It is that time of year again when the itchy eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose and sinus headaches begin. The flowers look so beautiful when they bloom but when your immune system’s white blood cells release histamine in response to the allergens, it can create a massive overload of symptoms called “allergies”. I want to discuss some natural ways to get relief during allergy season.
Many people have seasonal allergies so they only have symptoms during fall, spring/summer or the winter. It depends what your body is reactive to, it can be pollen or molds or grasses and even dust mites. Others are even unluckier as they may have a combination of all of these allergies that last the whole year. The best way to find out what type of allergies you have is to have allergy testing, your doctor or a specialist can do this.
Most allergy treatments work by decreasing the circulating histamine in the body and thereby making symptoms more manageable. The majority of the anti-histamine medications have side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue or dryness of the nasal passages. Natural anti-histamines have the same benefits when taken regularly but without such side effects. For example, stinging nettle herbs are natural anti-histamine, this can be made into a tea or into capsules. Vitamin C and quercitin are also found in natural allergy supplements. Vitamin C can be increased in your daily diet through fruit, bright colored vegetables, or a daily vitamin. As a reminder, you should check with your doctor before taking anything new. Many people get great relief with using a ceramic neti-pot saline rinse daily in the morning. The nose is like a big filter, and the neti-pot works by rinsing out the pollens that are causing congestion.
The thing about all of these treatments is that they are suppressing the histamine versus getting rid of the allergies. There are multiple forms of allergy treatments such as allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy drops. They work by actually desensitizing your body from the exact antigens that you are allergic to, so that your immune system cells stop producing the histamine. This is also something your doctor or an allergist can help with.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the more stressors on the immune system, the harder it has to work and the less efficient it is. For example, if you have undiagnosed food allergies in addition to seasonal allergies and on top of that fighting a cold, your body may not be able to handle any of those attacks very efficiently. It is important to do the right testing in order to get an effective treatment plan. This may include natural treatments or prescriptions, an elimination food allergy plan or an environmental desensitizing plan. Some of the most common food allergies that cause increased histamine are wheat, dairy, strawberries, nuts, shellfish, and soy.
While allergies may be a downer during the warmer weather, I encourage you to still spend time outdoors and don’t let them hold you back. It is worth looking into allergy testing and treatment so that you can live a better quality life doing the things you enjoy with the people you care about.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a primary care Naturopathic doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA. www.treeofhealthmedicine.com