Allergy Relief with Testing & Targeted Therapies
Many are surprised to learn that your allergy symptoms are actually formed as an immune response! What was designed to help and heal, can cause immense discomfort and even life-threatening symptoms. This overly aggressive response occurs to everyday exposures such as foods, inhaled or touched substances.
One of the most common allergy responses seen is hay fever, which can cause sneezing, itchy runny or stuffy nose, itchy watery eyes, and headache. Not an optimal way to experience your spring, or for some daily life.
Our Naturopathic approach to allergy treatment includes starting with identifying your allergies. We can work with testing done by any allergist, and also do environmental scratch testing on-site, as well as blood IgE testing when indicated. When possible, the best approach to any allergy treatment plan is avoidance, thus identification is key.
All that said, we certainly do not want you to avoid nature. Calming an overactive immune response can involve work starting from basic gut health, reducing overall allergy exposures including food sensitivities, and ensuring optimal nutrition status. Reducing stressors to the body can involve improving sleep and emotional health, as well as overall health. With this in mind, it is a targeted, whole person approach to emotional and physical health that underlies any allergy treatment.
Our clinic uses sub-lingual immunotherapy (SLIT) to help desensitize against environmental allergies, as well as botanical and nutrient therapies to support the immune system and gut health. There are also targeted therapies for where your symptoms bother you most – from skin to lungs, respiratory to gastrointestinal health.
What is SLIT?
SLIT is a natural allergy treatment that reduces symptoms by addressing the underlying cause of allergy. Small doses of the offending allergen(s) are given to the patient, which increases immune tolerance to these allergens over time. Anti-histamines and other rescue medications only treat the symptoms of allergy, but SLIT desensitizes the body so that it’s not allergic in the first place.
There are many benefits to SLIT including an excellent safety and efficacy profile, easy compliance (once daily dosing), reduced time spent in the doctor’s office and decreased need for additional allergy medications. SLIT can lead to improved quality of life with fewer sick days away from school or work, better sleep and a reduction in allergy symptoms.
SLIT is a patient specific custom compounded product that is made to suit each patient’s individual requirements. It is a natural treatment for allergies caused by:
Treatment with SLIT may be pre-seasonal (annual treatment starting 30-60 days prior to pollen season and continuing to the end of pollen season) or year round for 2-5 years. A decrease in allergy symptoms is expected within 30-60 days of starting SLIT. Research shows that year round treatment for 2-5 years results in desensitization and permanent symptom relief!
There are over 60 clinical trials proving efficacy of SLIT and it has endorsements from the World Health Organization, the World Allergy Organization and the Cochrane Collaboration. SLIT is an effective natural allergy treatment proven to be safe and well tolerated.
How does SLIT work?
SLIT is given as daily sublingual drops (under the tongue). These drops are made up of glycerin (a stabilizing solution) and small concentrates of the offending allergen(s). Research shows that when an allergen is presented this way, the immune system learns to tolerate the allergen over time. This results in less allergy symptoms when the body is exposed to the real allergy source like airborne pollen, mould or pet dander.
What is the difference between SLIT and allergy shots (aka Subcutaneous Immunotherapy or SCIT)?
SLIT is similar to allergy shots in that it directly affects the body’s ability to interact with allergens. However, allergy shots need to be given in the physician’s office on a weekly basis, which results in many patients discontinuing treatment due to inconvenience. SLIT is a great alternative to allergy shots because it is an effective natural allergy treatment that requires fewer clinic visits, no injections and less time away from school or work.
Are there any side effects?
There are rarely any side effects, but the most common side effect is a mild, local irritation in the mouth and under the tongue. If these symptoms persist or worsen, contact your doctor at the Centre for Natural Medicine in Calgary.
Who can use SLIT?
SLIT can be used as a natural allergy treatment in patients with persistent symptoms of allergies, those that don’t respond well to other allergy treatments and those willing to take daily sublingual therapy for months to years.
Who should not use SLIT?
SLIT is not recommended in children under the age of 3.
When should I start my SLIT treatment?
If you are using SLIT as a pre-seasonal treatment, your treatment should begin 4-8 weeks before pollen season. See below for pollen seasons in the Prairies:
As an example, pre-seasonal treatment for tree pollen allergies should begin in early January or February since the tree pollen season begins in March.
If you are using SLIT as a year round treatment, your treatment may begin at anytime.
Also, there is no season for cat, dog, dust-mite or mould allergies, so treatment may begin at anytime.
What to expect during your initial visits?
Prior to treatment with SLIT, an accurate diagnosis will be obtained based on your health history and IgE skin scratch test results. The skin scratch test is performed in our Calgary office and results are read after a 15-20 minute waiting period. You must wait an additional 15 minutes after the results are read until you can be discharged from the clinic. If SLIT is deemed an appropriate allergy treatment, your custom compounded drops are then ordered and a follow-up appointment is booked 2-4 weeks later.
Once the drops arrive, the first dose of SLIT is taken in office and you’re monitored for 15-30 minutes. Following this initial dose in our Calgary office, you can take all subsequent doses in the comfort of your own home. A follow-up appointment is booked about 5 weeks after starting treatment to ensure everything is going well.
Following dosage increases, some patients may experience a slight worsening of symptoms, mild oral itching/swelling or gastrointestinal complaints, but these symptoms should subside within 2-3 days. If you experience mouth, throat, chest or abdominal discomfort, or have hives, itching or shortness of breath, you should not take any further doses until consulting with your naturopathic doctor at the Centre for Natural Medicine in Calgary.
How does the IgE Allergy Scratch Test work?
An allergy scratch test is one of the most common methods of IgE allergy testing and it helps to provide an accurate diagnosis in order to treat your specific offending allergen(s). In order to get an accurate result, anti-histamines must be stopped at least 72 hours prior to testing. The test involves placing a small amount of the suspected allergens on the skin and scratching/pricking the skin to introduce the allergen under the skin surface (this feels like a small scratch). The skin is then watched closely for signs of a reaction. A positive reaction usually results in redness and swelling, and sometimes you may feel itchy or irritated in the immediate area of the test – if this occurs, it’ll subside within an hour or so. Many suspected allergens can be tested at one time and results are usually obtained within 20 minutes. Allergy scratch tests are safe procedures however there is a remote possibility of an adverse allergic reaction.
IgE is a class of antibody that is produced by the body against allergens and it is responsible for eliciting allergic symptoms. Individuals that are highly allergic to an allergen will have more IgE present under the skin than those only mildly allergic, so results will vary depending on the severity of allergy. Those that do not have allergies do not produce the allergen specific IgE being tested so the skin scratch test will show a negative result.
Once the offending allergies are clearly diagnosed the appropriate treatment regimen can begin, which may include SLIT as a natural allergy treatment option.