Allergy season. With the snow melting, it's fast approaching, and so are the dreaded symptoms of sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes/throat, and headaches... shall I go on? Those who suffer from seasonal allergies, understand me when I say it's near impossible to function on a day-to-day basis under the fog of these symptoms. Believe me, I know... I used to suffer from all of the above. The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way. Simply put, seasonal allergies are an overreaction of the immune system, and there's more we can do than just handing it a tissue. It's time to ditch the drowsy decongestants, for good.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES? An allergy, or hypersensitivity, develops when the immune system reacts to something in our environment that was once otherwise harmless but has now been flagged as problematic, or an "allergen". These reactions are acquired, meaning the first time you're exposed to it, you develop the antibodies, and the second time you're exposed, you experience the symptoms. Believe it or not, the symptoms of seasonal allergies, medically termed "allergic rhinitis", are a result of your immune system in action, and not the allergen itself. White blood cells over-actively release an antibody called IgE, as well as histamine, which both help the immune cells to rid of the allergen it deemed as harmful. WHY DO ALLERGIES HAPPEN? Allergies can usually be attributed to two factors - heredity, and the environment. Age, sex, race, and family history are correlated to the odds of developing allergies. The modifiable risk factor, however, seems to be our environment. Research shows children who are not breastfed, or who are not exposed to germs in early childhood have a higher incidence of allergy development, mostly because their immune systems never learnt to develop a balanced response.
Top 5 SURVIVAL tips
1. STOP ALLERGIES BEFORE THEY START (NEW MOMS - this one is for you) Research confirms that the appropriate use of probiotics, particularly the strain of lactobacillus rhamnosus (both during pregnancy & in infancy) can influence and enhance the immune system response, and decrease the risk of atopy [1,2]. Furthermore, it's crucial for children to develop a healthy immune system. Breastfeeding passes along some of the immunoglobulins you've developed over the years - your breast milk is nature's best vaccine! And lastly, the hygiene hypothesis suggests that our world of sterility is harming our immune systems' ability to learn what's harmful and what's not. So let your kids eat dirt sometimes, don't smother them in hand sanitizer, and most of all, don't suppress mild fevers! Fevers are the body's way of creating an optimal environment for immune function, so instead, monitor, support with fluids, and ride them out! 2. PROBIOTICS Even in adulthood, probiotics have a powerful influence on our immune systems. Not only do they enhance immunity, but they have the ability to regulate it. While the research is still developing, a dysbiosis of gut bacteria has been linked to allergies, and certain probiotic strains have immunomodulatory effects in favour of suppressing overactivity and supporting balance . Use a 10+ billion-count multistrain probiotic high is lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, especially in the 3 months leading up to allergy season. 3. VITAMIN C & BIOFLAVONOIDS Unlike the over-the-counter antihistamines that work to interfere with histamine after its produced, vitamin C actually works to PREVENT histamine production (bringing us closer to the root of the problem). To maximize the effects of Vitamin C, it's best taken with bioflavonoids, in divided doses throughout the day. And while these two ingredients are found actively in berries & other fruits, not in the amounts needed to have an effect. However, adding more bioflavonoids to the diet is always a great approach!! Dosage: 2000-6000 mg daily in divided doses. Too much vitamin C can cause loose stools, and should not be used at this dose if diabetic or pregnant. 4. QUERCETIN My favourite to-go for allergy season, Quercetin is the bioflavonoid found in onions that makes you tear up! Again, this compound works to actually prevent the white blood cells from producing histamine, but to you, it will work much like an antihistamine. Dosage: you generally require large daily doses to have an effect ~ 1000 mg 3 times/day, and it should be commenced before the season even starts. There are theories on temporary mega-dosing with Quercetin to cure allergies but talk to your Naturopath before trying this, as quercetin can have negative impacts on your kidneys if taken in high doses for long periods. 5. HOMEOPATHY There are some great and readily available homeopathic remedies out there for seasonal allergies, which are safe, non-drowsy alternatives to anti-histamines. Try Allium Cepa if you have very watery, irritating discharge running from the nose and feel better in the cool open air. Euphrasia is great if your eyes are irritated and won't stop watering. Nux Vomica helps with paroxysmal sneezing and lots of drainage from the nose, as well as itching in the ears. Gelsemium is great for extreme allergy sufferers who feel overwhelmingly fatigued and debilitated, with lots of discharge. And of course - don't forget to limit your exposure. Dust on and under surfaces often, eliminate animal hair, change the air filters and pillowcases/sheets often, use hypoallergenic bed-ware, and have the carpets replaced or deep clean them bi-annually. MOST IMPORTANTLY - look for household mold - it's a common cause of newly developed allergies. There you have it! Natural allergy treatments. I've done all of the above, and I'm happy to say that it not only relieved but resolved my seasonal allergies. If you've got questions on how to apply this for yourself, or want to know more about natural allergy treatment, comment below!
REFERENCES: 1. Allergol Int. 2014 Dec;63(4):575-85. Epub 2014 Jul 25. Effects of bifidobacterial supplementation to pregnant women and infants in the prevention of allergy development in infants and on fecal microbiota. 2. . Hauer, A. “[Probiotics in allergic diseases of childhood]” (article in German). MMW Fortschritte der Medizin 148, No. 35–36 (2006): 34–36. 3. Kramer MF, Heath MD. J Allergy (Cairo). 2014; Probiotics in the treatment of chronic rhinoconjunctivitis and chronic rhinosinusitis.