More than 50 million Americans suffer with allergies but chances are most of them don’t think of themselves as having a serious health problem. After all, it’s just allergies. Most allergy sufferers grab a tissue, an allergy pill and just “deal” with their misery.
But researchers are just beginning to discover how detrimental chronic inflammation, like that caused by allergies, can be to one’s overall health. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States and cost the health care system $18 billion each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Allergic disease has become a serious health issue as other statistics gathered by the AAFA demonstrate:
•In 2002, approximately 14 million office visits to health care providers were attributed to allergic rhinitis (nasal inflammation).
•Chronic sinusitis (sinus inflammation) is the most commonly reported chronic disease, affecting 16.3 percent of people (nearly 32 million) in the U.S. in 1997.
We have heard over and over again what chronic stress can do to our bodies but few realize that unchecked allergies have equally serious consequences for our bodies. When inflammation persists---when the immune system is always activated---this is known as chronic inflammation and can lead to chronic disease.
Allergies trigger inflammatory responses that can elevate C-reative protein (CRP), a protein produced in the liver and a known marker for inflammation. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, increased levels of CRP are a good predictor for the onset of both Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A study reported in the February 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine is a real eye opener about the harmful effects of chronic inflammation, caused by allergies. Allergic adults with wheezing have more than double the risk of heart disease. Allergy sufferers with sniffles are slightly more vulnerable. Why? Inflammation may lead to thickening of blood vessels.
How does one lower inflammation if you are an allergy sufferer? After all, you can’t make your allergies go away but you can reduce your symptoms by taking your medication and avoiding exposure to allergens when possible.
Detecting hidden food allergies also may help lower your inflammation. Delayed food allergies have been identified as a leading contributor to making environmental allergy symptoms worse. Delayed food allergies are difficult to pinpoint because symptoms may not appear for up to 72 hours after an offending food is consumed.
Other ways to reduce inflammation include taking care of yourself, practicing good nutrition, exercising, reducing stress and getting adequate sleep.