This year Allergy UK is focussing on “Air Quality: The Allergens around us” as their topic for 2019 Allergy Awareness week. We are so used to talking about hay fever and food allergies that it’s easy to overlook the impact that indoor air has on our allergy profile.
Indoor Air Quality
Everyday an adult breathes in 15 metres of cubic air and a staggering 900 compounds, known to be harmful to health, have been identified in indoor air. These compounds include pollutants from sources such as building materials, furnishings and cleaning products which is particularly problematic for people suffering from airborne allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to Allergy UK good indoor air quality is crucial for human health and particularly important for vulnerable groups - babies, children, the elderly, as well as people living with respiratory and allergic diseases.
Since we now spend on average 90% of our time indoors it’s important to consider the quality of the air that you breathe in your home, working and social environments. Poor ventilation, dampness or humidity can lead to an increase in dust mites, spores and mould which may be responsible for aggravating or even causing allergies. To highlight just how important your air quality is – it’s estimated that “A minimum of 9,000 deaths every year are attributed to indoor air pollution in the UK and indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-10 times higher than outdoor levels”
Why is the quality of our indoor air so important? For many us of the air we breathe doesn’t trigger any alarming immediate consequences, but for those suffering from an allergy, indoor air pollutants can trigger a cascade of debilitating symptoms from sneezing, itchy and runny nose and eyes to a more serious swelling of the airways and difficulty breathing. Common airborne allergens include
- Animal fur
- Dust mites and dust mite faeces
- Bacteria, moulds and spores
- Chemicals found in paints, carpets, perfumes, plastics, plants, cleaning products
It’s estimated that 20% of the population in the UK suffer from an allergy and 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma. In fact, the UK has the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, so it’s time for the UK to clean up its act and freshen-up the quality of our indoor air.
7 ways to improve indoor air quality
- Open windows daily to improve ventilation and freshen up your air supply and consider installing an air purifier to help remove harmful chemicals, smoke, dust mites, moulds, spores, latex, animal fur, bacteria and pollen.
- Invest in some anti-dust mite bedding (mattress, duvet and pillow protectors) and consider buying an anti-bacterial vacuum which uses UV technology to eliminate bacteria and dust mites from bedding.
- Remover carpets and replace with wooden or tiled floors to reduce dust mites and animal fur and invest in a hoover that is allergy approved and removes pet fur, dust mites, pollen and bacteria.
- Invest in a good dehumidifier, especially if you dry your clothes indoors, reducing the air humidity helps to reduce the growth of mould and reduces circulating mould spores.
- Switch chemical-based cleaning products for eco-friendly and bio-degradable cleaning products and eco cloths.
- Choose chemical-free paints and varnishes for home decorating to help reduce the toxic load.
- Switch to fragrance-free beauty products or natural/organic fragrances and swap chemical-based aerosol products (deodorants, body sprays, hairsprays) to natural alternatives or non-aerosol versions.
What exactly is an allergy?
An allergy is a reaction that occurs within the body when a substance that is perceived to be harmful makes contact with one of the surfaces of the body – skin, mouth, nasal passage, throat, lungs, stomach or intestine. It’s special immune cells (antibodies) that patrol the surfaces of the body looking for harmful substances and then release hormone-like chemicals (histamine) to ‘raise the alarm’ that the body is under threat. The immune cells activate a ‘swelling’ response to seal off the contaminated area and contain the harmful substance, minimising the threat to the rest of the body. Excess mucus or fluid is produced to help wash away the harmful substance or coughing and sneezing occurs in an attempt to expel the harmful substance from the airways. The natural hormone-like chemicals used in this immune response tend to cause irritation and damage to neighbouring cells which is why an allergic reaction often includes redness, itching, soreness and discomfort.
The problem with allergies is that the body has become somewhat confused. Yes, there are lots of truly hazardous substances that we do need to be alerted to but pollen, animal fur and dust mites should not be on the list of potential threat list! One way to help dampen down the uncomfortable swelling, itching and irritation is to focus on ways to switch off or at least dampen down the release of histamine. Vitamin C has been nicknamed nature’s natural anti-histamine and foods rich in vitamin C include berries, goji berries, acai, parsley, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. When it comes to supplements its liposomal vitamin C that scores a gold medal for speedy absorption and entry into the bloodstream where it can start to support healthy antibody function and help balance out the allergic response. Liposomal glutathione is another handy supplement if you suffer from allergies. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant which helps to recharge vitamin C and also helps reduce the oxidative damage caused by the inflammatory response, helping to protect cells in the surrounding area. Research also shows that glutathione is an important nutrient for protecting lung cells. As with vitamin C, it’s the liposomal form of this nutrient that is important. The Altrient Glutathione contains a trademarked form of glutathione called Setria which is a powerful tripeptide (glutamate, cysteine and glycine) produced by a fermentation process that delivers superior absorption and bioavailability.
Dietary advice for allergies
The best dietary strategy for allergy sufferers is to reduce sugary foods, dairy products and red meat as these food help to fuel the inflammatory process. Focus of foods rich in antioxidants such as colourful fruits, berries and vegetables and the omega fats (nuts, seeds, oily fish) which help promote the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins to help support a healthy immune system.
By Susie Debice BSc Hons, DipION, Food Scientist and Nutritional Therapist
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