It’s that time of year mother nature grants us three seasons in one week. Whether it’s believable or not, spring is just around the corner. For most people this means blooming flowers, clear skies and sunshine. But for many people this also means dealing with dreadful seasonal allergies. The following tips will help you deal with your allergies, naturally. For most effective treatments it’s best to consult with your Naturopathic doctor to design an individualized plan for your allergies.
The first thing you should do before treating allergies is to confirm the cause of the allergy. There are many types of allergy conditions and several types of triggers. Allergy symptoms can also mimic a cold. Your doctor can confirm with you that you are indeed experiencing allergies and the type of allergy through blood tests and symptom surveys.
This chart may help you differentiate between the most common scenarios:
Note: There are other less common causes of chronic congestion and allergic type symptoms that include: Non-allergic rhinosinusitis with eosinophilia (NARES); cholinergic rhinitis, sick building syndrome and drug induced rhinitis. If your symptoms are not subsiding with treatment your naturopathic doctor can help you investigate these other causes.
What happens in the body when an allergy is present?
As you can see in the picture, when exposed to an allergen (I.e. dust, mold, pollen) our immune system responds by releasing histamine from mast cells. What determines if something is an allergy is the way one’s immune system is set up and programmed. Histamine is a biochemical messenger that causes increased mucus secretion (a “running” nose), blood vessel dilation (contributes to feelings of fullness in the nose), contraction of respiratory airways (making it harder to breathe) and itchiness and redness. The immune system adapts to the allergy by using special antibodies (IgE) that cause a quicker response each time one is exposed to the allergy. This may contribute to the worsening of allergic symptoms over time. This is in part why it is important to help the immune system prime itself before the season starts.
The digestive tract contains a vast immune system called “GALT” or gut associated lymphatic tissue. Therefore much of what you eat can directly impact your immune system. In other words, a happy gut means a happy immune system!
*Don’t Eat your Allergies (or sensitivities)!
Eating foods to which you are reactive to can put a lot of stress on your immune system. Remember- allergies are merely an over-reactive immune system. Lessen the stress by avoiding foods that you know you are either allergic or sensitive to. To confirm food allergy and sensitivity testing may be warranted.
*Eat Plenty of Antioxidant Rich Foods and avoid Pro-inflammatory Foods
Antioxidant rich diets such as The Mediterranean diet have been associated with less prevalence of allergies and lessened asthma symptoms. Emphasizing colorful produce, fish, decreasing carbohydrate rich foods, and decreasing red meat consumption can alleviate inflammation which may contribute to allergies.
*Raw Local Honey and Pollen has also been an old time remedy for preparing your body’s immune system to the indigenous plants that pollinate in your environment. Think of this is as a natural vaccine. Introducing the antigen (allergy) in small amounts through honey and pollen allows the immune system to recognize the antigen and build immunity towards it. Honey and pollen also contain medicinal properties beyond this use adding to it’s usefulness as an addition to your diet. *Caution- do not use in infants and use caution in diabetics*
*NAC (n-acetylcysteine)- NAC is an amino acid that thins mucus in the body, which can decrease nasal congestion. It is also a potent antioxidant which may also contribute to it’s ability to help tame inflammation.
*Quercetin- Quercetin is a biochemical compound found ubiquitously amongst the healthiest fruits and vegetables. In concentrated forms it has shown to decrease allergies by stabilizing mast cells and decreasing histamine.
*Vitamin C- Moderate doses of vitamin C have been shown to stabilize mast cells and decrease the amount of histamine that is released from them just as quercetin does. In large amounts, vitamin C may cause diarrhea due to an osmotic effect; therefore, talk with your doctor about the right dosing for you.
*Probiotics- Probiotic therapy can be helpful in modulating the immune system. Probiotics help keep the digestive tract in check along with the immune system that resides there.
Choosing the right herbs and combination of herbs is an art and requires a vast knowledge of herbal medicine and experience. For example- some herbs may work more effectively based on your blood type. Consulting with an expert is always key. Here a few general herbs that have shown efficacy in reducing inflammatory markers and allergic cellular mediators.
*Stinging Nettles (Urtica diocia) is an herb known for being an effective remedy for allergic symptoms. Nettles work by acting as a nutritive, meaning that the herb acts almost like a natural multivitamin nourishing the whole body. Nettles are great tasting and I usually recommend my clients to drink 1 cup of tea per day before the season starts and during.
*Butterbur (Petasites spp) has also been extensively studied as an effective treatment not only for allergic rhinitis but also migraines. This plant has the ability to reduce inflammation and histamine levels.
*Adaptogenic Herbs- these type of herbs work by regulating stress responses. Psychological and physical stress can both negatively impact the immune system leading to a myriad of symptoms including allergies. Thus, including stress reducing herbs or other techniques can help along with other modalities to lessen allergies.
Nosode therapy is another option to help the immune system build tolerance to allergens over time. This is a very individualized treatment. Nosode therapy is based on the homeopathic principle of curing “like with like.” Basically, we dispense the allergen you are allergic to in very diluted amounts and in a strategic manner to help your immune system recognize the allergen and build tolerance- similar in the manner local honey works.
*Nasal Lavage or “Neti-Pot”- No matter where the allergy originates using a nasal lavage can help keep nasal passages clear of allergens. Check with your doctor if nasal lavage is right for you.
Other household tips:
Clean bedding regularly (at least weekly) with hot water and purchase a mattress protector.
Avoid having pets or keep them well groomed. (as indicated)
Air purifiers help reduce particulates in the air and can be an addition to any rooms in your home that you reside in the most.
Have somebody else clean your home! Cleaning moves dust and allergens in the air which may trigger your symptoms if you are the one cleaning.
Use HEPA filters in your vacuum and air purifiers.
Avoid wall hangings for they can accumulate dust and other indoor allergens.
Do not hang clothes outside if you experience outdoor allergies.
Know which plants you are allergic to and not allergic to. Some plants have been shown to clean indoor air. As long as you are not allergic to them, keep them around!
I hope this article was helpful to those who are seeking out natural ways to deal with their seasonal allergies. If you find this article to be of interest to you and may help others, please share! As always, working together is always an option. For more information about scheduling your appointment please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Megan Haas, ND
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Nagal, G., G. Weinmeyr, and A. Kleiner. “Effect of Diet on Asthma and Allergic Sensitisation in the International Study on Allergies and Asthma in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase Two.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.
Roschek, Bill, Ryan C. Fink, Matthew Mcmichael, and Randall S. Alberte. “Nettle Extract ( Urtica Dioica ) Affects Key Receptors and Enzymes Associated with Allergic Rhinitis.” Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research 23.7 (2009): 920-26. Web.
March 15, 2017 | Dr. Megan Haas