I love seeing everything turning green and blooming, but can certainly do without the sneezing, itchy and watering eyes, runny nose and coughing this time of year can bring. I know I’m not alone in this as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates around 50 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies. And I have way too much to do to take something that will make me drowsy. So what’s the solution? Here are some natural solutions to dealing with spring allergies that I’ve found helpful.
Avoidance – Since seasonal allergy symptoms are the body’s response to ingested pollens by producing histamine to wash them out, it makes sense to do whatever you can to avoid the pollens you have a reaction to in the first place. This would include closing windows, and using an air purifier with HEPA filters that can filter out 99% of pollen, dust, and mold in the house. Stanley Fineman, MD recommends using an air filter that has a MERV rating of 8 or more. Also, changing clothes when coming in from the outside and washing them in hot water right away can cut down on pollens you may bring in with you. Taking a shower and washing your hair when you come in from outside can also help you avoid bringing pollens into your house. It may also be helpful to have some testing done to find out which allergens give you problems. Then check your local pollen counts each day and plan indoor activities on the days counts are high for allergens that affect you.
Immune System Boost – When pollens enter the body, it’s the immune system that has the job of taking care of them as a foreign invader. As a response, it creates antibodies to attack the allergen and tells the blood cells to release histamine which causes the tissues around blood vessels to become tighter and allows fluid to escape. This fluid escaping is what we see as runny noses, sneezing and watery, itchy eyes. At certain times of the year, like spring, when there is a lot of pollen about, the immune system is having to work overtime. Giving it a boost by getting enough sleep, avoiding stress as much as you can, eating a healthy diet and supplementing the diet with a supplement such as this one with WGP beta glucan which can support white blood cells, are all ways to strengthen your immune system by activating macrophages, a certain type of white blood cells, that travel throughout the body to deal with foreign antigens.
Probiotics for Support – In giving support to the immune system you want to make it as strong as you can so it can tolerate higher levels of allergens. Probiotics go a long way in increasing the strength of the immune system as demonstrated by a study published in the Journal of Nutrition that reported participants that ate yogurt daily had less allergy symptoms than those that didn’t eat yogurt. You can also take probiotic supplements to help support your immune system during these times it needs to work harder.
Enzymes to Deal with Allergens – In dealing with allergens, the body not only produces histamine to wash them away, but also uses digestive and metabolic enzymes such as protease to break down the skin that surrounds the pollen and neutralize it. An abundance of allergy symptoms can mean you don’t have enough digestive and metabolic enzymes working for you. You can get extra enzymes by eating more raw foods or you can add a high quality enzyme supplement to your diet such as these digestive enzymes or this one with a combination of plant-based proteolytic enzymes.
Washing Allergens Away – Many experts, including Dr. Oz, support the use of a Neti-Pot to wash allergens out of the nasal cavity. The best results seem to come from using a mixture of distilled water, salt and baking soda poured from these small pots into one nostril and let it drain out the opposite nostril. If you can’t bring yourself to do this, then you may get some relief from using a saline solution spray.
Butterbur – Many people find Butterbur extract useful in dealing with allergy symptoms since it works as a natural antihistamine. Allergist and immunologist, Sakina Bajowala, advises avoiding butterbur products that don’t have pyrrolizidine alkaloids as they can do liver damage. This may not be a solution for everyone as she also warns that since butterbur is from the ragweed family, it may trigger other allergies in some people.
The best thing you can do now to get ready for spring allergy season is to boost your immune system to make it as strong as possible for the work it has ahead. Some extra planning during active pollen season to avoid pollens and using the immunity boosting tips above will hopefully help you get more enjoyment out of this spring season.