An allergic reaction occurs when your immune systems reacts aggressively. Your body creates antibodies when you come in contact with a foreign substance—either by inhalation, ingestion, or touch. Your immune system’s reaction can cause inflammation of your skin, sinuses, airways and/or digestive system. The severity of these reactions vary from person to person and range from minor irritations, such as a runny nose or watery eyes, to a severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis.(1) Seasonal allergies are prevalent during spring/summer seasons, however, constant exposure to an allergen (e.g. pet dander), can leave you feeling symptomatic year round.
From a naturopathic perspective, we treat the cause of allergies, which is not the allergens, but the immune system’s overreaction to the allergen. Allergies can be associated with weak adrenals, compromised digestion, liver congestion and an imbalanced immune system. Natural treatments can be effective and its best to start treatments one to two months before the season begins. However, treatments can still reduce acute symptoms over the entire season. It always starts with good nutrition.
A cross-sectional study examined the effects of fruits and vegetables (and the Mediterranean diet) on asthma and allergies in children. The results indicated the majority of the children who ate fresh fruit and vegetables—specifically grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes—were protected from wheezing and rhinitis. High consumption of nuts and the Mediterranean diet was also protective for allergic rhinitis. Weekly intake of margarine had a harmful effect on asthma and rhinitis due to its polyunsaturated fatty acids.(2) So, incorporating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy fats into your diet can reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The immune response triggers mucous production that can be a major discomfort, so stay hydrated! Drink one-half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. For example: a 150 lb. person would drink 75 oz of water).
Eliminate the following from the diet:
- All dairy and wheat products, which can increase the inflammation and mucous production
- Food colorings (tartrazine)
Supplements, vitamins, and minerals that can reduce symptoms include:
- Bioflavonoids (e.g., quercetin, catechin, and hesperidin) act as natural antihistamines and are strongly anti-allergenic.
- Vitamin C supplementation can vary with each patient and help enhance absorption of bioflavonoid mentioned above.
- If there are digestive issues that increase the severity or frequency of a reaction, probiotics and glutamine are supportive of promoting a healthy GI tract.
In addition, herbal medicine is a powerful tool. Using herbs, such as milk thistle, stinging nettles, dong quai and gingko can provide anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, which support liver function and help with immune support.
I’ve encountered many people, especially children, with seasonal allergies who respond well to homeopathy. Homeopathy is best when prescribed specifically for an individual patient. However the following remedies are commonly utilized in acute relief of hay fever or allergies: allium cepa, euphrasia, natrum muriaticum, and nux vomica.
Constitutional hydrotherapy, hot foot baths, nasal lavage and wet sock treatments can help promote circulation to minimize symptoms of seasonal allergies—mainly nasal congestion and promote general immune support.
A recent randomized control study (3) showed acupuncture led to statistically significant improvements in disease-specific quality of life and antihistamine use measures after 8-weeks of treatment—compared with sham acupuncture and with rescue medication alone.
Rest, relaxation and regular exercise promotes overall wellness and immune function. This can indirectly promote a reduction in allergy symptoms as well.
Remember, it’s not necessarily about your body’s exposure to allergens, but more so, your body’s reaction to the allergens. Although, minimizing exposure to allergens also plays an important role. It can take a season or two to balance your immune system and lower the inflammation in your body to experience significant improvement. However, it can help re-establish your basis for health, which can benefit you for a lifetime!
- Mayo Clinic. (1998-2014). Diseases and Conditions: Allergies. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/basics/definition/con-20034030
- Leda Chatzi, G, Cullinan, P et al. (2007). Protective effect of fruits, vegetables, and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete. BMJ Group: Thorax. 62(8), 677-683. doi:10.1136/thx.2006.069419
- Brinkhaus, B, Ortiz, M, et al. (2013). Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial. Annals of internal medicine. 158(4), 255-34. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00002.
Dr. Miravone Dorough, ND, DC