‘Nostalgia’ is a Problem

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Looking back to a different time, a better time, is a common occurrence. It’s very likely that you have engaged in reflective thoughts and conjured up happier times and longed for their return?

Personal warm and fuzzy memories are generally benign, help to pass the day and induce a sense of historical experiential peacefulness.

When Nostalgia is a Problem

On a less benign front, the nostalgia for a time when the earth’s resources including minerals, carbon, and animals could be extracted and used ad libitum, without having to worry about any unwanted consequences is behind many of today’s geopolitical and government leadership failures.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published on the 28th of February 2022 carries stark warnings of the worlds consequences if it fails to act to reverse the related damage. Failure to achieve climate resilient and sustainable development will result in a sub-optimal future for people and nature. The consequences of which will continue to shape global societal change and health risks.

The more recent political and current geopolitical events have their roots of action in the desire to continue to extract carbon and other resources as if there are no consequences. Oil, and gas in this context, are the symbols of the extractivist mindset: not only a perceived God-given right (to those of a white skin and idealist notions of Christian supremacy) to keep extracting fossil fuels, but also the right to keep taking whatever they want, leave poison, infection risk and damage behind, and never look back, except to justify continued extractive strategies.

The current deeply disturbing and evolving events unfolding in Ukraine are bound together by an attitude toward an historical and heavily personalised time, one that clings to an idealised version of the past and steadfastly refuses to face the many difficult truths about the future. This is the energy, the nostalgic search for a continuation or a restoration of historical dominance currently surging in many different spheres. Its pulsating beat is starting wars, attacking seats of government, and defiantly destabilising our planet’s life support systems and embracing conspiracy and loss of trust.

This nostalgic desire to recover lost experiences, retain current extractive policies and deny innocent people their opportunity for life is the ethos at the root of so many democratic crises, geopolitical crises, conspiracy, and the climate crisis: a violent clinging to a toxic past and a refusal to face a more entangled and inter-relational future, one bounded by the limits of what people and planet can take and thrive.

This includes the somewhat strangled and tortured narrative about the foundation of the Sars-Cov-2 virus – those of a more ‘nostalgic’ perspective seem to favour nefarious origins, those more familiar with the clash of the natural and human environment favour the species transfer narrative[1].

Current and Future Health Risk Management

Pollen – maybe not the first risk you would associate with the changing climate – but scientists are already predicting a rise in pollen production in excess of 200%[2]. Heat and increased levels of carbon dioxide which increase plant growth and growing seasons will lead to seasonal overlap and increased volumes. Not good news if you are a seasonal sufferer – it’s about to get worse for longer!

Worldwide, the sensitisation rate to pollen allergens is around 40% and over 400 million people suffer from allergic rhinitis symptoms caused by pollinosis[3]. Besides triggering seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms, a clinical condition also known as “hay fever”, pollen can also cause asthma, skin inflammation, and even food allergies due to structural homology of food antigens to some pollen allergens[4].

Pollen sensitisation results from complex interactions between pollen-derived adjuvants co-delivered with allergens and the innate immune network[5]. These pollen-derived adjuvants are thought to contribute to the generation of a pro-inflammatory microenvironment at exposure sites that primes dendritic cells to favour Th2 polarisation in the draining lymph nodes. Leading to prolonged period of allergenic response and a loss of functionality.

Pollen and Sars Cov-2

Pollen exposure also weakens the immunity against certain seasonal respiratory viruses by diminishing the antiviral interferon response. Airborne pollen, sometimes in synergy with humidity and temperature, has been shown to explain, on average, 44% of the infection rate variability say the researchers of a PNAS paper after studying 31 countries across 5 continents[6]. Infection rates increased after higher pollen concentrations, most frequently during the four previous days. Without lockdown, an increase of pollen abundance by 100 pollen/m3 resulted in a 4% average increase of infection rates. Lockdown halved infection rates under similar pollen concentrations, and effective mask wearing further reduced risk.

If one considers the huge effect of ongoing climate change and urbanisation on the long-term trends in airborne pollen and pollution levels, as well as current and emerging viral infections, it is of utmost importance to forecast the associated risk for human health in future pandemics and take appropriate measures to reduce it as much as possible. You see co-exposure is not the exception but the rule under natural conditions, and, hence, modelling and forecasting of ongoing and future pandemics ought to consider the whole “soup” of exposome risk from all environmental challenges.

Natural Management of Pollen Exposure

Obviously, the human immune system has many variabilities and not all people express sensitivity or clinically relevant responses to pollen or pollution – but the immunological tipping point is evolving and in doing so is drawing in more people to a symptom profile as the combination of diminished immune tolerance and higher environmental exposures rise.

The use of butterbur, feverfew and riboflavin may be considered as an intervention to reduce inflammation responses and aid pain management[7]. Extracts of butterbur have been used in bronchial asthma, to smooth muscle spasms, and headache, and studies have shown that petasines inhibit the biosynthesis of leukotrienes, which may be associated with antispasmodic activity and anti-inflammatory action in type I hypersensitivity[8].

Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin were identified in a pilot trial involving 241 patients which saw a 2-month supplementation programme reduce allergic symptoms related to pollen and environmental triggers[9].

Quercetin is a naturally occurring polyphenol flavonoid which is rich in antioxidants. It has anti-allergic functions that are known for inhibiting histamine production and pro-inflammatory mediators. Quercetin has a long story of usage in human history, has demonstrated sufficient efficacy and has no significant side effects. It has the potential to reduce the most significant pathologies of asthma and allergic rhinitis such as eosinophil and neutrophil recruitment, the activation of bronchial epithelial cells, collagen and mucus production and airway hyperactivity[10]. It also can suppress the production of both periostin and periostin-induced eosinophil chemoattractants, resulting in the improvement of the clinical condition of allergic rhinitis[11].

Whether the trigger be dust mites, pollens, grasses, pollutants, or foods, allergens trigger the production of antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). These IgE antibodies then attach to mast cells and basophils causing them to release copious amounts of histamine, pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and cytokines. Quercetin has a strong affinity for mast cells and basophils, and once attached, it stabilises the cell membrane to ultimately prevent cell degranulation and histamine release, reducing symptoms and stabilising environmental responses[12].

In one study, quercetin was shown to significantly inhibit antigen-stimulated histamine release from mast cells obtained from the nasal mucosa of individuals with perennial allergic rhinitis. Quercetin’s effect was almost twice that of sodium cromoglycate at the same concentration[13].

Natural mast cell stabilisers include Vitamin D (3), quercetin, luteolin. Vitamin C also has a role in mast cell stabilisation[14]. All of which are safe and provide multiple additional immune support and tolerance benefits.

Commentary

At this time, the word appears to be transitioning to a different place than it was 2 years ago – everyone is now aware that times change and with them, so do established orders, and tolerance. Whilst it can be overwhelming, sad, frightening, and confusing, managing personal health remains the domain of the individual and their health care providers. Taking personal responsibility to identify risks and use low risk, effective interventions, allows for personal sovereignty – hold and protect that choice – its all too easy to have it taken away.

 

References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/02/26/science/covid-virus-wuhan-origins.html accessed 21.3.22

[2] Zhang, Y., Steiner, A.L. Projected climate-driven changes in pollen emission season length and magnitude over the continental United States. Nat Commun 13, 1234 (2022).

[3] Lake IR, Jones NR, Agnew M, Goodess CM, Giorgi F, Hamaoui-Laguel L, et al. Climate change and future pollen allergy in Europe. Environ Health Perspect. 2017;125(3):385–91

[4] Wuthrich B, Straumann F. Pollen cross-reactivity can we establish a link between the in vitro results and the clinical situation? Allergy. 1997;52(12):1187–93

[5] Pointner, L., Bethanis, A., Thaler, M. et al. Initiating pollen sensitization – complex source, complex mechanisms. Clin Transl Allergy 10, 36 (2020).

[6] amialis A, Gilles S, Sofiev M, Sofieva V, Kolek F, Bayr D, Plaza MP, Leier-Wirtz V, Kaschuba S, Ziska LH, Bielory L, Makra L, Del Mar Trigo M; COVID-19/POLLEN study group, Traidl-Hoffmann C. Higher airborne pollen concentrations correlated with increased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, as evidenced from 31 countries across the globe. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 23;118(12

[7] Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ. 2002 Jan 19;324(7330):144-6.

[8] Brune K, Bickel D, Peskar BA. Gastro-protective effects by extracts of Petasites hybridus: the role of inhibition of peptido-leukotriene synthesis. Planta Med. 1993 Dec;59(6):494-6.

[9] Wu S, Xiao D. Effect of curcumin on nasal symptoms and airflow in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016 Dec;117(6):697-702.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2016.09.427. Epub 2016 Oct 24.

[10] Yang D, Wang T, Long M, Li P. Quercetin: Its Main Pharmacological Activity and Potential Application in Clinical Medicine. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2020;2020:8825387. Published 2020 Dec 30.

[11] Jafarinia, M., Sadat Hosseini, M., kasiri, N. et al. Quercetin with the potential effect on allergic diseases. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 16, 36 (2020).

[12] Park HH, Lee S, Son HY, Park SB, Kim MS, Choi EJ, Singh TS, Ha JH, Lee MG, Kim JE, Hyun MC, Kwon TK, Kim YH, Kim SH. Flavonoids inhibit histamine release and expression of proinflammatory cytokines in mast cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2008 Oct;31(10):1303-11.

[13] Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):448-54. PMID: 11056414.

[14] Quercetin and Vitamin C: An Experimental, Synergistic Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Related Disease (COVID-19)

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