A natural approach to treating seasonal allergies

by DrErin on March 11, 2010


318/365 Sneeze, originally uploaded by mek22.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!! (gulp)

While most of us are quite happy to wave farewell to Old Man Winter, for those who struggle with seasonal allergies or hay fever, the coming of spring is likely to bring anxiety and perhaps even dread.  Over the past few decades, allergies are on the rise, especially in children.

What is Happening?

An allergy is essentially a hypersensitive or hyper-vigilant immune system reacting to something that is harmless to the body.  Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, house dust, feathers, mites, chemicals and a variety of foods.

With seasonal allergies, one experiences respiratory distress of all kinds: a stuffed up or runny nose; congested sinuses; sneezing; and red, itchy and watering eyes.  The immune system is reacting to the pollen of trees, weeds or grasses that are active in that particular season. Spring hay fever is usually due to the pollens from grass and trees, while fall allergies are usually due to sensitivities to ragweed pollens and molds.

In the presence of an allergen, the immune system releases histamine and other chemicals to fight what is perceived as an invading organism.  These chemicals cause a cascade of physiological events in the body, ultimately leading to the swelling and congestion of the nasal passages and increased mucous production.  This overreaction by the immune system causes more damage to the body than the perceived “invader”, which is actually harmless.

Allergies can contribute to other complications with health, as the immune system is under stress and the body is in a chronic state of inflammation.  In children, such conditions may include acne, asthma, chronic ear infections, eczema, irritability and behaviour problems and difficulty with concentration.  In adults, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of chronic problems, including fatigue, muscle or joint pain, and increased susceptibility to other infections.

Treat the Cause:

Common over-the-counter allergy medications provide symptomatic relief to many.  However they act temporarily and this approach isn’t addressing what is causing the hypersensitive immune system.  The best approach is to work to stabilize and strengthen the immune system, to promote resiliency and overall health.  There are many ways to do this.

  • One key is to ensure you or your child avoids anything in the diet that there may be a sensitivity to.  If you’ve noticed any foods that cause symptoms of indigestion or discomfort, avoid them to decrease any burden on the immune system.
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in bioflavonoids, such as apricots, cherries, paprika, grapefruit, lemons, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, green peppers, grapes, strawberries, black currants, prunes.
  • Avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing Echinacea if you suffer from allergies in the fall, as they are from the ragweed family.
  • Supplementation with a bioflavonoid called quercetin, and high doses of vitamin C will prevent allergic conditions, as they stabilize the cells responsible for the histamine (allergic) response, thereby making the body less reactive.
  • Minimize exposure to triggers – minimize outdoor time on days with high pollen counts, and certain times of days when pollens are high
  • Create a healthy indoor environment – air purifiers, frequent vacuuming, steam

cleaners, dehumidifiers all have the capacity to improve air quality and minimizing possible allergens in the home

  • Strengthen the immune system – vitamin C, quercetin, zinc, bioflavonoids, avoid other stressors on the immune system (ie. food allergies), rest
  • Stay hydrated – after losing a lot of fluid, it is important to keep hydrated

Other Ways to Relief:

  • Try nasal irrigation with saline solution – you can buy at the drugstore or make your own with a squirt-bottle of 8-oz water with sea salt
  • Take a hot shower or bath – many find relief from the heat and humidity
  • Take alternating hot and cold showers – while in the shower, give yourself periodic blasts of cold water (tolerably cold), alternating with usual warmer temperatures.  This causes a pumping action of the cardiovascular system and stimulates a healthy immune system
  • Use cold compresses for itchy eyes to reduce the inflammation and irritation
  • Alternate hot and cold compresses over the sinuses to promote drainage
  • Enjoy spicy foods, which clears the nasal passage:  cayenne pepper, ginger, onions, garlic
  • Drink warm tea to soothe an irritated throat, especially with honey and lemon
  • Regular steam inhalations with eucalyptus to soothe and clear the nasal passages
  • Avoid milk and dairy, which are mucous-producing foods
  • Avoid emotional states such as stress and anger, which can affect the immunity and make symptoms worse. Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.

Do you have any unsolved ailments? Looking for a remedy that does not include another prescription for pharmacueticals? Questions about natural solutions to everyday medical problems?

Ask our very own Naturopathic Doctor, Erin Riseing.

Please feel free to post a comment here or ask her a question.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

hana r solomon, MD March 12, 2010 at 8:18 am

Nasal washing helps reduce the irritant load…..so cleaning the personal filter makes sense, especially with hypertonic saline…
I have written a book on the subject, CLEARING THE AIR ONE NOSE AT A TIME.
let me know if you would like to learn more.
Be Well, Dr Hana

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