Allergies From Stress

Stress allergies

Ever wonder why your seasonal allergies vary in intensity from year to year? What makes them so much worse this year compared to last season? It’s not as simple as environmental fluctuations that change how plants bloom. Your immune reactions against otherwise harmless things like pollen fluctuate and adapt according to what else is happening in your body. And unlike the growing season, your body’s reaction to this environmental stressor is one thing you have more control over than traditionally considered.

Allergy symptoms involve the release of an inflammatory chemical by your cells, called histamine. Most over-the-counter allergy medications are “anti-histamines” that block the inflammatory action of this hormone in your body. However, your body is already equipped with its own anti-inflammatory hormone called cortisol. It’s the hormone that stops a small injury like a twisted ankle or mosquito bite from swelling excessively. Many people with chronic allergies have low cortisol levels. This means that people with chronic allergies may have less capacity than others to inhibit inflammatory histamine reactions against pollens or other allergens.


Chronic Stress can Cause Allergies

Cortisol affects and is affected by many other hormones, including thyroid hormones, blood sugar regulating hormones (e.g. insulin), and estrogen. Our thyroid gland health, dietary habits, and sex hormone balance therefore impact allergy symptoms. However, one of the most significant causes of reduced cortisol levels is chronic stress. Stress, whether emotional, environmental, or physical, and when experienced over a long period of time, shifts the body into a different biochemical state that includes inflammation. Our bodies may respond to the increased inflammation with cortisol, our natural anti-inflammatory hormone, but long-term production of high amounts of this hormone can be exhausting. Over time, cortisol levels can decline and be experienced as “burnout”.


Block Histamine? Or Support Cortisol?

One medical approach to treating chronic allergies is to block the immune response, such as with an anti-histamine drug like Reactine. A more integrative approach includes supporting the body’s production of cortisol. We want to ask questions like: “Is the body’s production of cortisol low and if so, why?” “If cortisol levels are adequate, then is the problem about where the cortisol is going or how it’s being used in the body?” By supporting the parts of the body responsible for cortisol production and management, you come closer to addressing the source of the problem. And by addressing chronic stress directly, such as with mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or heartmath, we address healing on many levels, including underlying causes of allergies.

allergies, Naturopathic medicine, stress

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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We respectfully acknowledge that Kingston Integrated Healthcare is situated on ancestral Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Since time immemorial they have cared for these lands and waters, and we are grateful. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to the wellbeing of all people and all life.

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