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Seasonal allergies affect over 40 million Americans between early spring and late fall.
People who suffer from seasonal allergies usually have symptoms of a runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, and watery eyes.
Allergies can also cause symptoms of headaches, fatigue and asthma, and unfortunately can be difficult to treat and are oftentimes poorly managed.
What are allergies?
Allergies are the result of your immune system's over-reaction certain foods, contact with certain substances, or inhaling an irritant such as pollen or animal dander.
When an allergen is introduced to the body, the immune response fights back by producing an excess of inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, in an attempt to contain the allergen and protect the body. It is this attempt to seek-and-destroy the allergen that brings on the familiar symptoms of runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.
Antihistamines can help to block the action of histamine but they do not address the underlying cause. Antihistamines can also cause side effects of fatigue, dizziness and depression in their attempt to control your allergies.
From a naturopathic viewpoint, in addition to genetic predisposition, allergies are often associated with weak adrenal, immune, and digestive functions. Priming the immune system before pollen counts are highest can be helpful in preventing or reducing the allergic response.
Consider the following natural treatments if you suffer from seasonal allergies:
How diet can help
Maintain a diet rich in seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low in animal protein.
Many people who are affected by seasonal allergies may also be affected by food allergies. Identifying and removing food sensitivities from your diet may be helpful in combating seasonal allergies as well.
Eat lots of:
• Dark green, leafy vegetables
• Deep yellow and orange vegetables
• Nettles, bamboo shoots, cabbage, beet tops, beets, carrots, yams
• Onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, horseradish
Avoid : (they may increase mucus production and inflammation)
• Alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products
• Bananas and citrus fruit
• Food colorings (tartrazine)
• Red meat
The role of water on your body
Hydration is important for every cell in your body; drink ½ your body weight in ounces daily (e.g. if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 oz water/ day)
• A daily warm saline rinse using a “neti pot” or similar device to rinse pollens from the sinus passageways and soothe the mucous membranes
• Adequate rest, relaxation and stress management
• Consider a HEPA air filter in your home; dust and vacuum regularly
• A cold cloth to the forehead or soaking you feet in a warm bath
• Regular exercise
Consider taking supplements
Bioflavonoids (especially quercetin)- natural antihistamines; quercetin can be taken in high doses and should be taken 2-3 times a day.
Stinging nettles - natural antihistamine and anti inflammatory response. Using nettles 1-2 months prior to allergy season can be helpful in reducing symptoms as well as being helpful during an acute exacerbation.
Vitamin C- used in combination with quercetin it can increase the antihistamine action. Immune boosting and antioxidant as well.
Vitamins A, E, and Zinc- antioxidant and immune boosting.
Probiotics- the natural “good bacteria” that line the GI tract. Make sure a get a high quality supplement with at least 5 billion organisms.
Essential Fatty acids- for their anti-inflammatory effects fish oil, flax oil and evening primrose oil can all be helpful.
Bromelain- enzyme and natural anti-inflammatory from pineapple can help to reduce the inflammation of the respiratory system.
Homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, hypnosis or doing a cleanse or detoxification diet prior to allergy season can all be helpful as well.
Emily Dashiell is a licensed doctor of naturopathic medicine who works at the Center for Health & Wellbeing in San Diego. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from University of California Santa Cruz and received her doctoral degree in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle.