Aaaaaa-chooooo!! Is Spring out to get you?
Are you one of millions afflicted by seasonal allergies every spring? If you suffer from a drippy runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes and scratchy throat, join the club! The discomfort of seasonal allergies can override the enjoyment of the spring energy with the blossom of flowers and budding trees. Many of us turn to over the counter anti-histamines just to find some relief but many of these drugs can have undesirable side effects as well. For me, personally, taking an anti-histamine leaves me feeling foggy, sleepy and a little disconnected in general. I have also tried the decongestion sinus variety which leaves me feeling like someone slipped me speed, causing sudden onset restless leg syndrome and the feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Forget a peaceful night sleep! Unfortunately, there are about 2 weeks out of the spring that I just can’t seem to function without taking an OCT anti-histamine just to end the suffering!
That all said, there are a few ways to support your immune system and manage the discomfort of allergies with some natural and complimentary practices. Try these on there own or in conjunction with medications. Consider being proactive when you foresee the allergy season looming and give your body a head start!
What causes allergies?
Seasonal allergies affect people most commonly in the spring but can be triggered through to the fall, depending on the allergen. Spring allergies are most often triggered by tree pollens while summer allergens are commonly grasses and weeds. Mold can also trigger an allergic response all year round.
An allergen is a normally harmless particle that triggers an over active immune response in the body that can become way out of proportion to the perceived threat. The body senses the allergen as a foreign invader, like a virus, bacteria or mold, and launches a defence. As a result, antibodies, referred to as immunoglobulin E (IGE), are released in response to the allergen. Increased IGE levels mediate the release of several inflammatory chemicals, most notably, histamine. These chemicals primarily affect the tissues of the nose and sinuses, mouth and throat, eyes, respiratory tract such as the lungs and even the stomach. Skin hives and rashes are also common.
Once the body has created the antibody for the allergen, it will recognize it again and again. This may contribute to each season feeling worse than the last. There are very specific IGE’s produced to each allergen, therefore, you may be triggered by one particular type of allergen or several allergens may be at play. It is unclear why people experience allergies while others do not, but genetics and family history seem to be a precursor. There are some thoughts that having a “strong” immune system may also contribute to the hyper-vigilant immune response but that is up for debate.
What are the symptoms?
- Runny, watery nose discharge, referred to as allergic rhinitis
- Sinus congestion and pressure
- Watery, itchy red eyes, referred to as allergic conjunctivitis
- Scratchy roof of mouth and back of throat
- Swelling in mouth, lips or throat
- wheezing and shortness of breath
- Asthma or tightness in chest
- Stomach irritation
- Sleep disturbances
- Skin rashes and hives
*Note: If you experience itchy, tingling sensations with swelling in the lips and mucosa of the mouth after eating raw fruit and vegetables that is exacerbated during spring and summer you may be experiencing Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome or Oral Allergy Syndrome. Try washing your foods well or eating them cooked. This reaction may only show up when seasonal allergies are acute.
**Note: Symptoms can be confused with cold and flu but allergies rarely invoke symptoms of fever, chills and body aches like a cold or flu might.
***Note: If symptoms become severe consult a medical doctor immediately.
Most common environmental allergens include:
- Pollens from trees, flowers, weeds and grasses
- Animal dander
- Dust mites
- Smoke such as cigarettes, wildfires or campfire
- Perfumes or synthetic scents
- Environmental irritants
- Construction dust such as sawdust
1: Limit or avoid inflammatory foods
I bet you can take a guess at what foods to avoid! They are the usual suspects in the list of foods that we need to limit for a healthy diet all the time. But here they are for a reminder!
- Refined sugars and processed carbohydrates — if its white they’re not right!
- Processed meats such as bacon, cold cuts, pepperoni and hams — high in sodium and nitrates and often produced from industrial farmed meat.
- Industrial produced oils and trans fats — increase inflammatory response.
- Fast foods that are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, pretty much all fast food!
- Junk food such as sugar laden beverages, potato chips and candy.
- Dairy, especially milk and cream — can increase mucus production.
- Alcohol – increases inflammatory response in the body and stress on the liver.
2: Foods to increase
There are some major players in the role of decreasing inflammation and supporting the balance of the immune system when it comes to managing seasonal allergies. Here are the most important to amp up in your diet.
Omega 3 – a fatty acid that can reduce inflammation by inhibiting production of inflammatory substances helping alleviate severity of symptoms.
- Fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Hemp hearts
- Chia seeds
- Flax seed and flax oil
- Egg yolks
*Note: Consider supplementing with Omega 3 capsules or a cod liver oil. Vegan Omega 3 supplements are also available.
Vitamin C – a natural anti-histamine that reduces histamine effects in the body and protects against oxidative stress and cell damage.
- Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes
- Bell peppers
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale
*Note: Taking a daily Vitamin C supplement to get maximum dose may be helpful for the short term of allergy season.
**Note: Consider starting your day with fresh lemon juice in a glass of water. All sorts of great benefits!
Quercetin – a bioflavonoid that shows a strong affiliation to regulating and enhancing the immune system by reducing histamine release.
- Red apples
- Red onion
- Red wine
- Berries such as strawberries
- Red grapes
- Black tea
*Note: It is worth considering supplementation for maximum effect.
**Note: Quercetin and Vitamin C act synergistically together to reduce over active mast cells secreting histamine. Serious bad ass vigilantes!
3. Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices — use as teas, tinctures, supplements or as culinary additions:
- Green tea
- Stinging nettle
- Licorice root
- Bee pollen
Try this Nourishing Green Goddess Tea Blend for Seasonal Allergies and Everyday Vitality to soothe and reduce the impact of inflammation in your body.
*Note: It is believed that if you source local honey and bee propolis, ingesting small amounts everyday can act like a natural vaccination by introducing local pollens, through the bee product, in to your system to boost your body’s tolerance. It is worth a try, it tastes good!
4. Additional supplements:
Vitamin D can act as an immune system regulator, reducing inflammation and increasing proper immune mediated responses.
Probiotics can help restore and protect the gastrointestinal tract which in turn facilitates a healthy immune system. It can also reduce malnutrition, better vitamin and mineral absorption and decreased GI inflammation which can improve overall inflammatory response in the body and lessen the impact of histamines.
*Note: Remember to always consult your doctor or naturopath before using supplements and herbal medicines for treatment.
5. Additional Tips:
- Keep your windows closed during high pollen loads.
- Run an air filter or ionizer.
- Wash your hands and face regularly and try not to touch your face and eyes.
- Place a cool cloth over your eyes to reduce swelling and itchiness.
- Shower when you come in from outside.
- Keep bedsheets and clothing washed.
- Wipe down surfaces and don’t let them collect outside pollen or inside dust.
- Vacuum regularly.
Consider using a Neti pot to flush the sinuses regularly, removing irritants.
Try this Sinus Support Essential Oil Blend to open up your airways and calm inflammation through your respiratory system.
Allergy season is no fun for anyone, but, there are ways to support your system to make it through another year with or without resorting to an anti-histamine regime. Inspired by the tips listed, I have put together a plant based powerhouse of nutrient dense ingredients to add to your meal plan this spring! But don’t stop there! This salad is great all year long as it is rich in all the right things to keep you thriving!
If making changes in your diet and lifestyle to improve your health is something that you are interested in, contact me for a free consultation to determine if health and Wellness Coaching is for you.