You may be familiar with the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other respiratory complaints associated with seasonal allergies. What you may not realize is that allergies — seasonal or otherwise — can also affect your digestive and cardiovascular health. That’s why Dr. Husna Baksh at Healthy Steps in Silver Spring, Maryland, work to resolve your allergy symptoms and treat the underlying dysfunction causing them. For long-lasting relief from allergies, call or contact Healthy Steps today via their convenient online scheduling service.

Allergies Q & A

What causes allergies?

A defect in your immune system is to blame. With this defect, your body identifies certain substances you inhale, ingest, or come in physical contact with as parasitic invaders. These falsely identified parasites, or allergens, include numerous environmental substances such as pollen, dust, animal dander, mold, and certain components in food.

When it detects what it thinks is an invader, your immune system overreacts and sends an army of antibodies to fight off the parasite. This causes the respiratory complaints, skin rashes, digestive issues, and other symptoms associated with allergies.

How do allergies affect digestive health?

Some foods, such as strawberries and peanuts, can cause severe allergic reactions — including anaphylactic shock — that need immediate medical care. Sometimes, however, food allergies result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating.

For instance, an allergy or even sensitivity to gluten (a component in some grains) can result in an immune response called celiac disease. This response causes inflammation of the lining of your small intestine that may leave you with significant abdominal symptoms and fatigue and eventually limit your intestine’s ability to absorb vital nutrients.

How can allergies affect my cardiovascular system?

Your body’s systems are all interconnected and maintain a careful balance when functioning normally. For instance, allergies are known to trigger asthma and may predispose you to other pulmonary issues such as chronic bronchitis. Because your heart relies heavily on normal lung function,  allergies may eventually cause issues such as right ventricular enlargement or heart failure. The stress that allergies place on your immune system overall also affects and may eventually weaken your heart muscle.

How do you treat allergies?

The first step in treating your allergies is identifying the substances your immune system objects to. The doctors at Healthy Steps recommend skin testing to determine what is causing your allergic symptoms. This is a painless test that takes about 15 minutes to complete.

On your skin, your doctor places minute amounts of the environmental substances (antigens) that most commonly trigger allergy symptoms. If you develop a small itchy bump or blister, you’re likely allergic to that antigen.

Once your doctor identifies your allergy, she may prescribe medications to help alleviate your symptoms. She may also recommend immunotherapy to essentially re-educate your immune system. This therapy uses small amounts of the allergen to desensitize your immune system to certain allergens so that it eventually ignores them. Immunotherapy may consist of periodic injections or drops placed under your tongue.