Ah, summer. The sun is shining, the air is warm and fragrant and every thing is green again…and you can’t stop sneezing, wheezing and rubbing your eyes. Sound familiar? Not all of us feel like jumping for joy at the return of pollen season. For those with a hypersensitive immune system pollen can trigger a range of inflammatory responses from nasal congestion to asthma. The bad news is things may be getting worse. Experts say, “Higher temperatures, a product of climate change, make for longer growing and pollen seasons. Plants are in distress, which activates their instinct to reproduce and send out more pollen.” The good news is that there are lots of safe and natural ways to reduce allergy symptoms and avoid use of over-the-counter antihistamines that can cause drowsiness, dizziness and stomach upset. Here are a few suggestions to keep you sane this allergy season.
Diet can make a big difference in the life of allergy suffers. Foods high in vitamin C and quercetin (a bioflavonoid) are natural anti-histamines. Histamine is a chemical produced by the immune system and released as a part of the inflammatory response to attack foreign invaders, such as pollen. When the immune system is in overdrive, histamine is overproduced. Vitamin C and quercetin help modulate the immune system and can be found in foods like dark cherries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, leafy greens like nettle and lovage, onions and garlic.
You can also lower inflammation in your body with enzyme rich pineapple and papaya, antioxidant powerhouses turmeric and ginger and spirulina, a blue-green freshwater algae known to be helpful in dealing with allergic rhinitis. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, walnuts and chia seeds are also beneficial as they protect mucosal surfaces and support proper immune function.
Probiotic foods such as kefir and sauerkraut are also important in the fight against allergies. You may not think your gut has anything to do with a runny nose or watery eyes but don’t forget the majority of our immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract! Balancing your gut bacteria is a must if you want your immune system in tip top shape.
Next time you run to the drugstore in desperation consider visiting a holistic dispensary instead. There are a number of very effective natural remedies available for all of the irritating symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. Try homeopathics such as Passallerg, Sabalia, Histaminum, Abrosia, Allium Sepa, Euphrasia. Soothing and protective herbs like butterbur, nettle and chickweed are also available in different forms (teas, salves, tinctures). Ask one of the nutritionists or naturopaths on staff for help choosing the most appropriate remedy for you. Allergy suffers can greatly benefit from daily rinsing of the nasal passages to remove pollen and soothe mucosal membranes. Consider trying a Neti Pot or nasal spray. You might try regular acupuncture treatments for symptom relief as well.
If you run or play sports outdoors you may find your allergy symptoms worsen. The faster you move through the air the more likely you are to inhale and collect pollen and mold spores. Indoor activities such as swimming, yoga and weight training can be a great alternatives. You can also keep an eye on the pollen count in your area at The Weather Network and schedule your exercise accordingly. Warm, dry and windy days tend to be the worst while cool and rainy days offer some respite. Showering in the evening to remove pollens collected during the day can promote a more restful sleep and reduce the severity of morning symptoms. Because pollen levels are highest in the morning it is wise to keep your windows and doors shut overnight. Air filters are also a great way to reduce pollen exposure in your home.
Remember that reducing stress is critical for coping with allergies. When our bodies are overwhelmed our immune system cannot function properly. We nutritionists refer to this problem as the “barrel overflowing.” The more we can reduce or barrel load, by eating well, drinking lots of water, exercising, and enjoying life, the more likely our body is to cope with irritants such as pollen. So go eat a bowl of cherries, rinse your nose, enlist in some homeopathic help and by all means enjoy this beautiful season!