A natural therapy to address the rising incidence of allergic rhinitis.
THE rise in the prevalence of allergic diseases has continued unabated in industrialised nations for more than 50 years. Allergies can have many clinical presentations, including atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema), allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, urticaria (hives) and asthma.
In Malaysia, researchers have found that the most common allergy triggers are house dust mites and pollution.
Another study using a skin prick test by researchers at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia revealed that the most common food allergens in order of frequency were prawns, crab, wheat, squid, cockles, chicken, rice, soya, milk and egg.
Allergies tend to run in families, although 23% of individuals without any familial disposition also develop allergies.
Allergic rhinitis (AR) is one of the most common types of allergic conditions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates show that AR affects about 10-30% of people worldwide, or approximately 400 million people.
AR affects people from all countries, all ethnic groups, and all ages. It is a symptomatic inflammatory disorder of the nose involving three cardinal symptoms – sneezing, nasal obstruction and mucous discharge.
AR imposes significant morbidity and markedly affects the quality of life of affected individuals and their families. Their noses become easily blocked and inflamed upon exposure to allergens. This in turn can lead to sinusitis.
Doctors often refer to sinusitis as rhinosinusitis, because an inflammation of the sinuses nearly always occurs simultaneously with inflammation of the nose (rhinitis).
People with sinusitis may report facial congestion, headaches and ear aches too. Sleep is compromised, whilst daytime hours are spent trying to combat sleepiness.
The greatest burden lies on children. They may have learning difficulties from their allergy symptoms. Children with rhinitis are also more likely to breath through their mouths, which may lead to facial and teeth development problems.
In more serious cases of chronic nasal allergies, nasal polyps may result. These are abnormal growths inside the nasal passages and sinuses. They appear to occur as a result of inflammation (redness and swelling) triggered by allergies.
Research shows that those with AR are also at high risk of developing asthma. A close relationship exists between the two conditions, where they are believed to be manifestations of the same disease.
Allergic rhinitis often precedes the onset of clinical asthma, and one in three people with allergic rhinitis will go on to develop asthma.
For decades, antihistamines have been the mainstay treatment for managing the symptoms of allergies.
More recently, leukotriene inhibitors such as montelukast have proved popular, and have even been described as a “lung vitamin”.
However, in April 2013, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reminded health professionals to be aware of the possibility of multiple neuropsychiatric adverse events in children and adults using montelukast.
These adverse drug reactions should not be taken lightly, especially as these drugs are widely prescribed to young children. Patients who experience such reactions should immediately alert their doctors for further advice.
The basis of allergic reactions stem from an over-reactive immune system. In this over-sensitive state, the immune system simply flares up upon exposure to even harmless allergens present in the environment, be it in air or in food. Biochemically, histamine is released, leading to typical allergy symptoms, hence, the use of antihistamines.
Dr Silva Pecanic, a researcher from Croatia, was recently in Malaysia to speak to medical professionals about a patented natural extract from the herb Astragalus membranaceus, found to have immune-modulating actions useful in controlling allergies.
This clinical study headed by Dr Pecanic was conducted at the Ruder Boskovic Institute in Croatia and was published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010.
“In our studies, the treatment resulted in an overall improvement of allergic rhinitis by over 70%, as evaluated by the physician and patient after at least six weeks of treatment. We went further by conducting gene studies and found that the treatment displayed immune-regulating effects.”
The patented astragalus extract is complemented with a special calcium mineral carrier technology, which helps enhance absorption. It works differently from antihistamines as it is able to help prevent the onset of new allergies with the potential to interfere with the natural course of the disease.
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