Monday, September 2, 2013

Fall Pollen and Ragweed

Every year I see more and more people come in during this time of year with allergies.  I also see on the side of the road a whole LOT of this pretty yellow flower!  I would love to stop and 'pick' some but know better as I would be in the hospital if I did.  What causes such horrible allergies to develop and why are they worsening every year?  There is two different things going on here.  Our food supply continues to worsen with food processing, adding chemicals, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics to our food slowly destroying our gut which is where the majority of our immune system is.  In eating these things, we slowly lose our ability to know the difference between what is 'foreign' and what isn't in the body.  This is how an allergy slowly develops (our body develops 'antigens' to the pollens).  When we eat food related to that pollen, the body can't recognize the protein anymore as a 'normal' protein and we have a 'reaction' to it. That's allergies in a nutshell.

So, what is ragweed?  Ragweed is a pollen given off by a plant. "Ragweeds are flowering plants in the genus Ambrosia in the sunflower family Asteraceae. Common names include bitterweeds and bloodweeds" (pictured above).  Many people have problems with "oral allergy syndrome" (OAS) as the pollen attaches to other foods/plants during the fall season as it sheds from the plant.  This is what causes the 'oral allergy' symptoms when they eat the other foods.  The pollen gets in the mouth and causes the irritation.  If you have general allergy to a food, it is a different type of reaction.

Symptoms of OAS include tingling of the mouth, itching, and even swelling/edema of mouth/tongue/lips.  General allergies include nasal swelling, congestion, runny nose, sneezing.  If you have symptoms limited to just the mouth, it is likely OAS.  If it is more 'general' symptoms, you are likely allergic to the food itself.

"The foods that most commonly cause oral allergy syndrome in ragweed allergy sufferers are banana, chamomile tea, cucumber, dandelion, Echinacea, melon (cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon), sunflower seeds and zucchini."  Many people that are truly allergic to ragweed and have problems with these foods should avoid eating them as allergies can worsen over time and food allergies are difficult at best to reverse (if not impossible).  If you have ragweed allergies follow-up with your allergist/PCP is highly recommended!

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