Is Pollution Making Your Allergies Worse?

For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived in perfect harmony with their environment…

So when I hear doctors blame a person’s allergies on their family genes, I have to speak up because the vast majority of allergies are NOT genetic.

They’re “epigenetic.”

Your epigenome is the part of your genetic material that is not inherited. It sits on top of your DNA and directs which genes are expressed as they interact with the environment.

Special cells in the blood vessel of the inner eyelids, nasal membranes, and lungs release high levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), which in turn trigger the release of histamine and prostaglandins. These are the real culprits behind all the misery.

In other words, allergies are not a biological mistake. They are your immune system’s way of defending itself against unnatural and dangerous toxins.

And studies are also finally showing that these severe allergic reactions are largely the result of polluted environments in industrialized countries.

One recent study reveals how air pollution particles attach themselves to pollen. Not only does this damage your lungs, but it can drive protein allergens deeper into your pulmonary system to trigger a greater allergic response.1

To make matters worse, most allergy meds recommended by doctors simply replace one set of problems with another. Side effects of these drugs can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Kidney and liver damage

I have a better idea. Because allergies are not genetic, but epigenetic – it means you have the power to control the way your genes are expressed.

The best natural way to control these epigenetic allergic reactions is to heal your gut microbiome – the billions of microbes that live in your intestine.

Allergy relief starts in your gut

Recent studies discovered your intestinal bacteria are significant contributors to the development of allergic diseases.2,3 That’s because your gut microbiome mediates your immune system’s allergy response – and the good news is that repairing your gut is easy…

    • First, add prebiotics to your diet: Consume foods that contain the prebiotic inulin. Prebiotics are a special kind of nondigestible fiber. These living microorganisms pass through your gut and remain undigested because your body can’t break them down. In other words, prebiotics act like fertilizer, feeding your probiotics so they can do their job. Great sources include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes.
    • Then, add probiotics: These will help recolonize your gut with healthy bacteria and crowd out the bad bacteria. You get a good supply from fermented foods like fresh sauerkraut, kefir, kvass and kimchi, and cultured dairy. You can also take probiotic supplements but always check for gut survivability. Products should use “acid proof” technology that protects the organisms from your stomach acid. And look for CFU – or “colony forming units” – of at least 30 billion CFUs per capsule.
    • Finally, increase your vitamin D levels to battle allergies. More than 40% of Americans are thought to be vitamin D deficient. So, it’s hardly surprising that allergic diseases are on the rise. Multiple studies show that vitamin D plays a key role in the prevention of allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis.4,5 I recommend using a combination of sources to get at least 5,000 IUs a day to maintain health – and 10,000 IUs if you’re already fighting an allergic condition. Sunlight is the best way to boost vitamin D levels, but that’s difficult in the middle of winter. Instead, take a good-quality vitamin D supplement. I recommend a supplement of vitamin D3 called cholecalciferol. It’s the same bioactive D3 your body produces. Just be sure to avoid the synthetic form of vitamin D2 in most multivitamins because it’s weaker and less absorbable.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS



1. Bedard A, et al. “Interaction between air pollution and pollen seasons on allergic rhinitis control.” Environmental Epidemiology, October 2019 – Volume 3 – Issue – p 26.
2. Shen, X, et al. “Dynamic construction of gut microbiota may influence allergic diseases of infants in Southwest China.” BMC Microbiol. 2019 (1): 123.
3. Pei H, et al. the Association Between Intestinal Bacteria and Allergic Diseases—Cause or Consequence? Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol., 15 April 2021
4. Tian, Hui-Qin, and Lei Cheng. “The role of vitamin D in allergic rhinitis.” Asia Pacific allergy vol. 7,2 (2017): 65-73.
5. Aranow C. “Vitamin D and the Immune System.” J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881–886.