Spring time is a wonderful time of year! Flowers blooming, grasses growing, and leaves back on the trees. These lovely signs of growth are a treat to many of us, but they may also be a nemesis to others. Seasonal allergies affect 10-40% of the population, causing a sense of illness and significant frustration.
Allergies are categorized as seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergies are associated with the arrival of trees, grass, and weeds in a typical pattern during the spring, summer, and fall. Perennial allergies affect certain individuals when exposed to dust, mold, dust mites, and animal dander but are present throughout the year.
Classic symptoms of allergies include:
• Runny nose
• Sneezing (uncommon with common cold)
• Watery eyes, and itchy nose, eyes & throat
• Sore throat - mostly due to mouth breathing
• Nasal voice
• Allergic salute - itch nose upward causing a crease above the bridge
• Itchy eyes, redness, puffiness
Treatment for patients with allergies is not very successful with over-the-counter anti-allergy/anti-histamines, especially long-term. The cause of one's allergies is not soley an overproduction of histamine, but an overactive immune response to a substance. The immune system is based primarily in the gut, thus treatment needs to focus on digestive-immune health. Many patients with seasonal allergies may also experience symptoms of eczema, urticaria, or asthma indicating that they are "atopic" individuals requiring a deeper need for immune support. Adrenal health may also be a major determinant in one's immune health. Stress induces cortisol release, a hormone that suppresses the immune system. But chronic stress may lead to adrenal burn-out, wreaking havoc on the immune system.
Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies:
Reduce food allergies/sensitivities and inflammation. Talk to your ND about following an Elimination Diet or Anti-inflammatory diet in order to find out what foods may be instigating a hyper-responsive immune system. Common inflammatory foods to avoid include dairy, gluten, citrus, and non-organic produce and meats. Lowering your exposures can help immensely.
• Vitamin C: an excellent antioxidant, prevents the secretion of histamine, supports the adrenals
• Quercetin: a bioflavonoid that decreases inflammation and improves immune response to allergens
• Essential Fatty Acids in fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant oil decrease inflammation and strengthen immunity
• Probiotics: Clinical reports have suggested that dietary consumption of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut help to improve immunity by repopulating healthy bacteria in the gut. Physician-grade supplementation may be necessary for therapeutic results.
• Nettles: 1 oz of dry herbs infused in 1 QT of hot water for 20 minutes. Drink 3-5 cups a day. Best to start before allergy season but effective throughout.
• Elder flower - Sambucus nigra - high in flavonoids
• Green tea and coffee can help with the symptoms of allergies, but overuse can contribute to adrenal fatigue.
See previous post on how to support adrenal health.
Though exercise may seem less tempting when it is difficult to breathe, physical activity encourages lymph movement which leads to improvement in symptoms and overall well-being.
Even if your just allergic to pollen, you are likely hyper-sensitive to other particles in the air including dust and mold. Decrease other allergic triggers with the following:
• Air filters - use the type that electrostatically takes dust out of the air. These can be in line with the heating system. Clean heating ducts annually.
• Hepa vacuum cleaners
• Change pillow case daily and sheets every 2 days (to cut down on dust mites). Wash bedclothes and sheets in hot water.
• No wall hangings, no rugs
• Keeping ambient humidity, 50% decreases growth of dust mites and mold.
Nasal irrigation - Using a neti pot twice a day, upon waking and before bed, can help relieve nasal and sinus congestion. It is important to use an isotonic saline solution with filtered water and sea salt. First find a workable container (bulb syringe, a small flowerpot, a turkey baster, or just a teacup). Then fill the container with lukwarm salt water (1 tsp salt to 2 cups filtered water). Over the sink, tilt your head forward so that you are looking down at the sink. Insert the spout into your right nostril while breathing through your mouth. turn your head to the right and let water move into the right nostril and exit the left nostril. Normally, you will feel the water as it passes through your sinuses. It is fine if some of the water drains into the mouth. Simply spit it out and adjust the tilt of your head. Repeat the above procedure for the other nostril. To finish, expel any remaining water by quickly blowing air out both open nostrils 15 times over the sink. Avoid the temptation to block off one nostril, as doing so may force water into the eustachian tube.
Call Dr. Alicia today to discuss how to prevent and treat your allergies efficiently so that you may fully enjoy all of spring's blessings.
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.