What are supplements?
Supplements are products that are taken in addition to your diet, to add to the nutrition you are getting by food. They come in many shapes and sizes, from capsule form, to liquid form, even to a powder that you mix with a drink. These supplements can be made up of different vitamins, minerals, herbs, plant extracts, amino acids, or other elements. We get most of our nutrients from the foods we eat, but sometimes that is not enough.
For instance, vegans need to take B-12 vitamins because they do not get enough of it from the foods they eat, those with lactose intolerance frequently need to take a calcium supplement because they do not eat dairy products. Athletes also need supplements to help protect their muscles and joints from injury. A few supplements even claim to help sickness and disease, such as the common cold. Taking a vitamin C supplement does not cure you from a cold you already have, but consistently taking it will lessen the intensity and duration of the colds you do get.
Allergies and the Immune System
Allergies happen when your immune system overreacts and attacks a normally harmless material, like pollen, foods, or animal hair. This material or substance that causes an immune reaction in some people is called an allergen. When exposed to that allergen the immune system produces an antibody called lgE to bind the allergen, and then it attaches to a specific kind of blood cell called a mast cell. These mast cells then release chemicals (for example, histamine) into the blood stream, which is the cause of most the symptoms of allergies such as a runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, or hives.
The most effect way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen. However, while that does a great deal in helping, you cannot always avoid an allergen. So then what do you do? One option for you are medications and shots that you can get a prescription for, but while they are very effective, they can also become awfully expensive when you need them for a long period of time. Certain drugs can also make you feel dizzy, listless, wired, or just downright funky. Are those side effects worth not sneezing?
There is also the fear of the effect that these synthetic drugs will have on your body over time. If you do not want to mess with these drugs, or at least not take as much of them, another good option that is becoming more popular recently is the use of dietary supplements to help with the symptoms of allergies.
How can supplements help?
Some supplements can act just like a drug, blocking those chemical reactions let off by the mast cells. Supplements also have slim to no side effects, which is great for who need to be non-drowsy for work, or just hate feeling drugged. Supplements can also support and strengthen your immune system, reinforcing it and helping it remove bad pathogens, and reducing the intensity of your allergic reaction as well.
While prescription drugs are highly effective, some people can stop taking them completely with the right supplement. Other people can cut down on the prescriptions and balance out the remainder with supplements. Just be careful when trying out new supplements because taking the wrong kind could trigger your allergies. Research beforehand what kind of supplements do what, and if necessary, consult an herbalist, a naturopathic physician, or another expert in the field.
After you take care of yourself, do not forget your animal friends! There are supplements for cats and dogs, as well as horse supplements, to help with their allergies too!
Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long distance running and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch.