This spring has been one of the worst for seasonal allergies. The wet winter months and the sudden warm spring weather has caused the trees to be primed for an intense pollen season. Increased carbon dioxide and climate changes also result in the growth of pollen, which is bad news for allergy sufferers.
Here in North Carolina I am seeing signs of sniffling, sneezing, and the general malaise that comes with an overactive immune system. Over the counter or prescription medications can useful treating allergies in the short term, but they also have a number of undesirable side-effects.
More and more people are looking for a more natural allergy relief for symptoms, or preventing allergies from happening in the first place. Generally more successful with mild allergies, the following natural remedies can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Of course, you will want to discuss with your allergist or general practitioner before making any changes in your prescription regimen.
Six Steps for Natural Allergy Relief
1. Avoidance: one of the most commonly stated ways to reduce allergies is to reduce exposure. In fact, most allergy action plans promoting prevention include avoidance. Not always easy. Yes, if you are allergic to animal dander, you might succeed. But what if tree pollen is your trigger? or mold? How about grass? You can pay attention to pollen counts, close the windows, and use air filters, but sometime you do have to go outside.
2. Cleanliness: Shampooing and showering daily is also a given. When you arrive home, simply washing your hands and face will also remove much of the pollen that irritates your nasal passages. But stay away from that hand sanitizer: immunologists are becoming concerned that excessive cleanliness may be one cause of allergies in children. “There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases. The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime.” Dr. Guy Delespesse, an immunologist and director of the Allergy Research Laboratory at the University of Montreal.
3. Probiotics: While cleanliness helps us avoid some harmful allergens and bacteria, it also eliminates the good bacteria. A new study out of Sweden (epub in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, May 3, 2011) suggests that the use of probiotics as well as other specific dietary nutrients throughout pregnancy can have an effect on allergen tolerance of the child. “Emerging evidence suggests that exposures during pregnancy and the early postnatal period can modify gene expression and disease propensity. Diet is a major environmental exposure, and dietary factors, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, probiotics, oligosaccharides, antioxidants, folate, and other vitamins, have effects on immune function. Some also have been implicated in reduced risk of allergy in observational studies.” (2) For more information concerning the benefits of probiotics, check out my article on the subject.
4. Foods: Foods rich in anti-oxidants are touted as beneficial for allergy sufferers. Green tea, berries, nuts, pineapple, and legumes are good choices. Avoiding processed foods that increase inflammation is critical. That being said, sometimes any foods can be allergy triggers, worsening seasonal allergy symptoms and other health conditions. Again, it is best to talk to your doctor to determine which course of action is best for you. If you suspect foods to be exacerbating your symptoms, you may want to learn more about food sensitivities at http://leapdiet.com
5. Supplements: During an allergic response our immune system has become our “enemy”. The resulting chronic inflammation depletes our anti-oxidant defense system, leading to damage to surrounding normal tissue. Scientists have been studying a number of nutrients that have shown to decrease the inflammatory process. (3,4) Among the most popular are grape seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin.
Quercetin belongs to a group of polyphenolic substances known as flavonoids. High quality multi-antioxidant supplements similar to USANA’s Mega Antioxidant contain bio-available quercetin, which is also found in onions, red wine, and green tea.
Grape Seed Extract, especially when combined with vit C, is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient with multiple health benefits, including a natural antihistamine effect. (5) USANA’s Proflavanol® C100 packs the best of both nutrients into a single, powerful pill. I can personally recommend this product for combating inflammation- one of the main causes for discomfort during onset of allergy symptoms.
6. Saline: Whether you use a neti pot or a saline spray, saline helps remove pollen from your nasal passages and also clears and thins the mucus. Using saline also helps keep the cilia in your nostrils healthy. Cilia are small hair-like structures in your nose that help humidify air to your lungs, trap bacteria and particulates (like pollen) to prevent them from entering the cells, and aid your sense of smell.
Have you been suffering from allergy symptoms this spring? Tell me your story, and let me know of any other ways you have found natural allergy relief. Personally, I have been able to significantly reduce my own allergies through nutrition, including the USANA Essentials and Proflavanol® C100. The results were not immediate, but over the course of time, I realized that those annoying allergy symptoms were no longer part of my life. This has been uplifting for me- as I’d much rather be enjoying my garden than cooped up in the house all pollen season. :~)
2. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2011 May 3. [Epub ahead of print] Dietary Immunomodulatory Factors in the Development of Immune Tolerance. West CE, D’Vaz N, Prescott SL.Department of Clinical Sciences, Pediatrics, Umeå University, SE-901 87, Umeå,Sweden
3. Rogerio AP, Dora CL, Andrade EL, Chaves JS, Silva LF, Lemos-Senna E, Calixto JB. Anti-inflammatory effect of quercetin-loaded microemulsion in the airways allergic inflammatory model in mice. Departamento de Farmacologia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Campus
Universitário Trindade, Centro de Ciências Biológicas, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil.
4. Kulka, M., The Potential of Natural Products as Effective Treatments for Allergic Inflammation: Implications for Allergic Rhinitis