Q: I am badly allergic to a friend’s cat.

I don’t have pets myself, but whenever I visit her house I have to limit my stay to a couple of hours. I also have mild asthma and am allergic to dust and have hayfever. I take an anti-histimine before I arrive and also use a nasal spray. Is there a more natural and long term solution that might help my body to stop over reacting to allergens? Wellbeing reader, Hastings

Cat allergies are often a sign of an unbalanced immune system, with a heightened level of pro-inflammatory (Th2) cytokines (chemical messengers) sensitizing it to common allergens. Raised levels of Th2 cytokines are also seen in several other common conditions, including asthma. One of the most effective categories of natural product for helping rebalance the immune system is mushrooms, specifically mushroom polysaccharides (beta-glucans and related compounds) that form a large part of their cell walls and which have been the subject of large scale clinical trials in relation to their potential in cancer therapy (for which they are licensed in the Far East). Their impact on the immune system is complex but broadly they promote a shift away from a Th2 dominant immune state. Although all mushrooms contain such polysaccharides, for allergy sufferers I usually suggest Reishi, which as well as polysaccharides contains high levels of triterpenes with anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine activity. It thus addresses both the symptoms and the underlying cause of the condition. Try to find a good Reishi supplement with high levels of polysaccharides and triterpenes, taking a high dose for an initial 2 weeks and then a lower maintenance dose, increasing on visits to your friend if you are still getting symptoms. Martin Powell, (BSc.(Hons), Dip.Ac, Dip.CHM, MRCHM)

Find out more…

Martin Powell is a partner in Seahaven Acupuncture Clinic and Herbal Dispensary and the author of Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide. To Find Out More – You can contact Martin on 01273 917888 | martin @seahavenherbs.co.uk | www.mycotherapy.co.uk

Read more about the latest clinical trials in the article ‘Management of histamine-mediated allergic responses’ available at here.

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