When we suffer from allergies, we often resort to antihistamines with all the undesirable effects that they cause (drowsiness, weight gain..). Luckily, there are minerals such as zinc, which act as natural antihistamines by targeting the problem directly at the source.
Article written by Ariane Monnami, nutritionist and micro-nutritionist.
From diathesis to cellular biology
As often happens in medicine, our current findings only confirms what previous generations observed empirically.
Dr Ménétrier (1908-1986) described in detail the role of different trace elements in different acute or chronic pathologies, now known as functional disorders.
He described four types of physiological disorders which he called ‘diatheses’:
- Hyper-reactive or allergic diathesis, linked to manganese
- Hypo-reactive diathesis (sensitivity to infections and fatigue), linked to manganese and copper
- Neuro-dystonic diathesis linked to manganese and cobalt
- Anergic diathesis (decreased reaction to attacks), linked to copper or silver
He also described the benefits of other trace elements such as zinc, sulphur, magnesium and iodine and his works are still being used today by doctors specialising in oligotherapy.
Zinc, the key to fighting allergies
Zinc has been proven to be effective both in treating and preventing allergies.
How does it work?
Zinc is a powerful membrane stabiliser and is therefore a natural antihistamine which counteracts histamine secretion (molecule responsible for allergy symptoms) by the mast cell (a particular type of white blood cells).
Zinc is an immunoregulatory element and encourages tissue repair. It also has an anti-free radical effect.
Zinc intervenes as cofactor in over 200 enzyme reactions, from anti-radical and anti-inflammatory enzymes to enzymes involved with tissue repair, the immune system and hormone synthesis (hence it’s key influence on libido and fertility).
Zinc is also essential in particular for ensuring the good functioning of delta-6-desaturase (see table below), an enzyme which depends on zinc and the functioning of which can be genetically altered or slowed down with age.
This genetic alteration is at the source of atopy, a pathology affecting infants from a very young age, often in the form of atopic eczema, and throughout their lives in the form of allergies, frequent nasopharyngitis (common cold) and even asthma.
Understanding omega 3 and omega 6
There are two ‘families’ of essential fatty acids; omega 3 and omega 6, which both have to come from our diet since we are unable to produce it ourselves. These fatty acids act as a precursor for the production of a number of anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic molecules. This production line is extremely complex and includes a high amount of vitamins and minerals.
What’s important to know is that even if you are supposedly consuming ‘enough’ omega 3 and omega 6, you can still lack in vitamins and minerals, and your body will therefore still find it particularly difficult to produce the molecules able to fight against allergies.
Zinc for example, is essential for the good functioning of the key enzyme in the production process: delta-6-desaturase. Those suffering from a delta-6-desaturase gene mutation or malfunction will often need to ensure a higher intake of zinc in order to compensate for this.
Other minerals involved with allergies
A manganese deficit is very often seen in atopic individuals and those suffering from allergies. Manganese also has an anti-free radical effect. Dr Ménétrier (1908-1986), inventor of oligotherapy, even considers manganese to be at the heart of “allergic diathesis”.
Like zinc, calcium has an antihistamine effect by stabilising cellular membranes through the reduction of histamine secretion by the mast cell.
How to increase mineral intake?
Foods rich in zinc
Fish, meat, offal, whole grains, lentils, dried vegetables, watercress, soy and egg yolks.
Foods rich in calcium
Apart from dairy products, high quantities of calcium can be found in mineral water, green vegetables, pulses/legumes and dried fruits.
Foods rich in manganese
Oilseeds, legumes/pulses, berries (blueberries, raspberries), beetroot, tea, whole grains.
- Dr Dominique Rueff. La bible des vitamines et des suppléments nutritionnels. Éditions Albin Michel
- DrAndré Dupouy.Oligothérapie, précis de clinique et de thérapeutique. Éditions Maloine