What are allergies?
Allergies are the response of the immune system to things that should be benign or ignored. There are several theories behind the development of allergic responses, one being that we are too clean - called the hygiene hypothesis. Another thought is that our immune systems are acting inappropriately because of being challenged by toxins, foods or even our genes.
When we are exposed to certain common irritants like tree pollen, moulds, grass, and ragweed our bodies should ignore them, realizing that these things are not actually harmful to us. In an allergy susceptible person, the immune system spots allergens and thinks they are invaders that need to be stopped. We make mucus to trap it, we bring immune cells to the throat and sinuses which causes congestion, inflammation and soreness - it really is similar to fighting a virus or bacteria or other types of legitimate invaders; and the process is exhausting.
In order to support your body through this allergic response, help lessen the degree of symptoms, and ideally push the immune system back towards a more balanced and healthy state, I commonly suggest the following natural treatments to help minimize the number of days you are reaching for antihistamines and decongestants and ultimately have more days where you feel like yourself.
Tips for Allergy Season
1. Vitamin C - through foods like guava, oranges, kiwi, broccoli and red peppers, but also supplementing 1000mg three times per day. Vitamin C is a mast cell stabilizer, which means that it prevents the trigger-happy release of histamine from mast cells (the target of antihistamine medications).
2. Homeopathic Allergy Formulas
- Pascallerg (Pascoe), Allergy Relief (A. Vogel), Sabadil (Boiron), Allergy Relief (Kids 0-9), Allergiplex (UNDA), Aller-Tox 1 (Physica Energetics)
There are a lot of options for symptomatic relief of environmental allergies. Unfortunately, it's not a one size fits all treatment and not every remedy works for every person. The good news is that there is a remedy that will help you once you find your match. These homeopathic remedies can be taken several times per day until symptoms lessen, or in a lower dose as a preventative. They are non-drowsy and most are safe for children as well.
A bioflavinoid from fruits and vegetables, quercetin also helps to regulate mast cells and stabilize the histamine response. It is also an antioxidant and antiinflammatory so I use it with other health concerns as well. The dose is 500mg three times per day acutely, or 500mg per day as maintenance.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) is extremely nutritious, acts as an antiinflammatory as well as helping with allergies. I recommend drinking it as a tea with lemon daily (available in tea bags at health food stores or can be purchased as loose leaf), but it is also a component of many allergy formulas (see below).
Probiotics are the 'good' bacteria that live within our digestive tracts. By changing the balance of these bacteria to support more allergy friendly populations we can affect the immune response (80% of the immune system lives in the gut!) and shift it to a less reactive state. The best strains for allergies are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species. I tend to recommend Recovery SAP (NFH) or MultiStrain 11 (Cyto-matrix), but there are other great options on the market as well. Look for high potency (big numbers) and broad spectrum (many different types of probiotics) for your best results.
6. Look for other triggers
When our bodies are overwhelmed by other factors like stress, or food sensitivities it becomes difficult for us to cope with much else. I often relate our bodies to a bucket: we put in our foods, our water, medications, some emotions and a pinch of vitamins. Some of these factors begin to fill up our buckets, while others help to keep the level down. For many, allergies are the thing that makes our bodies overflow because it's just the last thing left to make the buckets fill up. To help with allergies then, I suggest ways to keep our buckets less full so that we are further away from that point of overflow. Keeping stress levels managed, and food reactions out of our diet are great ways to impact the allergic response at a deeper level. To determine your unique food sensitivities I often do a blood test so that we know which foods your body processes well, and which are causing inflammation (or filling up our buckets).
On a daily basis there are several things which you can do in order to clean out the nasal passages and lessen the allergic response:
- epsom salt baths
- nasal rinses (eg. Neti Pot or Hydrasense spray)
- change pillow case regularly
- essential oils (peppermint, lavender) diffused in the home
- natural soaps and detergents
- castor oil packs to move lymph
To make life easier...
Since we're busy people, I often utilize comprehensive allergy products that contain the lovely ingredients I mentioned above.
- Allergy Formula (Signature Supplements) or Natural D-Hist (Orthomolecular Products)
- I generally recommend an initial phase of 2 capsules three times per day for two weeks to get symptoms under control and then reducing to a maintenance dose of 2 capsules daily.
Wishing you a sniffle-free spring! I'd love to help you develop a customized plan for your allergies too!
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