Achoo! [Sniffle]: How to Avoid the Kleenex this Allergy Season
For those of us with pollen allergies, the spring flowers look pretty, but curse us with sneezing, watery eyes, annoying sniffles and worsening asthma. The good news is there are many helpful natural prevention strategies and treatments to help reduce pollen reactivity by supporting the body rather than suppressing symptoms with anti-histamine medications.
Obviously, avoiding pollen exposure is key. Change your clothing, shower and wash your hair after being outdoors so you don’t carry the pollen around with you all day. If you mow or do brush removal, wear a N95 mask and eye protection. Change your HVAC filter often.
Dietary choices play a huge role. We can control what we eat, but not how much pollen is in the air. Any food allergies can also cause immune system overactivity, thus worsening environmental allergies. I recommend IgG, IgE and IgA blood testing or an elimination/ challenge diet to help figure out what your body is reacting to. Naturopathic physicians and other functional medicine providers are well versed in these and other methods of assessing food allergies. The 7 most common food allergens are eggs, dairy, gluten (wheat, etc.), sugar, peanuts, soy and corn.
There are many herbs and nutrients that help reduce the histamine release cascade that causes seasonal allergy symptoms. Stinging nettles aka Urtica dioica, Quercetin bioflavonoid and anti-oxidants like Vitamin C are well known and easy to find. Some lesser known herbs have shown to be even more effective in studies. One is Butterbur, Petasites sp., standardized to 8mg petasin extract two to three times daily. Guduchi, Tinospora cordifolia, at doses of 300mg three times daily is another.
Natural remedies such as homeopathy, Bromelain, N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC) and apple cider vinegar are very helpful for aiding our organs of elimination and reducing inflammation and mucus. Sipping on 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar diluted in 4 ounce of water before meals is effective for many. NAC, 600-1200mg two to three times daily, is mucolytic, aids immune balance and liver detox pathways and may mildly reduce anxiety symptoms. Bromelain, the pineapple enzyme, reduces inflammation and helps stabilize histamine releasing mast cells. I usually recommend taking 500mg bromelain, 3 capsules twice daily, ideally and hour away from food.
Some treatments are best started before the pollen hits. Immunotherapy in the form of over the counter allergy desensitization drops for your local area or prescription low dose allergen immunotherapy (LDA) treatments can be game changers. LDA is different from traditional “allergy shots”, which focus on IgE antibody mediated neutralization. Allergy shots provide low dose tolerance, but are generally short acting and can’t be discontinued without return of symptoms. LDA involves activating T-suppressor cells, which have a half-life of about 60 days and thereby create a much longer lasting desensitization and avoidance is not as crucial.
Raw honey (non-pasteurized and from a local source) is a delicious allergy treatment anyone over 1 year old can enjoy. Start early in the season with one teaspoon daily and work up to three. A study in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology found that patients reported 60% less allergy symptoms and 70% fewer days with severe symptoms by using local honey over five months. By exposing yourself to tiny amounts of the pollen that you are allergic too through honey, your immune system becomes less sensitive to the allergen. Probiotics also help reduce immune reactivity through GI health as the majority of our immune system resides in the gut.
Sometimes several of the above treatments are needed to reduce allergy symptoms and everyone responds differently. I encourage you to make an appointment with a Naturopathic Physician or allergy savvy healthcare provider to help fine tune what will work best for you so you may breathe free and clear and enjoy the beauty of spring in Southern Oregon.