Health Professional Radion – Natural Therapy for Allergies
Katherine: Thanks for listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Katherine, and today I’m joined by Danny Urbinder. He is a naturopath and pharmaceutical educational manager. Welcome, Danny.
Danny Urbinder: Thank you.
Katherine: Today, we are talking about allergies and how natural therapies can help ease some of the symptoms caused by allergic reactions. Allergy – it seems like when spring time comes around, a lot of people, especially Melbournians, get it. Can you tell us why some people are more prone to allergies than others?
Danny: I think that’s an elusive question. We might be getting some pieces of the puzzle [laughter] for that one together now. There’s a few theories that are [indecipherable 00:43] that have been taken quite seriously.
Katherine: All right.
Danny: There’s the hygiene theory, for example, which talks about the fact that we live in quite a sterile environment compared to our forbearers. In fact it might be bacterial priming of the immune system that can protect us from allergies later on in life. That’s one theory. Another theory certainly looks at – and it’s quite a similar area, I suppose, going right back to our very early years. We know that disturbances in gut flora and gut bacteria can alter the way that our immune system behaves and put us at a greater risk of allergy as well.
I suppose our diet’s changed somewhat as well. I don’t think that, as human beings, as we evolved – we’ve put certainly an immune mode on our system, by having the same foods over and over again, everyday, particularly, I suppose, the gluten-rich foods and perhaps the casein-rich foods, which may have an effect as far as our immune mode is concerned.
Katherine: Hmm. And it seems like allergies are on the rise. If you look at some of the statistics, there are alarming – like you mentioned the gluten, a lot more people are allergic to gluten, intolerances. Also, there’s also been a link where people that live in urban areas have higher incidences of allergies than people that live out in the countryside.
Danny: Yeah, which is interesting because that almost ties back to what I said earlier about the hygiene theory. I think that people probably … if you lived in a more rural environment, where you’re getting your hands a bit dirtier, that’s actually probably a good thing. You’re certainly being exposed to a wide range of microorganisms, which can prime our immune system. Our immune system needs to be exposed to all manner of life and bacteria and microorganisms in order to know how to appropriately deal with them.
When we remove ourselves from that environment, our immune system tends to panic a little bit the next time it comes across an organism that might just be a garden variety … not a particularly threatening thing. And we tend to respond to that with an inflammatory response.
Danny: That might be one of the areas, but certainly I think that there’s also things to look at, at least, and that is our rate of Caesarean birth, and therefore missing out on opportunities to inoculate with probiotics as well. So, are we perhaps feeding babies and promoting different types of bacteria that would, I suppose, direct our immune system to behave in different ways than it otherwise would.
Katherine: Interesting. Can you talk to us a bit about some of the natural therapies available to people who suffer from allergies?
Danny: Sure. If you were to, perhaps work at treating and preventing seasonal allergies, there’s a range of nutritional and herbal factors that you can look at, that have been certainly well-tried, and some of them are actually being studied quite intensively, for the treatment of allergies. They work in a number of different ways.
Two herbs in particular, perilla and rosemary, both of which are very rich in a compound known as rosmarinic acid, has been shown to suppress the T-cell that’s responsible for making B-cells sensitive, and they’re thought to release IgE. IgE is the antigen that basically results in your immune response. This particular compound seems to dampen the allergic response at the beginning of the chain. You can get those, as I said, from perilla and rosemary.
There are also some other herbs. So, albizia is another one, and Baical skullcap. These have been shown to, for example, stabilise mast cells. Mast cells are the cells that respond to our IgE, and they’re the things that release histamine and cause all those typical symptoms when we have hay fever, allergies. So the runny nose, the watery eyes, the itchiness and the skin inflammation, that’s all caused by histamine.
You can dampen down that histamine release with herbs such as albizia and Baical skullcap. Then you’re going a long way to actually managing those symptoms, and you can have these sort of things over a season. Likewise, quercetin is another. This is actually a bioflavonoid. It’s a nutritional compound. It’s in the past been known as co-vitamin C. That’s also been shown to dampen histamine release from mast cells. At 1500 mg, it’s actually been shown to be really quite effective, and it breaks down slowly, so you can have an accumulative effect over time.
Katherine: I see. Before people run out and buy some of these things and make a cocktail for themselves, [laughter] there is a danger in self-medicating. Can you talk a little bit about how some people might be actually on prescription drugs for other conditions that they have. Can you tell us a bit about how people who do suffer from allergies, especially seasonally, can introduce some of these natural therapies into maybe everyday life?
Danny: Yeah, sure. I work with a company called BioCeuticals, which is actually a practitioner-only brand. We do that because we recognize that with any of these conditions – and it doesn’t just have to be allergy – but when people use complimentary medicine, they’re often there treating conditions, sometimes serious, sometimes they don’t know, they need to get certainly a diagnosis.
So we’ve developed a range, through our company, that requires for it to be dispensed through a practitioner. We encourage anyone to go and see a practitioner, first to get diagnosed and then certainly to have the appropriate therapy dispensed as well and to be prescribed.
As far as the ingredients that I just mentioned, they don’t have to make the cocktail. [laughs] We actually put it all together. We’ve got a product called Allergen Care that combines all of those particular ingredients together.
Katherine: Sounds great.
Danny: But, I suppose, the reason that we chose those things was because if it approach … I suppose if you consider allergy or allergies to be a chain of events that start with one cell and continue down the track other cells. The ingredients that we’ve chosen have been specifically done so because they tend to work on each aspect of the chain. You’re getting a multi-pronged effect and not just targeting one aspect of allergy.
I would certainly consider that through … certainly go and see a practitioner first. You can certainly, I suppose, raise that as an option with them. The other option I would recommend, or at least ask for consideration, is that use a probiotic. There’s enough evidence to show that at least probiotics are worth considering for people that suffer from allergies because we know they modulate the immune system.
We know there’ve been numerous studies to show that they steer the immune pathway that takes you down that allergy route, and it tends to pull it back and take it down another route. That’s just due to the immune signalling that these probiotics offer. Our immune system takes cues from these bugs, and that’s one of the cues that it will follow.
Katherine: Right. I don’t mind telling our listeners that I suffer from allergies to cats. [laughs] I rarely come across a feline, but when I do, I start getting the runny nose and the scratchy throat and the itchy eyes – and this is when I normally reach for, say, an antihistamine. With something like a natural therapy, can I replace maybe this prescription antihistamine that I occasionally use, with a herbal remedy?
Danny: With everything that I just described, there’s no reason why you can’t take the two together. But as I’ve said before, it’s always worth going to your health care practitioner and seeking their advice. But if you were to try that, then I certainly – look, it has antihistamine actions. All the things I just described have their own antihistamine actions.
They do have a compounded effect when you take them together, because they’re working at different points of the allergy pathway. But certainly things like quercetin, which I mentioned earlier, at 1500 milligrams, you achieve a tremendous antihistamine effect. It’s not just in hay fever, it’s with certainly other histamine-related allergy responses. Things like urticaria. Certain people that might get histamine-related skin conditions can benefit from quercetin as well as the herbs that I described.
Katherine: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned the practitioner-only, because some people don’t know the difference between say, the vitamins that you can get on the shelf and also the practitioner. Can you tell us a little bit about the main differences? It’s probably to do with dosage, I guess, and …?
Danny: Well, look, I can certainly talk about our company. When we were set up about 12 years ago now, the whole premise behind BioCeuticals as a company was there to bridge the gap between what we called conventional medicine and integrated, complementary medicine. Really by doing that, what we aimed to achieve was to provide a range of safe, integrated nutritional medicines that was evidenced-based.
All our formulas are derived from the literature, so when we look at a particular ingredient, we search literature, we look for where there is evidence, and where there is substantial evidence. As the company grew, there was always an idea to reinvest back into our own independent research.
As a company, to date, we have currently got 16 independent trials going on in institutions such as the Alfred Hospital or Westmead Hospital, University of Queensland, University of Tasmania. They’re all doing their own independent trials on a number of our different products.
That’s, I suppose, why you can get confidence and validity for what we’re offering. By being a practitioner-only company, what we’re doing is ensuring that the correct advice is also dispensed [indecipherable 11:16]. So, you can get properly …
Danny: … being administered by someone who has had the training and knows what questions to ask, and it’s not just being taken off-the-shelf, willy-nilly.
Katherine: Yeah. Thank you so much for your time, and thanks for talking to us about allergies today, Danny.
Danny: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.