Its the time of year that we welcome all the beautiful flowers, budding trees and the soft grass on our toes… leaving allergy suffers flocking to the INDOORS! Its the dreaded allergy season!! For many the first signs of spring is the uncontrollable sneezing, the red itchy burning eyes, the nose that is constantly running, sore throats and chest congestion. Whether these symptoms are due to seasonal or environmental allergies, more and more people are seeking natural alternatives.
What is an allergy? Its an inappropriate response from the immune system in attempt to remove the allergic invaders (protein from a food, air, environment etc), which typically would be harmless. Any substance can provoke an allergic response however this time of year the most common offender is pollen. When you inhale the pollen through the nose or mouth, molecules tend to stick in the respiratory system releasing the proteins which stimulate histamine production, part of the immune response, then triggers the inflammatory pathway. The immune and inflammatory systems in conjunction are responsible for creating the irritating allergy symptoms.
As a Naturopathic Doctor my therapeutic goal for allergy relief is to strengthen the immune system, reduce the inflammatory pathway and remove additional allergens while providing symptomatic relief. One thing to remember is that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean its 100% safe and may still interact with your current medications. Always speak with your Naturopathic Doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements/vitamins to your diet.
Lets take a look at a few natural anti-histamines available to help alleviate your symptoms at the same time boosting the immune system.
Vitamin C not only helps boost the immune system through its extreme anti-oxidant effect (prevent rusting inside the body) but is also a natural anti-histamine; helping alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies. Research has shown that 2000 mg per day significantly reduces the histamine blood levels with people suffering from allergies. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition there is a high correlation between low Vitamin C levels and asthma (another common symptom of allergies). Vitamin C has several other benefits which we will be reviewing in future articles. Typically the recommend dose for allergies is 2000-3000 mg per day taken with bioflavonoids, starting 2-3 weeks before allergy season.
Foods high in vitamin C are:
Vegetables: Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts
Dark Leafy Greens: Kale, Mustard Greens, Garden Cress
Herbs: Thyme and Parsley
Fruits: Kiwifruit, Strawberries, Pineapple, Papayas, Oranges, Cantaloupe
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid, which is a natural plant based compound. There are numerous recent studies done on the health benefits Quercetin, it’s a powerful anti-histamine, a potent anti-oxidant (prevents internal rusting- oxidation!) and has significant anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. There are many foods that contain Quercetin, however if you are an allergy sufferer you will need a higher dose. Studies have shown that a dose of 1000 mg away from food, best to start 6 weeks before allergy season provides the best results. Research has shown that bioflavonoids are better absorbed combination with Vitamin C.
**Please note that Quercetin does have drug interactions, it also effects liver function. Please consult your Naturopathic Doctor before taking.
Foods high in Quercetin:
Vegetables: red onions, yellow hot peppers, scallions, broccoli, kale, Dark leafy greens
Fruits: citrus, apples, cranberries
Herbs: parsley, capers, dill
Other: green & black tea, bee pollen, buckwheat
Other recommended changes:
Here are a few other changes that you can make around the house to minimize your exposure to the allergic offenders:
- Using the air conditioning throughout allergy season will reduce the exposure, especially when in the car.
- Avoid the use of indoor fans if you have the windows open, they tend to pull the pollen in.
- Sunglasses can help prevent pollen from getting into eyes.
- After being outdoors, clean off pollen residue by bathing, washing hair and clothes, and using a nasal salt water rinse.
- Keep you humidity levels in your house around 30 – 50%.
For those of you that suffer chronically from allergies the best approach is to participate in a Spring Cleanse/Detox before and during allergy season. This settles both the immune and inflammatory response making the allergy season much more pleasant!