If you suffer from allergies, you know they can be extremely frustrating, but can they cause joint pain? What is the link between allergies and joint pain, and what can you do about it? This article will answer those questions and more!
- There are two types of allergies: food allergies and seasonal allergies.
- Both types of allergies lead to inflammation which can cause joint pain.
- Other health conditions can cause joint pain and inflammation that you must rule out.
- Avoiding allergens through lifestyle and diet changes may solve your joint pain.
Types of Allergies
In the United States, around 32 million individuals have food allergies, and up to 30% have allergic rhinitis, known as hayfever, making allergies a common chronic disease.
What is an allergy? An allergy occurs when your immune system identifies and overreacts to “allergens.” An allergen can include pet dander, pollen, or specific types of food.
When you have allergies, your immune system makes the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody to attack the allergens. This antibody triggers the release of mast cell chemicals, of which histamine is the most common. The resulting allergic reaction causes symptoms of inflammation.
There are two main types of allergies.
- Food allergies: A food allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly overreacts to a non-dangerous food protein (an allergen). Common food allergens in the U.S. are soy, egg, milk, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts.
- Seasonal allergies: These are your immune system’s response to pollen — plant sperm cells that float around each spring in the air. Your body triggers an inflammatory response by misinterpreting pollen as a health threat.
Symptoms of allergies vary from person to person, but here are common allergy symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Breathing problems
- Swelling of your eyes, face, and lips
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Watery, red, and itchy eyes
- Stomach pains
- Skin rash (sometimes presents as hives)
- Tightness of your throat and swelling of your tongue
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Joint pain
How Allergies and Joint Pain are Connected
How are allergies and joint pain connected? For starters, it is possible to experience joint pain with a cold. Allergies and a cold can cause similar symptoms, such as a runny nose and sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, and a stuffy nose. Colds are typically accompanied by joint pain and fever. Don’t mistake your allergies for a cold.
That being said, some people who suffer from inflammation because of their allergies experience joint pain as the body attempts to flush out the allergen. We know that joint pain is directly tied to inflammation, and sometimes as the body creates inflammation, the response is not specific. This means that while the body may be reacting to a food or seasonal allergen, it is increasing all inflammation, not just inflammation of the airway or GI tract.
Another potential link between allergies and joint pain is that allergies can lead to fatigue, making sore joints feel worse.
Weather changes can also lead to joint pain; think cold and damp climates and weather-related changes that coincide with seasonal allergies.
Unfortunately, muscle and joint pain can be a coexisting problem resulting from arthritis, Lyme disease, and certain immune disorders. Be sure to get your joint pain checked out by a healthcare practitioner and avoid self-diagnosing your symptoms.
How Food Allergies are Linked to Joint Pain
Let’s dive a little deeper and examine how food allergies, particularly, can affect joint pain.
A food allergy causes a serious, life-threatening reaction. Food allergies appear almost immediately and are the least common affecting only 1-5% of the population. They are also the most dangerous.
A food allergy is defined as an IgE-mediated immune response that can lead to anaphylactic shock. This is a severe hyper-reaction of the immune system caused by a massive release of histamine and other chemical mediators. Avoid foods you know you are allergic to at all costs.
In addition to food allergies, you can experience food sensitivities which is a delayed food allergy. This is typically an IgG immune response in the body. Delayed reactions can affect any organ system in the body. It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 days for symptoms to become apparent, which is very different from a true food allergy.
Ultimately, it all leads back to inflammation.
Food allergens can trigger the immune system to produce inflammation, leading to joint pain in different areas of the body. This explains why patients with arthritis feel severe joint pain after they eat particular foods they’re allergic to.
How Seasonal Allergies are Linked to Joint Pain
Rarely do individuals link joint pain with allergies. However, just like with food allergies, when seasonal allergies bring on inflammation, the joint pain that follows is inevitable.
The increased inflammation seasonal allergies bring on is due to your antibodies fighting the foreign allergens that cause the allergy. Your throat, nose, and eyes experience inflammation as your immune system fights to ward off the allergens. Your body becomes exhausted from the pressure exerted on your immune system, and this could be what’s causing your joint pain.
How to Manage Allergies and Joint Pain
To manage allergies and joint pain, you should first rule out other conditions.
For example, you may have a chronic disease that needs to be addressed, such as arthritis.
Although there are many different types, arthritis is inflammation that affects your joints, causing pain and stiffness. Some patients with this condition experience increased inflammation after eating certain foods.
This is especially true of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic joint inflammation, especially in the hands and feet.
Foods can cause joint pain if you have a food allergy or a sensitivity to particular ingredients. If you don’t have arthritis, you may still experience joint pain after eating certain meals. When you experience joint pain without a specific cause, it may be time to examine your diet closely.
Finally, if you have joint pain due to seasonal allergies, try to avoid triggers that lead to an allergic reaction. Here are a few tips:
- Take a shower after you’ve been outside.
- Stay indoors during peak pollen counts — usually in the afternoons.
- Take preventive medicine.
- Shampoo your hair after being exposed to allergens
- Wash your bedding in soapy, hot water a minimum of once per week.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen.
It’s worth noting that with seasonal allergies, often improving your gut health status can significantly decrease how overreactive the immune system is to environmental allergens.
The gut houses many immune cells. When the gut is inflamed and overreactive, these immune cells are more likely to trigger in an overreactive way or at unnecessary times. Healing the gut lining, decreasing leaky gut, and improving the microbiome balance can lead to a less severe response to seasonal allergies. Working with a skilled functional medicine provider, you can begin a personalized plan to healing your gut and improving your overall immune response.
Work With Peak Health Institute
If you have tried a combination of pain relief methods and treatment for allergies, then allergies and joint pain may not be all there is. Despite your best efforts, you may find that your chronic joint pain does not resolve over time. It may become important to dig deeper into your gut health, look for any underlying toxins or infection, or explore autoimmune conditions. Reach out to Peak Health Institute to learn how we can help you overcome joint pain and reclaim your health!