As nature flourishes in the bloom of spring, I’m torn. On one hand, I ADORE the general sense of awakening and reanimation that comes with spring. On the other hand, as an allergy sufferer, I experience some trepidation because spring is Mother Nature’s way of dealing a healthy dose of twisted humour. “Come”, she smiles, “smell this beautiful bloom and roll on this verdant lawn”. Then, bam! Your sinuses explode and your eyes look like you’ve gone “Breaking Bad” while cooking it up in a meth lab all winter.
Allergy symptoms can make you feel awful. Congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy eyes and sneezing simply wear you down and leave you looking distinctly un-spring-like.
Most people, like me, turn to antihistamines, decongestants, prescription nasal sprays, and even allergy shots to address their symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these drugs can have significant side effects, and relief tends to be short-lived. More importantly though, they don’t address the underlying cause of your allergies.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES?
Allergies result from an imbalance in the immune system which is our primary defense system against disease. The body reacts abnormally to otherwise harmless stimuli (allergens) and views them as a threat. This sets of a chain reaction in your body which culminates in the release of potent chemicals such as histamines which then cause the symptoms we experience.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MANAGE OUR RISK OF SUFFERING ALLERGIES?
Limit your exposure to known triggers. Eat clean. Improve your gut health and make sure your Vitamin D levels are optimised.
As I noted in my post on The Importance of Gut Health, an estimated 70% of our immune system cells are located inside or around the gut. Supporting your digestive system is thus essential to supporting your immune system. Allergies are a sign that your immune system isn’t happy. Diet, gut health, and vitamin D are key to optimising your overall immune function.
Reduce exposure to triggers
I’ve read ridiculous suggestions like, limit the time you spend outdoors, or close all your windows and doors to keep all the bad stuff out. Hello! Its SPRING! We want to be outside and enjoy the sunlight and longer days. We want to smell the blooming jasmine and hear the happy tweeting of the birds. For me, hiding out in a stifling house for the season is NOT a solution.
Here are some less dramatic suggestions to hopefully limit your exposure to pesky pollens.
Avoid clothing made of synthetic fabrics. They produce an electric charge and when rubbed, can attract and make pollen stick to you.
Exercise outdoors either before sunrise, in the late afternoon, or early evening. Pollen counts are at the lowest at these times.
If you love gardening in spring, wear gloves and a mask. When done, immediately hop into the shower and dump your clothes in the wash.
Avoid touching your eyes.
Spring clean your house and make sure rugs and upholstery are kept dust and dander free.
The key to gut health is eliminating inflammatory foods, and introducing healthier ones that will support a proper balance of bacteria in your gut. Ideally, you need to eat a clean diet filled with fresh, unprocessed, preferably organic, locally grown, GMO free foods. (Read our tips on how to Spring Clean Your Wellness and see our post on Gut Health for more information on restoring gut health.)
Make sure you get enough Vitamin D
“The sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D has an important role in immune system function. The best way to ensure you have enough vitamin D is a combination of sensible sun exposure and the adequate intake of foods high in Vitamin D. Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines (or capsuled/bottled fish oils) are the richest sources of dietary vitamin D. Other good sources are eggs (vitamin D is in the yolk) and liver. If you’re unsure, your doctor can assess your vitamin D status with a simple blood test and if necessary, recommend a supplement.
NATURAL REMEDIES TO HELP REDUCE SYMPTOMS
It seems that it is difficult to completely avoid having allergic reactions but we can limit them and reduce symptoms. These are some anecdotal suggestions to help you survive the allergy season as naturally as possible. Different people react differently to treatments so you need to find what works for you. It’s important to note though that if symptoms persist and worsen, you do need to go see a medical professional asap.
Apple cider vinegar
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar can help reduce mucus production. It also aids digestion so is good for gut health. Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon raw honey and drink this three times a day.
The capsaicin helps reduce nasal congestion and stuffiness. Enjoy it in our easy to make Tiger Tonic.
This pure essential oil can be healing to mucus membranes. You can apply a drop on a cotton ball and sniff it throughout the day, add a few drops to water for a steam treatment, or use a few drops in your bathwater.
Quercetin is a plant pigment (flavonoid) found in many fruits and vegetables and is said to be very effective in the treatment of allergies. It’s a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. You can get quercetin by drinking unfermented green tea. Apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, tomatoes, green peppers, capers and broccoli are all excellent sources.
Nasal irrigation using a Netipot and saline rinse (like this one from Faithful to Nature) is a brilliant way to flush out your nasal cavity, cleansing it of pollen and other irritants.
Vitamin C is a natural, gentle antihistamine. You need about 500-1,000mg 3 times a day to reduce symptoms.
Finally, avoid foods that can make your symptoms worse.
Remember that with natural remedies, consistency and patience is key. Applying the principles consistently over several weeks, your gut health will be restored, your immune system will balance out and in so doing, you will build your natural defenses to fight off allergies.
This post was first composed in September 2017 and was revised on 21 August 2018.