Allergies are caused by a stressor, or antigen, overstimulating the body’s immune system resulting in unwanted reactions. Evidence supports the use of some supplements to generally suppress this response and reduce the body’s reaction. Genetics and the environment both play a role in the development of allergic diseases, such as food allergies.
Last Updated:August 17, 2022
Allergies are common and chronic conditions that are intertwined with immune system function. The immune system is the body’s defense network, which normally fights off unwanted invaders like viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents. During most allergic reactions, the immune system is responding to a false alarm and treats a generally harmless substance, like pollen, as a threat.
There are different types of allergies, including asthma, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies, but it is not uncommon for people who have allergies to be sensitive to more than one stressor.
The causes of allergies are complex, as both genetics and environmental factors contribute to their development. If you have a family history of allergies, you have an increased risk of developing allergies, but that does not mean you will develop them.
Allergic reactions can be caused by:
- Contact (foods, latex, poisonous plants)
- Injection (insect bites and stings)
- Ingestion (drugs, foods, supplements)
- Inhalation (dust, mold, pet dander, smoke, pollen)
Allergies can manifest in many ways, including asthma, itching, rashes, runny nose, sneezing, and swelling, and in varying degrees of severity, from mild irritation to anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction requiring immediate medical treatment.
The way allergies manifest depends on the exposure pathway, as shown below.
|Contact||Skin exposure: hives, rash, itching, blistering
Eye and mouth exposure: redness, swelling, itching, tearing up of eyes
|Injection||Symptoms can vary widely, depending on the insect. Reactions can range from redness, general pain, swelling, and itching, to severe chest pain, throat swelling, and rash.|
|Ingestion||Food exposure: Upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, metallic taste, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, trouble breathing, hives, tingling, itching, redness.
Drug or supplement exposure: Symptoms can vary widely, but typically involve the whole body, resulting in chills, aches, nausea, etc.
|Inhalation||Sinus irritation, stuffiness, itching, cough, mucus.|
An allergy treatment plan will vary based on allergy type and severity, but commonly includes medicines (antihistamines, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, allergy shots, nasal sprays, creams, and eye drops), avoiding the allergen, and lifestyle changes.
People who are at high risk of anaphylactic shock should take additional precautions, such as carrying epinephrine at all times. Consider discussing a specific treatment plan with your physician.
The table below displays an analysis of human studies and indicates which supplements may or may not affect allergies. While there is no cure-all supplement, some may aid in allergy control or symptom relief.
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- ^The content of this page was partially adapted from MedlinePlus of the National Library of Medicine
- ^Stuart Carr, Edmond Chan, Elana Lavine, William MooteCSACI Position statement on the testing of food-specific IgGAllergy Asthma Clin Immunol.(2012 Jul 26)
- ^Steven O Stapel, R Asero, B K Ballmer-Weber, E F Knol, S Strobel, S Vieths, J Kleine-Tebbe, EAACI Task ForceTesting for IgG4 against foods is not recommended as a diagnostic tool: EAACI Task Force ReportAllergy.(2008 Jul)
- ^NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel, Joshua A Boyce, Amal Assa'ad, A Wesley Burks, Stacie M Jones, Hugh A Sampson, Robert A Wood, Marshall Plaut, Susan F Cooper, Matthew J Fenton, S Hasan Arshad, Sami L Bahna, Lisa A Beck, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Carlos A Camargo Jr, Lawrence Eichenfield, Glenn T Furuta, Jon M Hanifin, Carol Jones, Monica Kraft, Bruce D Levy, Phil Lieberman, Stefano Luccioli, Kathleen M McCall, Lynda C Schneider, Ronald A Simon, F Estelle R Simons, Stephen J Teach, Barbara P Yawn, Julie M SchwaningerGuidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panelJ Allergy Clin Immunol.(2010 Dec)
- ^S Allan BockAAAAI support of the EAACI Position Paper on IgG4J Allergy Clin Immunol.(2010 Jun)
- ^Elissa M Abrams, Scott H SichererDiagnosis and management of food allergyCMAJ.(2016 Oct 18)
- Spirulina - Morteza Nourollahian, Bashir Rasoulian, Attaallah Gafari, Majid Anoushiravani, Farahzad Jabari, Mehdi BakhshaeeClinical comparison of the efficacy of spirulina platensis and cetirizine for treatment of allergic rhinitisActa Otorhinolaryngol Ital.(2020 Jun)
- Black seed - Işik H, Cevikbaş A, Gürer US, Kiran B, Uresin Y, Rayaman P, Rayaman E, Gürbüz B, Büyüköztürk SPotential adjuvant effects of Nigella sativa seeds to improve specific immunotherapy in allergic rhinitis patientsMed Princ Pract.(2010)
- Spirulina - Cingi C, Conk-Dalay M, Cakli H, Bal CThe effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitisEur Arch Otorhinolaryngol.(2008 Oct)
- Chinese sweet leaf - Yonekura S, Okamoto Y, Yamasaki K, Horiguchi S, Hanazawa T, Matsune S, Kurono Y, Yamada T, Fujieda S, Okano M, Okubo KA randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of ten-cha (Rubus suavissimus) on house dust mite allergic rhinitisAuris Nasus Larynx.(2011 Oct)
- Black seed - Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Aryani FH, Syahpoush A, Brougerdnya MG, Saki NHerbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativaAm J Otolaryngol.(2011 Sep-Oct)
- Stinging Nettle - Mittman PRandomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitisPlanta Med.(1990 Feb)
- Royal Jelly - Andersen AH, Mortensen S, Agertoft L, Pedersen SDouble-blind randomized trial of the effect of Bidro on hay fever in childrenUgeskr Laeger.(2005 Sep 19)
- Guduchi - Badar VA, Thawani VR, Wakode PT, Shrivastava MP, Gharpure KJ, Hingorani LL, Khiyani RMEfficacy of Tinospora cordifolia in allergic rhinitisJ Ethnopharmacol.(2005 Jan 15)
- Black seed - Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh HThe possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patientsFundam Clin Pharmacol.(2007 Oct)
- Rosmarinic Acid - Takano H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, Yanagisawa R, Inoue K, Yasuda A, Natsume M, Baba S, Ichiishi E, Yoshikawa TExtract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humansExp Biol Med (Maywood).(2004 Mar)
- Black seed - Kalus U, Pruss A, Bystron J, Jurecka M, Smekalova A, Lichius JJ, Kiesewetter HEffect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseasesPhytother Res.(2003 Dec)
- MSM - Eleanor Barrager, Joseph R Veltmann Jr, Alexander G Schauss, Rebecca N SchillerA multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitisJ Altern Complement Med.(2002 Apr)