As the weather gets beautiful here in the Monadnock region, we start dreaming of long days and warm nights. But for some of us this time of year is fraught with challenges. For many people who suffer from seasonal allergies, budding and flowering trees are a reminder of discomfort and symptoms instead of joy and lightness.
Symptoms of allergies such as runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing are caused by histamines which are chemical messengers for the immune system. Allergy medications are designed to counteract the effect of histamine production in the body so many people turn to medications to treat their symptoms. But it’s important to understand that medications only treat symptoms, don’t provide a cure, and can have hefty side effects.
These side effects include drowsiness, impaired performance, restlessness, insomnia, dryness of the eyes, nose and mouth, abdominal distress, and heart palpitations which can make you feel worse instead of better.
On the other hand, natural treatment of allergies can be just as effective as medication for some people without the nasty side effects. Changes in diet and supplements, and using essential oils can make a big difference.
7 Tips to Reduce Symptoms
1 – Foods to Avoid
If you limit certain foods during allergy season, you lighten the load to your immune system so it can function more optimally. Certain common food sensitivities such as wheat and dairy are culprits, so this is a good time to take them out of your diet. Try it and see! I think you will be surprised.
Other foods and substances that you might consider avoiding because they could put a strain on your immune system this time of year include:
Bottled citrus juices
Highly processed foods
2 – Local Honey
Raw local honey is an effective ancient remedy. In a study reported in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, patients who consumed local honey had significantly better control of their allergy symptoms than those on conventional allergy medications. A tablespoon of raw local honey every day will help build tolerance to the allergy because small amount of local pollen in the honey desensitizes you to the pollen which is causing your symptoms. So, support your local beekeepers by visiting farmer’s markets and purchasing some local honey.
3 – Foods to Eat
Since 80% of your immune system resides in the gut, fermented foods which improve the health of your gut are key to improving your immune system. The probiotics in fermented foods positively stimulate your immune system. Just a couple of tablespoons of fermented sauerkraut or a pickle a day makes a profound impact on the health of your bacterial flora. Make sure you are making your choices from the refrigerated deli section of the grocery store and the label states “fermented”, “brined” or “raw”.
Apple cider vinegar helps to improve the health of your digestive system, too. Experts recommend mixing one to two tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water and lemon juice three times a day to relieve allergy symptoms
Another food that improves your gut health is bone broth. It turns out that Jewish grandmothers knew exactly what they were talking about!
4 – Choose Foods that Contain Zinc
Zinc is one of those nutrients that Americans fall short on. It’s important to the production of white blood cells so important to your immune system. Beef is a great source of this nutrient but stick with lean, grass-fed organic beef and if you are not a beef eater; oysters, fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, pork, and poultry are good sources.
5 – Supplements that may be helpful
My favorite supplements to recommend for allergy season are vitamin C and quercetin. Vitamin C is a well-known immune-boosting antioxidant that lowers histamine levels in the bloodstream. Short term intake of 2,000 mg of vitamin C can cut histamine levels.
Quercetin belongs to a group a plant pigments called flavonoids that give many fruits and vegetables their color. It has strong anti-oxidant effect and helps to stabilize the cells that release histamine in the body. As a supplement, 500 mg per day is recommended. There is conflicting data on whether it is safe in pregnancy so best to have a conversation with your doctor.
Probiotics in a capsule form are a great way to improve your ratio of friendly to unfriendly bacteria, which substantially improves gut health.
6 – Essential oils
Lavender, lemon, and peppermint is a great combination for allergies. Use them in a diffuser in equal quantities or keep an anti-allergy mixture ready by combining the three, and apply it to the forehead, chest, behind the ears, back of the neck and on the feet for maximum benefit.
7 – Detox Your Body
Toxins in your body can make allergies worse. The liver is a great filter for toxins, but when it is working overtime metabolizing our stress, medications, alcohol, and processed foods, allergies can flare up. Detox your body by eliminating fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and other toxins from your diet. Try liver supportive foods and herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, artichoke, beets, crucifers, and nuts.
Simple changes this allergy season can go a long way toward managing your symptoms.