Dr. Amy Rothenberg
New England School of Homeopathy
Many Americans –over 50 million– face the changing of the seasons from Winter to Spring with a high-level of dread.
Seasonal allergies can have a crippling effect on the strongest of men and women, affecting even the simplest tasks of their everyday lives. However, seasonal allergy sufferers can find solace in knowing that their painful symptoms can be alleviated with a few minor tweaks to their diet and lifestyle.
The Root Cause of Allergies
At a foundational level, allergies are the result of an overactive immune system responding to elements that are not inherently dangerous to the human species. This type of response occurs when an immune system is out of balance. An out of balance immune system will cause a multitude of maladies, including upper respiratory infections, cases of flu, sore throats, and allergic reactions. Furthermore, an overactive immune system can result in autoimmune disease. When this takes place, the body starts to fight itself.
For many, seasonal allergies are part of a syndrome called “allergic load.” This takes place when a person is already slightly sensitive to allergens, which heighten their sensitivity to pollen and other seasonal irritants. For example, if a person already has a sensitivity towards dairy, gluten, eggs, or other food items, when seasonal allergens start to infiltrate the air, they become reactive to them.
Attempting to bolster the immune system instead of balancing it can increase a person’s sensitivities rather than eliminate them. Balancing one’s immune system starts deep within ourselves, as the flora in our gut plays a significant role in determining our immunity to seasonal elements. Food choices and supplements play a primary role in staving off seasonal allergies, along with lifestyle factors such as stress and exercise.
Lifestyle Choices and Their Effects on Seasonal Allergies
Returning to the idea of allergic load, if an individual has sensitivities to any types of foods, the seasonal shift from winter to spring and from summer to fall would be the times of year to avoid them. Reducing known stressors to the system can mean the difference between a full-on seasonal allergy flare up and passing through the transition unscathed. Food sensitivity tests can help to narrow these down and avoid unnecessary strain on the body.
Stress, and more prominently, chronic stress plays a significant role in triggering inflammation and allergies. Something as simple as making a conscious effort to understand the stress in one’s life can create a substantial impact on dissipating it. Activities, such as exercise, mindfulness, meditation and social connections with family, friends and the community also work wonders in naturally mitigating stress. This, in turn, aids a person’s overall health an immunity.
There are plenty of other lifestyle choices that reduce allergy symptoms. These simple, logical actions include showering at night, and especially washing your hair, to reduce allergens on your pillow and eliminate the risk of inhaling pollen in your sleep. By changing out of the clothes that you wore outside all day and washing them before to re-wear them, you can significantly reduce the allergens that are floating around your home. The use of air purifiers throughout the home–especially in the bedroom– also reduces the risk of allergic reactions.
Quercetin: Mother Nature’s Histamine Regulator
Histamine plays a significant role in causing seasonal allergic reactions. When the mast cells of the body detect stress or danger, such as seasonal allergens, they will release histamine. The histamine floating around in the blood causes swelling, redness, and inflammation. Over-the-counter products can help to reduce these symptoms by gathering the histamine that has already been released.
Many people choose a more natural approach to over-the-counter medication, such as supplements like quercetin, a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the cell membrane. This helps control the release of histamine and cuts back the resulting symptoms, such as an occasional runny nose and itchy eyes. Quercetin is a readily available supplement, but you have to take a lot of it for it to be effective. 1 to 3 pills, 3 to 4 times a day is the recommended dosage. Its effectiveness can be boosted by taking it alongside vitamin C. 250 or 500 mg of vitamin C taken with each dose of Quercetin can greatly improve its impact.
Updating Your Seasonal Allergy Regimen
A sweet and inexpensive addition to any seasonal allergy protocol is readily available and should be implemented a few months before allergy symptoms are due to strike. Local honey contains many of the local pollens that a person could develop a reaction to, and inoculating oneself with it works wonders in fighting off seasonal allergies before they get the better of you.
As mentioned, the bacteria present in our intestines can impact our seasonal immunity. A healthy diet complemented by supplements is pivotal in maintaining a proper balance of the flora in our gut.
Probiotics combined with cultured and fermented foods are the first step to improving the flora in your intestines. These help to balance immunity while also preventing leaky gut, which in turn aids the body’s resistance toward allergens. Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt are all types of food that help to maintain this balance. Bone broth is also a vital component for a healthy stomach. Integrating even half a cup of homemade bone broth into your diet 3-4 times a week can go a long way for addressing stomach issues, including leaky gut.
An anti-inflammatory diet is full of fresh fruits and vegetables and will help to maintain a healthy biome within your intestines. Not factoring blood sugar issues, a healthy diet should consist of 2-3 pieces of fruit a day along with 8-10 servings of vegetables. Incorporating all of these into three meals a day may seem overwhelming to begin with, but it quickly becomes second nature. And your health will thank you for it!
As far as supplements are concerned, fish oil is your first line of defense. Fish oil contains healthy fats which benefit the cardiovascular system as well as the body’s immune response. In turn, fish oil can help bolster your regime and prepare your body to face the outdoor season. Bromelain, a supplement derived from pineapple is another go-to option. It's an enzyme that helps to keep mucus thin while also acting to support a healthy inflammatory response.
The most popular supplement for occasional stuffy nose and itchiness, however, goes by the Latin name of Urtica Dioica, or stinging nettles, as it’s more commonly known. Nettles are incredibly helpful with certain symptoms because of its bioflavonoid content. In this sense, it works similarly to quercetin.
Understanding the body’s defense systems and catering to them is paramount in mitigating bothersome symptoms. And the correct combination of diet and supplements can produce excellent health in the face of seasonal allergies.