Letter from Dr. Janson
What are allergies?
Lifestyle changes to reduce allergies
Exercise and stress reduction
Supplements for allergies and asthma
Vitamin C Is Still Good For You!
Curcumin -- not just for inflammation
In the Health News
By the Way
While most of us are thrilled with the arrival of Spring,
many people anticipate this season with some anxiety. Why?
Because, like more than one third of all Americans, they suffer
from seasonal allergies. I often see patients who are allergic
to pollens such as trees and grasses, which makes it difficult
to go outside at this time of year. There are also many people
who are allergic to year-round allergens such as dust, mites,
molds, and animal dander, and weed pollens, which arrive later
in the summer.
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to one
or more environmental substances that usually dont bother
other people. An allergen (or antigen) is any
substance that can cause this allergic reaction. The trees,
grasses, and weeds are among the most common allergens. In
addition to these allergens, and the year-round ones mentioned
above, people may also react to foods and environmental chemicals.
In addition, exposure to air pollution and tobacco smoke make
Common allergy or hay fever symptoms are runny nose, sneezing,
breathing difficulty, sinus congestion, itchy and watery eyes,
sinus headaches, fatigue, and even asthma. They can make life
very difficult if you are an allergy sufferer, seriously reducing
quality of life. Almost all asthma patients have significant
allergies, and uncontrolled allergies as a child can lead
Most physicians treat allergy symptoms with antihistamines,
including diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratidine (Claritin),
or fexofenidine (Allegra), and decongestants such as pseudoephedrine
(Sudafed). Although some medications have been taken off the
market because of drug interactions, the current ones may
still have side effects. Benadryl can cause significant drowsiness,
and even though the newer ones rarely cause drowsiness, they
may cause insomnia, dry mouth, indigestion and menstrual cramps.
Natural remedies almost always reduce or eliminate the need
The first step in helping to prevent or lessen your
allergies is to bolster your immune system. For this, you
must eat a healthy diet. Avoid any suspected food allergens
(common ones are milk and wheat), chemical food additives,
and all refined sugar. Eat a wide variety of fresh vegetables,
fruits, beans, and whole grains (rice, millet, and buckwheat
are a few alternatives to wheat). Organic foods are helpful
because they are free of toxic additives and pesticide residues.
Eliminate all hydrogenated oils from your diet, including
margarine and vegetable shortening. These can interfere with
the normal function of the essential fatty acids. Eliminating
or reducing animal fat in the diet also improves the balance
of body fats, although omega-3 fish oils are beneficial.
Regular aerobic exercise stimulates normal immune function
and detoxifies your body. Here are some suggestions:
Brisk walking or jogging
Rollerblading or iceskating
Jumping rope (slowly!)
Start slowly. Build up to about 30 minutes most days. Make
sure you dont get short of breath (otherwise it's not
aerobic.) You should be able to keep up a conversation during
exercise as a sign that it is still aerobic. Exercise can
also help drain your sinuses. Be creative in finding different
ways to exercise so that you do not get bored. Be careful
if you are asthmatic so you don't precipitate an attacksome
dietary supplements may help prevent exercise-induced asthma.
Stress can bring on or worsen allergies and asthma so it
is very important to learn a relaxation technique. Meditation,
visualization, yoga and breathing exercises are a few of the
methods that can help reduce stress and promote healing. Laughter
is one of the best medicines (and, so far, unregulated by
One of the most important supplements for allergies
and normal immune function is vitamin C. I recommend 3000
to 4000 mg daily as a minimum. Take 1000 to 2000 mg a half
hour before exercise to eliminate or delay the onset of exercise-induced
asthma. Vitamin C also has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid, one of numerous beneficial plant
pigments. It is an anti-oxidant, as are many other phytochemicals.
It stabilizes membranes in the cells that release histamine
and serotonin (the substances that mediate allergy symptoms),
reducing their release into the tissues. I suggest 800 to
1200 mg of quercetin daily. Although it is helpful fairly
quickly, for the best results it is better to take it regularly.
The herb nettle or stinging nettle
relieves symptoms and has anti-inflammatory properties. A
1990 study showed the symptomatic benefit of the dried nettle
leaf, but I have found that the standardized extract works
even better. I suggest taking 250 to 500 mg when symptoms
appear. You can take it several times a day as needed, as
it has no side effects.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), one of the essential fatty acids,
is present in supplements of evening primrose oil or borage
oil capsules. It helps relax the airways and improve immune
function, and studies show that it relieves asthma and eczema.
I recommend 1200 mg of borage oil daily, containing 240 mg
Proanthocyanidins (PAC or OPC) and catechins from grape seeds
and pine bark or from hawthorn berry extracts help to reduce
inflammation and thus lessen the allergic response. I suggest
about 50 to 100 mg of the proantho-cyanidins twice daily,
or 250 to 500 mg of hawthorn berry extract. Other valuable
supplements include magnesium (500 to 1000 mg daily) and pyridoxine
(vitamin B6), which help to relax the airways, and the immune-supportive
antioxidant supplements vitamin E (400 to 800 IU) and coenzyme
Q10 (100 to 200 mg).
This comprehensive program should help you to stay free of
medication and feel good about the springtime, in addition
to helping with year-round allergies.
A couple of people called me on my radio show concerned about
a report that vitamin C might be dangerous for the arteries.
When I investigated, I found that the study was reported at
the American Heart Association meeting on March 2nd, and had
not yet been published. It is therefore not yet available
for professional criticism.
The study by Dwyer and colleagues, supposedly shows that
vitamin C causes thickening of the carotid artery wall, and
has unfortunately left many people reconsidering their intake
of this important nutrient.
It is virtually certain that supplements of vitamin C, even
in excess of 2000 mg daily, are beneficial, rather than harmful.
Nothing in this study even suggested decreased blood flow
as a result of vitamin C supplements, which would happen if
the artery were clogged with atherosclerosis. Other studies
confirm increased blood flow and relaxation of blood vessels
with vitamin C, even when given intravenously.
This study conflicts with hundreds of previous studies showing
that the benefits of taking vitamin C are far more convincing
than the dubious harm suggested in this one contradictory
study. It would be unfortunate if people started to limit
their healthy vitamin C supplementation on the basis of one
Vitamin C is not dangerous. It is beneficial for the heart,
the arteries, and the brain, including reduced risks of heart
attacks and strokes, and lowered blood pressure. It can help
with allergies,diabetes, cancer, immune system disorders,
inflammation and viral infections.
While it is possible to get 2500 mg of vitamin C from food
with a diet of all fresh fruits and vegetables, most people
don't eat this way all the time. Even if they did, supplements
would still be beneficial, and essential to achieving protective
antioxidant levels. Continue to take your supplements of vitamin
C, and combine it with the healthiest dietary choices.
Curcumin is a non-vitamin phytochemical that supports healthy
tendons, ligaments, and joints. Because of its natural anti-inflammatory
activity it reduces symptoms from injuries. Curcumin is the
term for the substances in standardized extract of turmeric,
the deep yellow-orange spice common in Indian cooking. For
sports or other injuries, you can take curcumin with other
anti-inflammatory supplements, such as vitamin C, bromelain
(the enzyme derived from pineapples), and standardized ginger
However, the benefits of curcumin go far beyond its anti-inflammatory
properties. It's also a natural antioxidant with anti-tumor
effects that help protect you from cancer. Studies in mice
show that curcumin reduces tumor growth and metastasis, as
well as the initiation of tumors.
A recent report showed that curcumin inhibits angioneogenesis,
the process of new blood vessel formation that is required
to support the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.
Curcumin inhibits both lipid peroxidation and platelet aggregation,
so it is likely to be helpful in heart disease. Lipid peroxides
damage arteries, and protection against them is considered
vital to the prevention of heart disease. Excess platelet
aggregation can further block atherosclerotic arteries. Taking
curcumin with vitamins E and C, as well as coenzyme Q10 will
help you fend off this number-one killer.
The typical supplement dose is 200 mg of standardized extract
of turmeric (standardzed to 95 percent curcumin), taken three
times a day. For preventive medicine for the heart and cancer,
you might want to take one or two capsules a day.
The Environmental Working Group lists the most
pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. The 12 worst,
in order, are strawberries, peppers, spinach, cherries (U.S.),
peaches, cantaloupe (Mexican), celery, apples, apricots, green
beans, grapes (Chilean), and cucumbers. Pesticides banned
in the U.S. are still found in fruits and vegetables, even
those from the U.S. If you cant always buy organic foods,
the least-contaminated conventional foods are avocados, corn,
onions, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bananas,
plums, watermelon and broccoli. You can find out more at their
Meat handlers both in slaughterhouses and in supermarkets
are at increased risk of tumors of the bone marrow and lymph
nodes. The inreased risks ranged from 3 times up to 18 times
more than in non-meat workers. The researchers suggested that
exposure to cancer-causing viruses in chickens, pigs, sheep,
and cows might be to blame.
Most of you know that high homocysteine levels
in the blood increase the risk of heart disease. Supplements
of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid help to lower homocysteine.
A new study shows that going on a vegan diet (no animal products),
can also rapidly lower homocysteine. Within one week, subjects
had a 13 percent reduction of plasma homocysteine levels.
Although the subjects also participated in moderate physical
activity and stress management, none took the beneficial supplements.
Whether a strict vegan diet is necessary is unclear, but with
this evidence it is prudent to lean in that direction.
Although many people are concerned with feather pillows
causing allergy symptoms, recent studies suggest that synthetic
pillows are even worse because they harbor more allergens
than the feather pillows. One study showed more animal danders
in synthetic pillows and another showed more dust and dust
mites. Although this is a surprise, it is a good idea to reconsider
the bedding you choose if you are allergic. One remedy is
to buy the allergy-controlling mattress and pillow covers
that are impervious to the allergens. These are available
at allergy supply companies.
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