Along with the natural beauty of spring comes the pollen, mold, and spore counts that can make life miserable if you suffer from seasonal allergies. Spring is especially difficult because our bodies have become adjusted to the winter season when nothing is in bloom. As the weather warms, plants and trees of all kinds begin blooming and pollinating. It is these airborne particles that can cause runny nose, itchy watery eyes, sneezing, headaches, swelling in the sinuses, and swollen glands. In fact, seasonal allergies can often feel like having a long lasting cold. One of the causes of seasonal allergies is the way the immune system responds to airborne pathogens. The body can tag these particles, making the body think they are harmful. This encourages the body to mount an immune response.Your body will begin to release histamine, the chemical responsible for many allergy symptoms, along with other chemicals. Some cells that produce histamine may become unstable and over-reactive, releasing large amounts of histamine into the body. That is why many over-the-counter allergy medicines contain histamine blockers. Unfortunately, anti-histamine drugs have several unpleasant side effects such as daytime drowsiness and dry mouth.
Here are several ways to decrease seasonal allergy symptoms naturally:
1. Limit exposure. Sometimes it is a good idea to give the body a rest from the constant barrage of airborne allergens. This can help an over-reactive system to calm down and re-set itself. To do this, make sure to limit your outdoor exposure on windy days or days where the pollen and spore count is high. Delegate lawn duties and make sure not to dry your clothes outside. If you do have to be outside, take a quick shower to wash off particles from your skin and hair when you return home. A high-quality air filter can significantly reduce the allergens in your environment.
2. Support the Body. There are several things you can do to support the body through allergy season. To help inhibit histamine naturally, try sipping herbal tea made from stinging nettles or adding quercetin rich foods, such as onions, olive oil, apples, citrus, and blueberries. If you are unable to introduce these kinds of foods, you can ask your doctor if quercetin supplementation is right for you.
3. Get Enough Sleep. Seasonal allergies can take their toll on our body, making us feel worn down and fatigued. Anytime our body is struggling in this way it is especially important to get enough high-quality sleep to help the body recover. Make sure you are going to bed early enough to feel rested in the morning when you wake up.
4. Alternative Therapies. Using therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy are great ways to help stimulate the body to health by balancing the system. Consult with your Naturopathic Doctor about which options are best for you.
Blueberries have a variety of health benefits that make them one of the most versatile superfoods. Like other fruits and vegetables, blueberries have high antioxidant levels that help the body repair damage caused by free radicals. What makes them unique is that they have a very low glycemic index rating, making them a healthy fruit option for people with Type 2 diabetes. Research is even suggesting that they are good for blood sugar, making the body more sensitive to insulin. Among their many health benefits, blueberries are good sources of Quercetin, a flavonoid that gives the berry its color. Quercetin helps inhibit the release of histamine in the body, thus reducing symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. To get more blueberries in your diet try adding them to your morning breakfast, protein shakes and smoothies, and evening desserts. Analysis has shown that frozen blueberries retain their health benefits, making them easy to keep around the house.
Blueberries. World’s Healthiest Foods.
This mixed berry salad is full of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It is an excellent source of quercetin, antioxidants, and polyphenols. Add a few sprigs of mint to this lightly sweet summer dish for a refreshing twist.
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered if large
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and orange juice. Gently fold in strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and mint. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate, up to 4 hours.
Quercetin is a particular kind of flavonoid compound in fruits and vegetables that gives them their beautiful colors. It is an antioxidant that, like other antioxidants, helps repair the damage done to cells by free radicals. One of its most unique qualities is its ability to stabilize and regulate cells that release histamine, making it a potent antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent that significantly reduces the symptoms of allergies and hay fever. Quercetin supplementation can reduce symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, hives, and swelling. One of the best ways to increase Quercetin in your diet is to consume more apples, citrus fruits, onions, parsley, red wine, sage, and tea. Other sources of Quercetin are grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries — such as blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries – and olive oil. For additional supplementation, Quercetin can be taken as a pill or capsule. It is important to consult a Naturopathic Doctor before supplementing with Quercetin. Large doses have been linked to kidney damage. It has also been shown to interfere with some pharmaceutical medications.
Quercetin. University of Maryland Medical Center.
Pizzorno, Joseph E., and Michael T. Murray. 1999.†Textbook of Natural Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Stinging nettle is an herb that is named for the fine hairs that line its leaves and stems. These hairs contain skin irritants that can cause painful stinging, tingling, or itching when touched. However, when taken internally in medicinal form, they stimulate an anti-inflammatory response in the body that may also hinder the way the body transmits pain signals. Research is showing that stinging nettle is especially helpful to reduce the symptoms of hay fever. This wonderful herb inhibits the release of histamine and pro-inflammatory chemicals such as prostaglandin. This means it reduces the sneezing and itching commonly associated with seasonal allergies and hay fever. Stinging nettle can be taken daily as a tea by brewing the leaves in hot water, as a tincture, or in capsules.
Roizman, Tracey. Stinging Nettles Herbal Medicine.
Roschek, B Jr. et al. 2009. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research 23 (7): 920-6.
Stinging Nettles. University of Maryland Medical Center.
The Neti pot is a ceramic container shaped like a small teapot. It is used for nasal irrigation to flush the sinus passages with a saline solution as a therapy for seasonal allergies. The saline solution goes in the bowl of the pot and is then poured into a nostril. The head is tilted completely to the side, horizontal to the ground, so that gravity can pull the solution through the sinus passageways and out the alternate nostril. It is the flow of solution through the sinus that thins out mucus and cleans the tiny hairs called cilia that line nasal and sinus tissue. It can help remove airborne allergens that have become trapped in the mucus and sinus cavities. Research is showing that using a Neti pot daily can help reduce sinus symptoms. It is important to clean your Neti pot after every use with boiling water, and to allow it to completely air dry. This will help prevent rare infections due to a contaminated pot. It is also important to use distilled water to avoid contaminants in tap water. The environment in the sinus cavity is not prepared to handle water pathogens the way the acid in our stomach is.
The recipe below can be modified for individual preference.
RECIPE: NETI POT
- 16 oz distilled water
- 1 tsp. of salt into one cup of water
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda (this is optional) Some people find it creates a more gentle solution.
Mix all ingredients. Start slow and pour the solution into one nostril while your head is tilted to the side. Let gravity pull the water down through your sinuses and out your alternate nostril.