September has always been my favorite weather month. Unfortunately with the cool evening breezes and warm, bright days come the ragweed and pollen that drive so many of us crazy. In short, those itchy eyes, drippy noses and annoying coughs are seasonal allergies resulting from the body’s immune system over-reacting to substances that the body has identified as potentially harmful. Many experts believe both fall as well as spring allergies are on the rise and now present themselves from mild rhinitis to chronic sinusitis to the full-blown bronchial contractions known as asthma attacks.
Natural Remedies and our “Toxic Burden”
Natural remedies to address allergies can be extremely effective, such as acupuncture, avoiding known environmental allergens, firing up your Neti Pot and my favorite…adding lavender and peppermint essential oils to a relaxing warm bath or facial. It's also very important to look closely at how what you are eating may be contributing to or helping alleviate your allergic reactivity.
We are often surprised when we begin to experience allergies that we never had before but they are actually a common result of our body’s decreasing ability to deal with the “toxic burden” of being exposed to thousands of environmental poisons and chemicals over time. From harmful household cleaners to pesticides to air pollution to metals in our drinking water to plastics in our food, the build-up of these toxins in our body can create a hyperactive immune response and a biological climate ripe for allergic reaction. Not to totally bum you out, but since our allergic tendencies are expected to worsen, it is up to us to help our bodies build immunity and calm our inflammatory responses.
Food and the Allergic Response
A big part of helping our bodies manage allergies is to avoid food “toxins”. Food toxins may be foods we are sensitive to outside of or just within allergy season as well as those foods that can potentially cross-react with environmental allergens. When eaten during allergy season, cross-reacting foods may worsen allergic reactions or even create dangerous allergic responses. Some common foods that are tolerated normally but that can be bothersome during allergy season include gluten, dairy, soy, shellfish and eggs and can extend to less suspicious foods like peaches and papaya. It is a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider about food allergies when environmental seasonal allergies are significant. You can also try an elimination diet of the most common allergens for a 2-4 week period to identify potential food allergens. Both refined and natural sugars are also considered allergy contributors as they have been found to suppress the immune system for up to 5 hours after eating so avoiding sweeteners can help strengthen the immune system.
Nourishing Foods and Herbs
The good news is that certain nutrients found in food and nourishing herbs can be help relieve inflammation, inhibit histamine release and reduce mast cell activation to reduce our allergic tendencies. A plant-based, whole foods diet focused on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and non-gluten grains can form a strong hypo-allergenic foundation. In addition, specific foods have been found to be beneficial.
- Salmon: Salmon and other wild-caught fish are excellent sources of both Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s have anti-inflammatory properties and can strengthen the immune system. While Vitamin D is best absorbed from the sun, it can also be obtained from seafood and dairy and most recently has been found to potentially reduce asthma attacks.
- Apples: Apples along with berries, grapes, onions, capers and tea are excellent sources of quercetin, a plant-based flavonoid that prevents the release of histamine.
- Stinging Nettle: This plant produces a painful sting when touched but when ingested safely has actually been found to reduce itching and sneezing by reducing the amount of histamine produced by the body. Nettle leaf is best taken in capsule or tablet form or the leaves can be steeped in an herbal infusion and enjoyed prior to allergy season to provide the most benefit.
- Sauerkraut: The gut is where most of our immune system exists so naturally fermented foods and probiotics can ensure we have the beneficial bacteria we need to keep our gut flourishing. One to two servings per day of sauerkraut or other fermented veggies like pickles or carrots along with miso, kefir and yogurt can help supply beneficial gut flora.
- Green Tea: Researchers have found that EGCG, the beneficial compound in green tea, can block a key cell receptor involved in producing an allergic response. Drinking green tea daily is likely to help relax our reaction to allergic triggers.
More significant dietary changes can be considered if allergies are severe and chronic. There is so one size fits all natural cure for seasonal allergies so it is important to keep informed about the many natural ways you can defend yourself and your family from the onslaught of seasonal allergies.
- Irfan, Umair. “Climate change expands allergy risk,” Scientific American, April 30, 2012, retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-expands-allergy-risk/
- The Doctor Oz Show, “Seasonal Allergy Cross-Reaction Chart, “ retrieved from: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/seasonal-allergy-cross-reaction-chart?page=1
- Pick, Marcelle OB/GYN NP, “Allergies – Inflammation and Sensitivities,” retrieved from: https://www.womentowomen.com/inflammation/allergies-and-sensitivities
- American Chemical Society, "Green Tea May Fight Allergies,” retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020919071413.htm