If you're one of the 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies each year, it's time to get prepared. Though spring is still a few weeks away, 2017's mild winter will probably lead to higher levels of pollen and a longer, more brutal allergy season. While many just normally reach for a bottle of antihistamines when symptoms strike, we'd like to suggest a few holistic steps you can also take that might minimize your occurrences and offer relief.
In order to find the best non-toxic alternatives it's important to understand that an allergy is an overreaction of the body's immune system to a normally harmless substance. In most people, allergens like pollens, foods, and house dust mites pose no problem, in allergic individuals, their immune system identifies these as a "threat" and produces immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies cause cells to produce histamines that lead to the allergic reactions - runny nose, watery eyes, hives, etc.
As a matter of fact, allergic and autoimmune diseases are on the rise in westernized countries and many scientists believe the reason is that we've created too much of a sanitized environment. The theory, known as "hygiene hypothesis", stipulates that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (such as the gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system. Supporting that is research that shows people born by c-section are 5 times more likely to develop allergies and bowel disorders due to the fact they don't go through the birth canal. That passage is the time when a baby ingests some of the important bacteria that will colonize its gut. So, when addressing any allergy concerns it's obvious that immune system function is key. And since 80% of our immune system resides in our GI tract, gut health is vitally important to allergy strategy.
Here are our favorite ways to help with allergies:
Eat Better/Cleaner: As much as possible, eat a mostly fresh, organic, plant-based diet. Avoid precessed foods, GMO's, additives, preservatives and pesticides, whenever possible, as all have been linked to allergies. Also, eat fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut as they are known to optimize gut flora and stay away from pasteurized dairy products as they can increase phlegm.
Supplement: Quercetin is at the top of the list of allergy supplements. Derived from flavonoids commonly found in fruits and veggies, it has been shown to act as a natural antihistamine. As we've shown, supporting digestive health is essential to a strong immune system - take a good probiotic. (Especially wise for children of C-section births.) Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as they have been shown to reduce immune responses. And, if you suffer from asthma get your vitamin D levels checked. Low vitamin D has been shown to be a primary cause of asthma.
Neti Pot: Flushing your nasal cavity is widely recommended even by mainstream medical sources. Emptying your sinuses will help flush out pollen and other irritants, helping you breathe a little easier. They can be purchased easily online or at many pharmacies.
Infrared Saunas: A 2013 study found that after just 6 weeks of sauna therapy individuals suffering from chronic allergies were able to experience less congestion and greater lung capacity. The treatments seemed to stabilize the body's Autonomic Nervous System which regulates immune system response.
Reduce Stress: A 2013 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that, "... individuals with persistent emotional stress have more frequent allergy flares". So do whatever you can to reduce stress - meditate, relax, exercise, sauna, and get enough sleep.
Colon Hydrotherapy: Along with a clean diet and probiotics, colonics are the best way to keep your GI tract, especially your colon, in tip-top shape.
Acupuncture: A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that that patients with rhinitis showed considerable improvement with acupuncture.