by Cora Rivard, N.D./Seasons Natural Healthcare,LLC/Derry, NH
My practice is located in Derry and I have been helping patients for years to comfortably control and eliminate seasonal allergies and related complications (sinusitis, lung infections, fatigue, etc.) by using natural medicine and approaches. This article is a great starting point for self-care. I am happy to assist anyone with a personalized approach that you can continue to use from year to year- just contact me for an appointment. You can find my contact info and make appointments from my website: www.seasonsnatural.com
Antihistamines are the standard conventional medicine treatment for seasonal allergies, but the histamine response is responsible for only about half of the immune reactions associated with the symptoms of seasonal allergies. This is why the nasal and sinus congestion can still remain with treatment (and often the drowsy side effects.) While it is best to start a preventive strategies at least a few weeks before your allergy season begins- it is still not too late to get relief! Following is a list of complementary strategies which can help you feel better, pronto!
1. Avoid alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol helps to dilate all those surface blood vessels and flood even more histamine release into those already inflamed eyes and mucous membranes. Better to stay of the sauce until you are in the clear.
2. Honey– yes! Local honey is best, but honestly any honey will do. This is because honey contains remnants of pollen, which is high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids. By consuming local honey, you may also benefit from oral tolerance which is basically how your body learns to become immunologically non-reactive to the innocuous things that it is exposed to.
3. Warm liquids– especially herb teas, with honey. These help to loosen congestion and keep you hydrated. I am a fan of the Yogi line: Yogi Breathe Deep Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6) (this does contain licorice- always talk to your doctor first before you take a new supplement if you are taking other medications.)
4. Saline sprays or rinses. These work very well to rinse the offending pollen out of your mucus membranes- especially after returning from the great outdoors. Those familiar with the use of neti pots may use these. I often recommend saline sprays that can be found at most pharmacies.
4. Stinging Nettles: Dried extracts of stinging nettles have been used traditionally as a treatment for respiratory allergies. They not only contain components which help to block the histamine response, but research shows they also curb inflammation and congestion. Frankly, I found nettles only somewhat helpful or “meh” in practice unless part of a combination- so I tend to prescribe herb regimens that pack more punch and they work very well. But you need to find a professional knowledgeable in botanical medicine to guide you in their use.
5. Boost your flavonoid intake: Flavonoids are constituents of plants which exhibit a range of bioactive behaviors- including modification of inflammatory responses. There are a few select foods which contain extraordinary quantities of the specific flavonoids shown to have anti-allergic effects. These include: buckwheat, capers, parsley, onions, peppermint, thyme, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and peppers. Here’s an example of great flavonoid-packed, cleansing “allergy season” smoothie.
6. Consider probiotics: Probiotics are strains of “friendly” bacteria which reside in the intestinal tract, such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus bacteria. Their actions have a critical role in the development and maintenance of immune functions in the body. The natural ecology of the intestines can be upset by events such as intestinal infections and antibiotic use. Research shows that supplementing with probiotics may significantly improve the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
7. Other dietary considerations: Certain foods can cross react with pollen sensitivities, which may enhance the effects of pollen exposure and exacerbate allergy symptoms- and you might also experience more itching and discomfort around the mouth (oral allergy syndrome). You may therefore gain additional relief by cutting out foods such as bananas, peaches, kiwi fruit, melons, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts during the height of allergy season. It is also wise to avoid foods that have been cooked with vegetable oils at high heat, including deep fried foods, donuts, pastries and cakes. These types of foods promote an increase in inflammatory reactions throughout the body.
8. Consider a cleanse: “cleanses” can be simple or fancy, cheap or expensive. At it’s foundation, a cleanse is when you eat and generally live simply for a period of time, at least a week or so. Give up all added sugars, junk foods, and eat small meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables- eliminate or at least limit all animal-derived foods for a little while. You may go for vegetable broths and lots of vegan smoothies. Drink tea and water. Get plenty of sleep, fresh air, and some movement each day.
Remember- these articles are not intended as medical advice, nor should they replace the advice of your doctor. Best wishes for a happy and more comfortable spring!
Author: Dr. Rivard is a licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.) and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in southern New Hampshire.