Allergies are caused by a stressor, or antigen, overstimulating the body’s immune system resulting in unwanted reactions. Evidence supports the use of some supplements to generally suppress this response and reduce the body’s reaction. Genetics and the environment both play a role in the development of allergic diseases, such as food allergies.
Last Updated: August 17 2022
Allergies are common and chronic conditions that are intertwined with immune system function. The immune system is the body’s defense network, which normally fights off unwanted invaders like viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents. During most allergic reactions, the immune system is responding to a false alarm and treats a generally harmless substance, like pollen, as a threat.
There are different types of allergies, including asthma, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies, but it is not uncommon for people who have allergies to be sensitive to more than one stressor.
The causes of allergies are complex, as both genetics and environmental factors contribute to their development. If you have a family history of allergies, you have an increased risk of developing allergies, but that does not mean you will develop them.
Allergic reactions can be caused by:
- Contact (foods, latex, poisonous plants)
- Injection (insect bites and stings)
- Ingestion (drugs, foods, supplements)
- Inhalation (dust, mold, pet dander, smoke, pollen)
Allergies can manifest in many ways, including asthma, itching, rashes, runny nose, sneezing, and swelling, and in varying degrees of severity, from mild irritation to anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction requiring immediate medical treatment.
The way allergies manifest depends on the exposure pathway, as shown below.
Skin exposure: hives, rash, itching, blistering
Symptoms can vary widely, depending on the insect. Reactions can range from redness, general pain, swelling, and itching, to severe chest pain, throat swelling, and rash.
Food exposure: Upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, metallic taste, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, trouble breathing, hives, tingling, itching, redness.
Sinus irritation, stuffiness, itching, cough, mucus.
An allergy treatment plan will vary based on allergy type and severity, but commonly includes medicines (antihistamines, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, allergy shots, nasal sprays, creams, and eye drops), avoiding the allergen, and lifestyle changes.
People who are at high risk of anaphylactic shock should take additional precautions, such as carrying epinephrine at all times. Consider discussing a specific treatment plan with your physician.
The table below displays an analysis of human studies and indicates which supplements may or may not affect allergies. While there is no cure-all supplement, some may aid in allergy control or symptom relief.