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Treating Allergies Naturally

  • Written by Dr. Allison Apfelbaum

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

Launch of EverHealthy Initiative to Meet Growing Community Health Needs

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff
EvergreenHealth recently launched an initiative that, with community support, will strengthen and expand the health system’s Kirkland medical center to help meet the growing health care needs of the community. The initiative, “EverHealthy,” is part of the health system’s 10-year Master Facilities Plan, which seeks to ensure that the growing number of families within the public hospital district can continue to count on safe, quality care within their community well into the future.
 
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Natural Ways to Escape the Winter Blues

  • Written by Dr. Apfelbaum

The New Year is here, but why do many people still feel down and depressed in the winter season?  The gray rainy weather can cause us to stay inside for longer periods of time, socialize less, and eat more.  There are some ways to kick-start your brain and body into feeling more energetic and happy this season.

There is such a thing called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in which your mood takes a turn for the worst during the dark winter months.  Our brain produces melatonin (a sleep hormone) in the dark, and without sunlight it has trouble suppressing the production in the morning, causing extra fatigue throughout the day.  Vitamin D3 levels in the Northwest are notorious for being low, since we get almost no sunlight in the winter and spring months.  I definitely recommend having your doctor check Vitamin D levels and supplementing them if needed.  Some people may benefit from “light therapy” in which artificial light from a special lamp helps suppress the melatonin in the morning. 

Diet also greatly effects mood. Sugar and carbohydrates can make the body feel sluggish, as well as increasing serotonin that converts to more melatonin. Overeating carbohydrates and sugar increases blood sugar and insulin levels leading to weight gain and decreased mood.  Instead of choosing food for emotional comfort, try making a warm fire, or taking a hot bath with Epsom salts. Drinking a hot cup of green tea can also suppress hunger and keep you warm.
 

Loneliness is also a big contributor to mood.  Getting out and being social can really help with feeling lonely by realizing that there are people in the world who care about you.  Joining an indoor gym or taking up a new hobby or a class is a great way to meet more people.   Maybe there is a new restaurant you have wanted to try or a fun coffee place. Other subtle signs of depression include: Lack of motivation, foggy thinking, feeling hopeless, oversleeping, weight-gain etc.  If you are having any of these symptoms, please discuss it right away with your doctor.

A body that is sedentary will feel more sluggish and tired.   Increased weight is another contributor to feeling depressed.  Many people would love to lose 10 or more pounds, but instead each year they keep gaining more weight.  I encourage you to stick to an exercise routine all through the year.  Aim for at least 3 days a week for 20 minutes at a time, be realistic with your goals. People who stick to their goals are extremely happy, believe me the hard work will pay off.

Another important contributing factor for mood is sleep.  When you get good quality sleep, the body is able to heal and restore itself.  Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are able to stay balanced which helps with weight loss and blood sugar.   Shut off bright lights (TV, computer, phones etc) about 40 minutes before bed for better quality sleep.  Avoid caffeine and chocolate after 4pm. Magnesium or melatonin for some people can be helpful, as well as nervines like chamomile tea.  Avoid alcohol at night to prevent anxiety and insomnia, as well as nighttime urination.  Good quality sleep means waking rested, falling asleep well and staying asleep all night. 

Hopefully these tips help lift your gloomy winter mood.  If all else fails, at least consider planning a sunny short vacation for the spring!

Dr. Apfelbaum is a primary care Naturopathic Doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic.  To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com or call 425-408-0040

Change your Life by Changing your Habits

  • Written by Dr. Allison Apfelbaum

Why is it so hard to change a habit? The reason is because these habits are like ingrained behaviors that you have been doing for a long period of time.  Habits are the coping mechanisms you use when stressed, and the behaviors performed on a regular basis in response to daily life.  Habits can be healthy or unhealthy, the choice is yours to make.

When creating good healthy habits, it is important to know why you are doing the behavior.  For example, if you are smoking or drinking in times of stress, the reason may be that the behavior helps you relax.  If you are over-eating when you have a bad day, the eating in some way is lifting your mood.  The same goes for laying on the couch, scrolling through your phone or watching TV, you may be tired or lack motivation.  By realizing what reward the behavior is providing for you, you can change the action.

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Fresh & Healthy Eating

  • Written by Guest Column By Dr. Allison Apfelbaum
I hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July, the summer is flying right on by.  This warm weather makes me think of wonderful, healthy meals using fresh ingredients so I’m focusing on that for this column. 
 
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