presence of an allergy.
The immune system, allergies, and zinc
As allergies are reactions that occur in the immune system, it is imperative to understand how supporting immunity can alleviate allergy symptoms. The immune system is made up of a vital network of cells and organs, and its primary role is to defend the body. These cells and organs require adequate nutrition to perform optimally. Zinc's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties - as well as its regulatory role, helps strengthen immune system function from both a preventative standpoint and in terms of repair. Many clinical studies have shown adequate zinc levels to be a major factor in reducing the risk of developing allergies, controlling their progression, and alleviating symptoms associated with allergic responses.
Zinc deficiency and histamine intolerance
The understanding of zinc's importance in overall immune function comes as a result of studying the impact of zinc deficiency. A strong connection has been found between inadequate levels of zinc in the body and the increased rate of allergies present in both children and adults. Additionally, one of zinc's many roles is to store and inhibit the release of histamine, a compound released by cells in response to an allergen. As a result, a zinc deficiency can lead to histamine intolerance, impacting the severity and longevity of allergic reactions.
Zinc therapy in dermatology
Zinc has a preventative and therapeutic approach when it comes to allergies, and it can also help alleviate some common side effects. Allergy symptoms often manifest in skin conditions, or the worsening of existing skin conditions, such as hives, rosacea, and even the flare-ups associated with atopic dermatitis (eczema). In the case of hives and rosacea worsening as a result of exposure to allergens, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of zinc have been shown to effectively manage these conditions. Studies have also found that a zinc deficiency was prevalent in the cases of severe atopic dermatitis among children, and concluded that oral zinc supplementation reduced disease severity.
Zinc supplementation for allergies
As zinc is an essential trace mineral not stored in the body, it is important to consume it regularly. Globally, zinc deficiency is very common and can be due to inadequate dietary intake and lower absorption rates. Consuming zinc-rich foods, including oysters, red meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, and mushrooms, or supplementing with a gentle and absorbable form of zinc can help ensure adequate intake.
Other nutrients for allergy relief
In addition to zinc, there are other important nutrients to consider regarding overall immune support and allergy relief that can help alleviate symptoms naturally.
Quercetin is a plant pigment (for flavonol) found in plants and foods. This bioflavonoid is known for its antioxidant activity, ability to stimulate the immune system and inhibit histamine release, as well as suppress inflammatory mediators.
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C has been proven to effectively reduce allergy-related symptoms, primarily by preventing excessive inflammation and combating oxidative stress, a key factor in the development of allergies.