Seasonal allergies got you down?
Updated: Jul 7, 2019
Naturopathic Approaches to Seasonal allergies
Ah – the summer is upon us and along with it comes itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing! Yes.
If you are one who suffers with seasonal allergies then as much as you love this time of year, you may also dread it.
Seasonal allergies, also known as hayfever, are usually due to pollens from grass, trees, and weeds. Different plant species produce higher amounts of pollens depending on the time of year (right now the trees: spruce, fir, pine are very high).
Conventional medicine usually treats allergies with oral anti-histamines, nasal sprays (steroids), and eye drops. Some of these medications, however, can cause drowsiness, loss of smell/taste, and generally just suppress the immune system without addressing the root. They also simply don’t work for a lot of people which cane become frustrating! Typical symptoms include: itchy eyes, nose and mouth, watery eyes and nose, sneezing, fatigue, head/brain fog, and for some people other conditions can exacerbate such as their asthma, eczema, or migraines.
What are seasonal allergies?
Allergies come in many forms: anaphylactic (bee sting or peanuts), contact dermatitis (poison ivy), food sensitivities, environmental (pet dander, mold), and seasonal!
Essentially, seasonal allergies mean that the immune system is reacting (producing anti-bodies and a host of reactions) against pollen.
But, how come some folks have them and other don’t? And why is no one asking WHY we are having such high rates of seasonal allergies?
This is where naturopathic medicine comes in!
When I see patients who are coming in for their seasonal allergies I am looking at the overall status of their immune system: do they get sick often, what is their diet like, what medications are they on, were they breast-fed and vaginally born as babies, did they have asthma as a child, and so on. All of this informs me on the status of their immune system and microbiome (collection of bacteria in their gut/body).
There is a strong correlation between gut health and immunity – in fact a few studies have connected the use of probiotics to help treat chronic rhinitis (runny nose).
The Natural Approach and Tips for Hayfever
As an ND I would look at your gut health and diet, as well as stress levels in your life (depletes immune strength through elevated cortisol). Healing the gut and cleaning up your diet is number one when it comes to controlling allergies! I’ve found specifically dairy, processed foods, and alcohol to be straining on the body and to exacerbate seasonal allergies.
But – while healing the gut takes some time: finding your food triggers, making sure you are making proper stomach acid, getting good bowel movements daily for elimination of toxins, and eating whole foods - there are some alternative things naturopathic medicine can offer now to help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Eating honey that has been made by bees in your area means you are consuming a bit of the local pollen nearby too and teaching your immune system to make friends with your environment so you don’t react to it later – while this hasn’t been proven in science as an effective remedy for allergies, it’s what I like to call wisdom-keepers medicine: people have sworn by this remedy for decades. The side benefit is yummy-ness!
Research has shown this potent herb to relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies. I usually recommend it in capsules but I would also recommend getting it into a soup or salad if you are able to find some fresh local nettles!
Vitamin C and Quercetin
Get these from a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, especially cherries, oranges, and leafy greens. However – quercetin has been shown recently in studies to inhibit histamine in capsulated doses.
Some studies have shown that daily probiotics can help alleviate allergic symptoms. This should be no surprise, as we know they regulate our immunity. You can get them from food (saurkraut, kefir) or may want to take a capsulated probiotic.
Daily nasal rinses keep things (mucus) flowing and are helpful for that stuffy feeling. Probiotic nasal rinses have been shown to be effective for chronic rhinitis – but do not try this without supervision!
Getting a few treatments of acupuncture before allergy season hits has been effective for some of my patients to prevent them from coming on – and even during strong bouts a treatment can help calm some of the symptoms.
Allergies can be a pain! The best treatment combines prep before allergy season starts: cleaning up your diet to less processed and inflammatory food, dairy and sugar. Taking a daily probiotic and improving overall gut health can strengthen your immune system so that you prevent allergies from coming. When they do however don’t be afraid to try some natural alternatives to soothing your body’s response to pollens.
As always - yours in health,
Spomenka Bizic ND