The sun is shining outside your window, the warmth of spring envelops you as the last of winter melts away. You step outside to bask in the glory of it all, only... your eyes begin to water, and you’re aware of the little tickle in your nose that becomes a full-on sneeze. Your nose then starts dripping like a faucet. Lo and behold, you’re a sufferer of seasonal allergies. These symptoms characterize the all too familiar triad of allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as seasonal allergies. Fortunately, a wide breadth of natural remedies exist to prevent symptoms from manifesting or reduce the severity of symptoms during pollen season.
Quercetin, a flavonoid found most abundant in onions, is an antioxidant that is often used in the prevention of allergy symptoms. This occurs through the mast cell stabilization effect, which prevents histamine release. Histamine is a chemical mediator that promotes the inflammatory response which results in the various symptoms associated with seasonal allergies: rhinitis (runny nose), itchy eyes, sneezing, etc. Research shows that the effective dose of quercetin is 500 mg per day, however, treatment must be initiated at least 3 months prior to the start of allergy season for it to be effective as a preventative intervention.
Among the available herbal remedies, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been shown to provide effective relief for allergies, and for hayfever especially. This plant has antihistamine effects, as it has been observed to lower the amount of histamine produced by the body in response to any detected allergens. As a result, in a study observing a group of adult participants who have been longtime sufferers of seasonal allergies, 57% of the group reported nettle to have provided effective relief for their symptoms and 48% actually rated nettle as being more effective than the antihistamine medications that they had used previously. Stinging nettle can be found in encapsulated formulations, and need to be taken prior to and throughout the allergy season to be effective.
We are all familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat” but new research has shown that food has greater systemic effects than was previously known. The consumption of a diet high in saturated fats has been associated with an increased incidence of asthma and hayfever in adults. Foods that are high in saturated fats include meat, dairy products, seafood and poultry. That’s not to say that everyone should adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, but rather that meat consumption should be balanced with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The reason why saturated fats are a detriment to health is because they produce free radicals in the body which trigger acute inflammation and histamine release. As mentioned before, this histamine can then produce the symptoms of sneezing, congestion, runny nose and asthma. The main takeaway from this is that a diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, supplemented by a few servings of meat each week, reduces oxidative stress and symptoms of inflammation within the body.
Probiotics are cultures of beneficial gut bacteria that exert effects not only within the digestive system, but also work to enhance the immune system. Research has shown that specific strains of probiotics, Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium longum, can be an effective treatment for seasonal allergies, as study participants reported reduced symptom severity and did not need to use allergy relief medications as often to manage their symptoms. The gut microflora produce multiple metabolites that have regulatory effects on immune responses, which is why it’s so incredibly important to maintain diversity in probiotic strains by supporting optimal digestive health.
Make sure you’re ready for the springtime awakening of your seasonal allergies. Keep in mind that the treatments discussed are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any existing medical conditions. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about the interventions that are appropriate for your individualized case.
Dr. Naomi Ha, is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, currently practicing in the Leslieville area, and is a member of our Nature’s Signature team. Her areas of focus include endocrinology and hormonal health.
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