Achooo!: A Guide to Seasonal Allergies
By Dr. Michelle Decker, ND
It’s that time of year where we trade in colds and flus for seasonal allergies. If you are one of the many people that suffer from seasonal allergies, read on and find some helpful tricks to get you through this allergy season.
What causes Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are most commonly caused by pollens from grasses and trees and molds. They can begin as early as February and can go on late into the fall. Each particular type of grass and tree has a specific time frame that it produces pollen. Mold can be extra prevalent during rainier times like the early spring and the fall.
In those that have seasonal allergies, the immune system is to blame. The body is over-reacting to relatively harmless substances and creating antibodies and releasing histamine to fight them, just like to would for a viral or a bacterial infection. This immune reaction is what causes the symptoms.
The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies are:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Sinus pain and congestion
- Scratchy throat and post nasal drip
Less well known symptoms from seasonal allergies include:
- Difficulty concentrating
What to do about Seasonal Allergies:
Avoid food sensitivities. Try to avoid any foods you are sensitive or allergic to including dairy, gluten, eggs and caffeine. Since two thirds of our immune systems are in our gut, the health of your digestive system is very closely tied to the health of your immune system. By reducing the overall burden on your immune system, it may help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Plus, dairy tends to produce a lot of mucus in many people anyways!
Foods to include are:
- Local honey
- Spicy foods (if you have lots of mucus)
- Fermented foods (for the probiotics)
- Pineapple (for Bromelian)
- Lots of high quality vegetables in a variety of colours
Keep windows and doors shut during allergy season – both in your house and your car!
Keep an eye on pollen counts. If you know what particular plant you are susceptible to, you can be extra prepared when its pollen counts are high and avoid going outside if possible.
Use an air filter. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are able to remove much of the pollen and dust from the air in your home.
Shower after being outside and change your clothes. This will reduce the amount of pollen you are tracking around your house. As well, if anyone else in your household is suffering from seasonal allergies, this will keep the inside of your house more pollen-free. Some people will go as far as keeping any laundry in plastic bags.
Use Vasoline! Vasoline around the inside of your nostrils can reduce the amount of pollen that makes it to your sinuses. When you blow your nose, make sure to reapply!
Wear protection. Sunglasses can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes. As well, protective masks can be used when doing gardening or other yardwork.
If diet changes and lifestyle modifications alone are not getting on top of your allergy symptoms, certain supplements can be used to help.
- Quercetin – a common flavonoid that is found in fruits and vegetables including apples, onions, and peppers. Quercetin helps by reducing histamine production and release.
- Bromelian – this is the enzyme found in pineapples. It can help by reducing the swelling in the mucus membranes, which will diminish the allergy symptoms.
- Stinging Nettle – Don’t touch it if you find it fresh but either cooked or dried, stinging nettle can help with those seasonal allergies. It contains natural anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories that will reduce the production of histamine.
- Probiotics – As mentioned before, much of our immune system is in our gut! Using probiotics can modify the gut microbiome and improve immune function.
There are many other supplements that may help with seasonal allergies including Vitamin C & A, spirulina, and Zinc, to name a few. Determining the cause is always the key step in formulating the most effective treatment plan. This is where it is important to get the assistance of someone trained to use these products.
Nettipot – Great during allergy season to reduce the amount of allergens in the sinuses. Make sure to use distilled or filtered water with a little bit of salt. Try not to use it too long as it has the potential to disrupt the normal functioning of the nasal mucosa.
Some final thoughts
Seasonal allergies can sometimes seem like an annoyance that can be put off. However, if you consider the amount of time and energy you lose when you have seasonal allergies, it may be time to see someone. The naturopathic doctors at Horizons Holistic Health Clinic would be happy to help you stop the Achooo!
Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes only. Please consult a medical practitioner regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical conditions.