Here in the midwest, we wait and wait for winter to turn into spring, for the snow to melt, for the sun to warm our frozen ground and for the robins to return. It is a happy day to be able to open the windows for the first time in months! And then it hits…. sneezing, coughing and watery, itchy eyes. Welcome spring and welcome seasonal allergies!
Many people think the only alternative to the misery of hay fever, or seasonal allergies, is antihistamines that leave you lethargic and foggy headed. However, there are some great nutritional alternatives to allergy medication. If you go into pretty much any health food store, there are multiple formulas specific for allergies, and they come in pill form, tincture form and even tea form. They will vary slightly, but some of the key ingredients in these formulas are: stinging nettle, quercetin, bromelain and Vitamin C. Why these specific ingredients?
- Stinging Nettle – this plant is commonly considered a weed, and a painful one at that, since its leaves produce stinging and a rash upon skin contact. It is a powerhouse of nutrition for your body, however, and besides feeding the body with several essential minerals and vitamins, it has an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effect.
- Quercetin – this is a bioflavanoid found in various fruits (and some veggies). It is a strong antioxidant and also has some wonderful antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It can even help to reduce asthma symptoms.
- Bromelain – this is an enzyme, which is found in pineapple and is also good for digestive issues. Not only is it an anti-inflammatory, but it also works synergistically with Quercetin and Vitamin C to enhance their actions.
- Vitamin C – you will hear me recommend this vitamin a lot because of the positive effect it has on most parts of your body. It is extremely helpful to strengthen the immune system and to fight inflammation, making it a must for seasonal allergy sufferers.
These are not the only herbs and nutrients that can provide nutritional help for allergy symptoms, but typically, you will find these ones included in most allergy formulas. One such formula that I have found particularly helpful is Redd’s Remedies Sinus Formula for both adults and children. Remember to be patient; it may be a couple of weeks of taking these nutrients before you notice your symptoms starting to lessen. This is different than the immediate results that you get from antihistamines, but when you are seeking to support and heal your body rather than just treat the symptoms, it takes time for healing to occur. The return is a body that functions better and a stronger immune system. Many times this gentle support and healing of your body can address other physical issues as well.
Some other helpful items to keep in mind:
- When seasonal allergies kick in you may find yourself more sensitive to things that normally don’t affect you, such as certain foods or even pets. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have developed new allergies to these things, rather you are experiencing heightened histamine levels in your body and a heightened sensitivity to things that don’t normally bother you.
- Using saline or xylitol nasal spray or a neti pot can be very helpful as it clears the mucous out of the sinuses and shrinks the swelling in your sinus passages.
- If your eyes are extremely itchy, red and swollen, cool compresses, chamomile tea bags or cucumber slices placed on your eye lids can shrink the swelling and make them more bearable.
- Eating locally produced raw honey can be helpful to seasonal allergy symptoms. The idea behind this is that the pollens that are found in honey from plants growing in your area can help your body tolerate those allergens better.
- Be sure to get enough sleep. Sleep is healing to your body, and when you don’t sleep enough, your symptoms will become worse and your body is not able to do its repair job at night.
- It is a good idea to start your hay fever prevention a month or 2 before you usually notice symptoms for best results.
The journey to health does not involve merely addressing symptoms. This is one aspect, but it is far more inclusive… it involves addressing proper nutrition to feed your body at a cellular level while you are dealing with specific symptoms. As with most physical ailments, nutrition plays a major role in your body’s response.
Since allergies are a sign of an improperly functioning immune and digestive system, strengthening those systems overall can go far towards lessening seasonal allergy symptoms and other allergies as well.
So, with that in mind, here are some other nutritional considerations…
Make sure you are getting adequate fiber and probiotics and consider taking digestive enzymes to help strengthen digestion and immunity. A properly functioning digestive system is key to a healthy body and maximum nutrient absorption from food.
Most of you have heard that Vitamin D3 is important for bone health, but did you know that is also essential for proper immune function, plays a role in controlling inflammation and helps prevent against diseases such as diabetes and cancer? Be sure your intake is adequate, and consider supplementing, especially in the winter months or if you are a heavy sunscreen user.
Adequate Vitamin A helps to address the mucous membranes and Vitamin E is an antioxidant and promotes circulation, so be sure you are getting enough of these vitamins.
Omega 3’s are very important for helping to fight inflammation, which is a factor when it comes to allergies, as well as for just about every part of your body. Our typical western diet tends to be low in these essential fats, so unless your diet leans more towards a Mediterranean diet, you will have to be intentional about supplementing and including Omega 3 rich foods, such as flaxseed oil, walnuts, olive oil and fatty fish. You can also supplement with flaxseed, fish or krill oil.
A diet filled with highly processed foods and fast foods is going to fuel inflammation in your body, which will make your seasonal allergies more severe and could even cause them in the first place. Likewise, you can go a long way towards allergy control by eating what I call a “clean diet”. This is a diet that is heavy in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and free range or organic meats and eggs; optimal nutrition for your immune system.
Follow these suggestions and have a happy, healthy and hay fever free spring!