Spring is upon us, which is almost always a good thing. Of course, one of the few drawbacks of this time of year for many people is allergy season. Indeed, while spring means blossoming flowers and lush greenery once more, it induces tons of sniffles and sneezes as well.
Interestingly, a new study out of Japan has uncovered an unconventional way to reduce allergy symptoms. Researchers from Osaka City University say allergy symptoms are intrinsically linked to a specific stress hormone. In simpler terms, lower your daily stress levels and your allergy symptoms will become less frequent and intense. Conversely, allergy symptoms may intensify on especially stressful days.
“In my daily practice, I meet many patients with allergies who say their symptoms worsened due to psychological stress,” says lead researcher Mika Yamanaka-Takaichi, a graduate student in the Department of Dermatology, Osaka City University. “This is what led me to do this research.”
Look, no one needed an extra reason to try and cut down on stress. Excessive stress has become an unsettlingly common complaint of daily life in the modern world, and it’s safe to say most people have felt some extra stress over the past 12 months. We’ve been, and still are, living through historic and unpredictable times.
So, no one is saying it’s easy to reduce stress levels. Many people spend their entire adult lives in pursuit of an effective way to mellow out. Still, these findings are worth keeping in mind for people who deal with particularly annoying and cumbersome allergy symptoms.
If allergy medications and other approaches haven’t helped much, perhaps turning your attention toward stress-relieving activities like meditation or daily exercise may be worth a try. Worst case scenario, you’ll still have a congested nose, but at least you’ll be more relaxed.
Let’s dive into the more technical and scientific aspects of this research for a moment. The team at OCU says the corticotropin-releasing stress hormone (CRH) is directly “tied” to the human body’s allergic reactions. When more of the CRH stress hormone is released, it causes the proliferation and increased activity of mast cells (MC). Mast cells are known to play a role in the development of nasal allergies.
When the study authors added some CRH to a nasal polyp organ culture in a lab setting, the number of MC cells increased dramatically. Besides just quantity, MC proliferation and degranulation also increased significantly, as well as the rate of stem cell factor (SCF) expression (considered another growth factor for MC).
The above paragraph contains a lot of scientific jargon, but all it’s saying is that the research team gathered tangible evidence that more stress can lead to more nasal allergy symptoms.
Experiments were also conducted with living mice. Again, more stress led to more mast cells in the nasal mucosa of the rodents. Notably, adding a CRHR1 inhibitor called antalarmin appeared to curb MC production in response to stress.
“We saw the effect of CRH on mast cells blocked by CRHR1 gene knockdown, CRHR1 inhibitors, or an addition of SCF neutralizing antibodies,” adds Dr. Yamanaka-Takaichi. “In addition to understanding the effects stress has on our allergies, we have also found promising therapeutic potential in candidates like antalarmin. And this is wonderful news for my patients.”
The full study can be found here, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.