Seasonal Allergies: Naturopathic Strategies

Spring has finally arrived - the birds have come out, and nature seems to be waking up from a very deep sleep. For many this means excessive sneezing, nasal discharge, and itchy eyes.

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What are Allergies?

Allergic rhinitis, also known as seasonal allergies or “hay fever” occurs when someone with a sensitized immune system inhales an allergen, like pollen or mold, which is otherwise harmless in the environment. White blood cells called Mast Cells and Basophils are activated to release histamine, which cause the symptoms of itching, rhinorrhea (runny nose), and congestion.

Naturopathic Strategies

The following is a sample approach to the naturopathic management of allergies.

Minimize Exposure

Diet

  • Avoid food allergies and sensitivities: certain foods may be aggravating your allergies. Ask your naturopathic doctor about the IgG Food Sensitivity test and/or Elimination Diet, which are methods to determine what foods you are reacting to and may be contributing to your symptoms.
  • Avoid foods that commonly aggravate sinus congestion includeing: bananas, dairy, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Stay hydrated.

Supplements

  • Anti-histamines
    • Quercetin: a powerful antihistamine with significant antiallergic effects. It acts by preventing the release of histamine from mast cells and basophils(1). However most quercetin has low absorption, so a highly bioavailable form of quercetin is crucial.
    • Vitamin C(2, 3, 4): although not as effective quercetin, vitamin C is more readily absorbed and affordable.
  • Probiotics: 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. The microflora status of your gut is very important to your overall immune health and supplementing with the right probiotic may aid in achieving a more balanced immune system.
  • Plant sterols: These are plant fats found in all plant-based foods. Studies have shown plant sterols to have dampening effects on overactive immune systems(5).

Herbs

  • Eyebright is a powerful herb that can provide some relief from congestion in the nose and sinuses.
  • Stinging Nettle tea can be effective for excessive mucous discharge.

Homeopathy

  • Popular remedies for seasonal allergies include Histaminum, Allium cepa, and Euphrasia. The appropriate remedy will depend on how your allergies manifest.

Acupuncture

  • Bitong and Lung 20 for nasal and sinus congestion. Needling these points can provide relief by unblocking congested sinuses.
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Hydrotherapy

  • Neti pot or neti rinse for relief from congestion. The neti pot is an Ayurvedic tradition consisting of pouring salt water in one nasal passage, allowing it to flow out of the other. Water straight from the tap is not considered safe, be sure to use distilled, properly filtered, or boiled and then cooled water. Consult the CDC(6)  and FDA(7) websites for further information.

Stress Management

  • Any stress in our lives can exacerbate our reaction to allergens. Attempt to avoid stressors whenever possible and include stress relieving activities in your daily routine; such as meditation or a warm bath.

And remember, summer is just around the corner.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace or augment any advice or consultation provided by a licensed health care practitioner or physician.

Resources

1.       Min, Y, et al. (2007). Quercetin inhibits expression of inflammatory cytokines through attenuation of NF-kappaB and p38 MAPK in HMC-1 human mast cell line. Inflammation Research, 56(5), 210-5.

2.       Johnston, C., Martin, L., & Cai, X. (1992). Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 11(2), 172-176.

3.       Naclerio, R. (1993). Effects of antihistamines on inflammatory mediators. Annals of Allergy, 71, 292-295.

4.       Johnston, C. (1996). The Antihistamine Action of Ascorbic Acid. Subcellular Biochemistry, 25, 189-213.

5.       Bouic, P., Lamprecht, J. (1999). Plant Sterols and Sterolins: A Review of Their Immune-Modulating Properties. Alternative Medicine Review, 4(3), 170-177.

6.       Sinus Rinsing & Neti Pots. (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/sinus-rinsing.html.

7.       Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe? (2012). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm