Earl Mindell's Allergy Bible
By Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D.
Out of the hundreds of supplements on the market, I have picked the Hot 55 Antiallergy Supplements, which I consider to be the most helpful for people with allergic conditions. I am not suggesting that everyone should take all fifty-five! Some of you may do well taking a select few, others may find that your symptoms are best controlled when you take a combination formula containing up to a dozen or so supplements. Regardless of how many supplements you take, I feel that it's critical that you understand what you are taking, how to take it correctly, and why you are taking it. In my experience, if you don't know why you're doing what you are doing, you are less likely to be vigilant about taking your supplements.
Unlike conventional medicine, the natural approach to allergy control is to tackle the underlying cause of the problem, not simply to mask the symptoms with a strong drug. As you read over the description of each of the top antiallergy supplements, you will see the ingenious way in which supplements work. Many supplements have a direct effect on allergic symptoms, and are kinder and gentler versions of the antihistamines sold over the counter and by prescription. Very often, they have far fewer side effects than stronger drugs. But the power of the antiallergy supplements goes way beyond symptom relief - they are powerful health enhancers. For example, many supplements are antioxidants, which are natural compounds that protect us from free radicals, chemicals produced by the body as a by-product of energy production that can aggravate allergy and asthma. In fact, high levels of free radicals and low levels of antioxidants are common among asthmatics as well as people with other chronic illnesses. Other supplements have natural anti-inflammatory action. Inflammation, a by-product of allergy, can not only worsen your symptoms, but can be very harmful to your lungs and other organ systems of the body. Still other supplements normalize immune function, making it less likely that you will develop allergies in the first place.
And the best part is, unlike drugs that have endless negative side effects, most of the supplements I have selected have significant positive side benefits. They are not only good for allergy control, but many also help protect against other common diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
In the section below, I will answer some basic questions about the Hot 55 Antiallergy Supplements so that you can become a knowledgeable supplement consumer.
What is a nutritional supplement?
A nutritional supplement is a nonfood nutrient used to enhance health. It is not a substitute for a good diet, but it can help fill in the gaps if you are not eating as carefully as you should. There are several different categories of supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, herbal extracts (chemical compounds derived from herbs), phytochemicals, enzymes, and amino acids. Individual supplements can be sold separately, or can be combined in formulas designed to treat specific medical needs, such as formulas to relieve allergy symptoms, strengthen immune function, or improve joint health.
A vitamin is an organic substance necessary for life that is not produced by the body and must be obtained through food or supplements. There are two kinds of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin C and the B vitamins) are not stored in the body and excess intake is excreted in urine. Water-soluble vitamins are measured in micrograms (mcg) or milligrams (mg). Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in fat deposits in the body. They are measured in IU, international units, with the exception of vitamin A, which is sometimes measured in RE, retinol units.
A mineral is a naturally occurring element found in the body that must be replenished through food or supplements. There are two types of minerals, trace minerals (you only need a minuscule quantity to survive) and essential minerals (you may need several grams a day). Trace minerals are measured in mcg, essential minerals are measured in mg or grams.
An herb refers to any plant or plant pan (stem, leaf, fruit, root) that is used for its medicinal qualities. Although many natural food stores still sell loose, dried herbs that can be brewed into tea, in most cases, herbs are now sold in capsules, pills, and easy-to-use liquids. Most herbs contain one or more active ingredients that are responsible for their beneficial effects. In many cases, these ingredients are now sold separately as supplements in their own right. Like vitamins and minerals, herbs are measured in mcg, mg, or grams. In some cases, however, you may be instructed to take one or two capsules as opposed to a specific amount. Why? Herbal medicine is an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years. Although in recent years there have been many studies validating the science behind herbs, the fact is, herbal medicine is not an exact science. The dosing of herbs is often not as precise as the dosing of vitamins and minerals. This isn't surprising-in the old days, herbalists used to prescribe a cup of tea, or a few ounces of extract derived from a cooked root. They did not dose to the nearest mg, nor they did they need to. Most (certainly not all!) herbs are benign substances, and taking a bit more than you need is not going to harm you. In many cases, since the content of the active ingredients in plants vary from soil to soil, it was impossible to predict the precise amount of herb needed for the desired effect. Thanks to scientific methods, today, it is possible to buy standardized herbs with guaranteed potency, meaning you are getting enough of the active ingredient in the plant to be helpful.