Three Super Foods Provide Allergy Relief
Although some pets will have a respiratory manifestation of their allergies, most develop skin inflammations. This is due to an increased concentration of mast cells in the skin of dogs vs the respiratory tract of humans. It is mast cells which release histamine. Histamine causes an annoying cascade of inflammatory response, but the intent is to protect the body from foreign invaders!
What super foods can be added to your pet’s diet to provide allergy relief?
An excellent television commercial has educated the unknowing public to the benefits of probiotics. A healthy appearing woman, exercising with her friends, says, “Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut?” The advertisement continues on to explain the importance of balanced gastrointestinal flora and the connection this has to health management, even allergies.
It is easy to understand that food matters when you’re contemplating the cause of vomiting, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal cancer. It can be difficult to explain, however, the connection between food and skin or respiratory inflammation.
The UCB Institute of Allergy defines atopy as “ the genetic predisposition of an individual to produce high quantities of IgE in response to allergens in the environment (pollens, house dust mites, molds, cat dander, foods etc). Heredity is very important in atopy i.e., you inherit this predisposition to produce IgE from your mother, your father, or both.
Thus, atopy represents the background for sensitization: only atopic people (those with genetic predisposition) develop sensitization to one or more allergens. Atopy is silent; atopic people do not necessarily display symptoms when they come across allergens…So, atopy is a condition for the development of allergy but is not itself allergy! Allergy, in medical terms, means that the person develops symptoms upon contact with allergens to which he/she is sensitized.”(1)
Similarly, a dog needs to be atopic to become allergic but if he is atopic he will not necessarily become allergic! There are other factors which either stimulate or allow the progression towards allergy or the phenotypic expression of the genotypic predisposition. It is these other factors over which a pet guardian often has control!
One of these other factors which allows for the ‘sensitization’ is leaky gut syndrome. Holes or leaks develop in the body’s protective mucosal barriers which allow potential allergens to penetrate. A major component of this mucosal barrier is good bacteria. If your dog has had a history of antibiotic treatment or viral infection, then some of these good bacteria may have been destroyed, thereby creating holes in the barrier. Feeding these good bacteria with prebiotics or replenishing them with probiotics can essentially repair the holes.
Author and editor, M. Mohammed Essa of Food as Medicine explains, “Prebiotics are non-digestible food or food ingredients that show a beneficial effect on the host by stimulating the growth and activity of bacteria in the colon. They are able to resist gastric acidity and hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes and are fermentable by gut bacteria. Prebiotics are able to modulate gut microbiota by stimulating the growth of beneficial microbes and while inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria.” (3)
An herbalist can procure the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) wearing gloves and long pants and then prepare a safe and useful dried herb or extract which we can use for ourselves or our pets. Cooled nettle leaf tea can be used as a coat or even eye rinse for itchy skin or itchy eyes. Dogs will often eat the fresh, young plants as well.
In Western terms, Nettle has alterative and detoxicant (depurative) actions. According to the authors of the popular text, Herbs for Pets, “nettles antiallergenic usefulness may lie in the plant’s histamine content, which may work in a like-versus-like manner similar to the concepts of homeopathy…..the body is triggered into protecting itself from what it believes to be an inevitable, all-out attack of allergens…nettle prompts the body into preparing itself.”(4)
In Oriental diagnostic patterns of “wind-damp” invading the skin, causing skin eruptions (eczema), Nettle acts like Hai Tong Pi (Cx. Erythrinae) and Xi Xian Cao (Hb. Siegesbeckiae), or possibly Cleavers (Hb. Galii) and Burdock (Rx. Arctii).(2) The text, Veterinary Herbal Medicine states that the antiallergy impact of nettles may be “due to the presence of quercetin.”(5) Quercetin is a flavonoid. Flavonoids are plant constituents with diverse actions, and some can inhibit IgE-induced histamine release. (5)
In Eastern herbal formulations licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is a harmonizer. It has been utilized by the Chinese and Ayurvedic formulators for allergy patients for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCVM), licorice tonifies the Spleen, benefits the Qi, moistens the Lung, stops coughing, clears Heat, detoxifies Fire Poison (boils, sore throat) and soothes spasms. (6) A study of one licorice constituent called glycyrrhizic acid (GA), the GA had an antitussive effect similar to codeine.(6) In Western herbal remedies it is not only a useful herb, but also makes the entire extract more palatable, especially for dogs. In fact, although it is not candy, licorice herb alone is quite delicious!
According to the text, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, “Licorice eases inflammation and tissue damage in the upper digestive tract; potentiates the anti-inflammatory effect of glucocorticoids; mimics aldosterone (by potentiation of cortisol); and facilitates movement of mucus from the respiratory tract.” (6)Just what the doctor ordered for dog or human allergy sufferers!
Double whammy: Nettle/Licorice combination
A 50:50 blend of nettle and licorice extract has been used with success repetitively in my practice for allergic dogs. Each extract can be alcohol or glycerin based. If one or both is glycerin, this will increase the palatability dramatically. If one is an alcohol extract from a reputable herbal company, this increases the efficacy tremendously. If your herbs don’t work, consider a different manufacturer. We recommend that you use this herbal blend for five days on and then two days off. This not only gives the tummy a break from the herbs, but it allows a pet parent to ascertain efficacy. Does your dog itch and scratch just as much during the days on as he does on the days off? Animal Doctor approved favorite liquid herbal blends have been purchased from Standard Process Mediherb, Natural Path and Animal Apawthecary.
For me, the efficacy of allergy management relies upon my understanding, belief, intent and good product selection. I am pleased when east meets west in my mind. This allows me to be a safe and effective holistic practitioner and pet parent!
(3)Food as Medicine, Essa and Memon p. 162
(4)Herbs for Pets, Tilford
(5)Veterinary herbal Medicine, Wynn and Fougere p.166, 316
(6)Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Mills and Bone p.465, 471