Originally Published In 2015 August/September Issue Of Holistic Horse Magazine.
For those suffering from allergies, seasonal symptoms return like clockwork and seem to get worse year after year. Little explanation is needed as to how they affect us or our animals.
How to fix them is another problem entirely.
Having been a traditional practitioner for many years and now holistic, I understand both sides of the coin. Through the years I have found the holistic approach produces results that are tremendous and long lasting.
With traditional allergy treatment, typically a drug of one kind or another is prescribed, anything from an antihistamine to a steroid. Based on allergy tests, desensitization, medication or injections may be offered for treatment.
In my experience, these medications or drugs give only temporary relief. Even allergy testing is questionable. Test results come back with allergens such as mold, pollen and dust that can’t possibly be avoided.
THE PREFERRED DIET
For horses, it is actually easy to utilize an elimination-type testing diet. Just changing from commercially bagged feeds to oats can make a huge difference. A study from the University of Kentucky confirms what I have been saying for decades: oats are the preferred diet for any horse, for any reason. The study confirmed that they are the least likely grain to cause colic, and even the starch is better handled than starch from any other grain.
Consistency of the feed is especially important for allergies. Oats simply don’t change from one batch to the next like commercially prepared feeds. I suggest them for every horse, even those that have metabolic issues like laminitis or insulin resistance.
THE NEED FOR SUPPLEMENTS
Allergy sufferers need nutrients – minerals, vitamins, good fats and more. For horses and pets, oats, like any other feed grain or pet food, must be supplemented. Our soils in which grains are grown and where food animals graze on grasses are deficient in nutrients; thus the grain and animals are both deficient. Supplements must be added to make feeds complete regardless of whether they are oats, grain or bagged commercial feed.
Major support for the immune system can best be accomplished with supplements containing Echinacea, probiotics, prebiotics, garlic, citrus bioflavonoids, and astragalus. My favorites, grape seed and arabinogalactan, are tremendous. Such ingredients have multiple modes of action but can be described as immune modulators. They boost the immune system and/or, in the case of allergies, desensitize it.
For any allergy it is also important to look at the immune system as a whole. A hyper sensitized immune system is synonymous with allergy. It can present itself through skin reactions such as rashes, itching, and hives. In animals, such situations can be so itchy that self-mutilation through scratching is not uncommon.
By the time symptoms of allergies are apparent, the body is in a “discharge” mode. In other words, the body is trying to get rid of something. This may be through the apparent skin reactions, sneezing, runny eyes, or through more frequent than usual bowel movements. The best way to help discharge and get rid of unwanted antigens is with antioxidants which work at the cellular level to detox. Traditionally antioxidants are just vitamin E and vitamin C. However, grape seed alone is very beneficial in providing a more natural and higher source of both.
Many plant oils are good sources of natural vitamin E. In horses I prefer cold processed, crude, unrefined soybean oil that is GMO free. Chia seed, fish and coconut oil are good for pets, horses and people.
Any situation involving the skin needs fatty acids. Although a combined complex of omega 6 and omega 3 is preferred, it is Omega 6 is that actually helps the skin retain softness, and though often considered to cause inflammation, actually helps prevent it just like Omega 3. Omega fatty acid oils often help ease skin irritation when applied topically, especially coconut and chia. I have seen the latter stop itching in its tracks and I have seen coconut oil, applied topically, even halt skin tumors, especially when mixed with turmeric (curcuminoids).
In addition to antioxidants, and especially with regards to discharging, liver support is critical. I like to compare the liver to a fuel filter used in cars. The liver, like a car fuel filter, removes “junk.” When the liver is full, the junk overflows through the gall bladder and bile and into the gut. When the gall bladder and liver are full, the junk discharges through the skin, lungs, blood, etc.
By the time one sees anything with regards to skin or lungs or, heaven forbid, blood (auto-immune), the allergy is already advanced. Quercetin, milk thistle (silymarin), methionine, licorice, and turmeric (curcuminoids) are supplements that support the liver and immune systems. Aloe, chia seed and sometimes psyllium husk are good at physically cleaning the gut so the liver doesn’t have to work as hard.
DETOXING THE GUT
Leaving food lying around in the gut can cause “leakage” of particles. This leaking is where the first recognition of a foreign or unusual substance (allergen) occurs. The bacteria in the gut, and the bile juices from the liver and gall bladder, all help along the way. Added enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics support good bacteria and decrease bad. Herbs like ginger and astragalus help with inflammation, and montmorillonite and bentonite clays are critical for detoxing and providing nutrients and minerals not found elsewhere.
SUPPRESSING THE PROBLEM
The body is an amazing self-correcting machine as long as we don’t interfere and confuse it. Often times, the more we interfere, especially with medications, the more the body has to handle and later get rid of.
Almost any medication or drug for an allergy will cause a suppressive effect. The immediate symptoms may go away but the problem is still present, worse and reoccurring. Providing nutrition through vitamins, minerals, herbs, oils and more natural substances is definitely better and far more lasting, in my experience.
Less exposure to begin with through healthier diets, over the long haul, can fix most health problems, allergy or otherwise. Supporting the immune system, supplementation and helping the body discharge rather than interfering can hasten the recovery of allergies.