Functional Medicine Approaches to Ragweed Allergy

Functional Medicine and Allergies

Globally, allergies are on the rise. A recent study on European adults suggested that, just looking at ragweed allergies (not any other type of allergen), the number of affected adults is predicted to double in upcoming decades.1 What is behind this stunning rise, and how do you help patients with overactive immune systems?

Allergic rhinitis currently affects approximately 10­–30% of adults and up to 40% of children.2 Based on projected temperatures and seed dispersal patterns, a recent European study estimated that ragweed allergies will double in the next 25­–40 years.1 The authors also noted that other species of plants may result in other allergies, and that the changes would not be restricted to Europe.2

While antihistamines may offer some relief, other methods can actually reduce or reverse the underlying immune dysfunction. One approach is to consider the many factors that affect an individual’s predisposition to allergies and match treatments to potential triggers and causes. Factors that increase susceptibility to allergies include:

  • Dust in the home3
  • Exercise and physical activity levels4
  • Atopy5
  • Mold exposure5
  • Depression6
  • Thyroid disease6
  • Parental smoking5
  • Early-life antibiotics7

In one study, high levels of stress were also correlated with increased allergic rhinitis.6 Mites also contribute to allergic rhinitis, and can be present in food and/or the environment.8

Evaluating a patient’s Functional Medicine Timeline can help to target lifestyle interventions with the highest impact. Allergies reflect the state of the immune system, and they also affect patients’ ability to lead the lives they want. Addressing allergies and the many interlinked factors that build their severity is key to reducing their impact and improving health overall.

Join us at IFM’s Immune Advanced Practice Module (APM) to update your knowledge on the most important underlying antecedents, triggers, and mediators associated with immune dysfunction and inflammation, as well as treatments that go beyond blocking the histamine response. Expand your clinical approach to common conditions like allergic rhinitis, autoimmune conditions, atopy, and many others.

Register for the Immune APM


  1. Lake IR, Jones NR, Agnew M, et al. Climate change and future pollen allergy in Europe. Environ Health Perspect. 2017;125(3):385-391. doi:10.1289/EHP173.
  2. Wallace DV, Dykewicz MS, Bernstein DI, et al. The diagnosis and management of rhinitis: an updated practice parameter. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;122(2 Suppl):S1-S84. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2008.06.003.
  3. Tischer C, Weikl F, Probst AJ, Standl M, Heinrich J, Pritsch K. Urban dust microbiome: impact on later atopy and wheezing. Environ Health Perspect. 2016;124(12):1919-1923. doi:10.1289/EHP158.
  4. Smith MP, Berdel D, Bauer CP, et al. Asthma and rhinitis are associated with less objectively-measured moderate and vigorous physical activity, but similar sport participation, in adolescent German boys: GINIplus and LISAplus cohorts. PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0161461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161461.
  5. Herr M, Just J, Nikasinovic L, et al. Risk factors and characteristics of respiratory and allergic phenotypes in early childhood. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012;130(2):389-396.e4. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.054.
  6. An SY, Choi HG, Kim SW, et al. Analysis of various risk factors predisposing subjects to allergic rhinitis. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2015;33(2):143-151. doi:10.12932/AP0554.33.2.2015.
  7. Yamamoto-Hanada K, Yang L, Narita M, Saito H, Ohya Y. Influence of antibiotic use in early childhood on asthma and allergic diseases at age 5. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2017 Jul;119(1):54-58. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2017.05.013.
  8. Vogel P, Bosco SM, Ferla NJ. Mites and the implications on human health. Nutr Hosp. 2014;31(2):944-951. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.31.2.7772.

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