Chances are good that if every allergy season your sinuses and tear ducts open up like Niagara Falls, then this year will be no different. Allergy season can be debilitating, and unfortunately for you and I, this means sneezing, runny nose, red swollen itchy eyes, and a general sense of discomfort for the better part of a summer. If you’re like me and don’t appreciate how groggy and foggy even the most “non-drowsy” anti-histamines make you feel, then consider taking an alternate approach this season.
Allergies tend to affect us when immune cells, originally designed to protect us, become too reactive to things like pollens, grasses and foods among many other things. Cells known as eosinophils and mast cells contribute to the classic histamine response which include swelling, runny nose, and itching to name a few. The numbers of these cells are generally higher in people who suffer from allergies. Nutrition and proper gut health play a big role in stabilizing these cells, which reduces the amount of histamine produced in response to an allergen, effectively reducing those pesky allergy symptoms.
A good diet with some targeted nutritional support!
Fruits and vegetables are rich in compounds known as flavonoids, which are antioxidants and excellent mast cell stabilizers. In addition to increasing fruits and vegetables in our diet we need to supplement with these flavonoids in order to achieve relevant doses for reduction of allergy symptoms. Below I’ve listed my top recommendations, which have been shown in clinical trials to benefit those suffering from seasonal allergies. The trick is to take these well in advance of your allergy season – for most, that’s four to eight weeks (so… now). So go ahead and give these nutrients a try on their own or in combination and make sure to let us know how they helped you
This is one of my favorite nutrients for its allergy-quenching effects. This standardized maritime pine bark delivers high-dose flavonoids and has been studied to help reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies1,2 These compounds work by shifting the body’s immune reaction to a more appropriate one and improve the bodies’ ability to tolerate pollens.
- How much should you take? 100mg/day
- What brand? Natural Factors Pycnogenol® 100mg- convenient 1 capsule a day dosing
- When? – 1-2 months before allergy season; however, the best results are generally seen when starting 7-8 weeks before the season
Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) -
Another panacea of the supplement industry, black seed oil, has a long-standing tradition of healing many ailments. The scientific skeptics out there will be pleased as well, as many of the traditional indications including allergic rhinitis (aka runny nose) are starting to be backed up by solid scientific evidence. And it tastes pretty good too!
- How much should you take? 2ml/day
- Which brand? Enerex Black Seed Oil
- Cool tip: mix with Manuka honey for a delicious tasting, allergy-fighting treat!
- Other info: Also shown to improve symptoms of asthma and substantially reduce eosinophil count3!
- Mast cells are immune cells that migrate to the sinuses, throat, and eyes and spill their contents such as histamine and other inflammatory chemicals in response to pollens. Stabilizing these cells in the body is key to managing the allergic response, and quercetin is one of the best at doing this. EMIQ quercetin is a form that has been enzymatically modified for your convenience and is ready to be put to work right away. Quercetin has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of pollen allergies and other allergy-related issues such as chronic skin itch or hives4.
- How much should you take? 2 capsules of EMIQ (providing 100mg of active Quercetin)
- Which brand? BioClinic or Natural Factors EMIQ
These are beneficial bacteria that interact with our immune system, of which over 70% of it resides in our gut. These bacteria have the ability to calm our immune system, shifting us away from our allergic response. Probiotics may even be helpful for eczema and asthma, as well as allergies. Take these well in advance (2-3 months before the season), as the more time these bugs have to work on your immune system the better! Probiotics have demonstrated their ability to reduce allergic symptoms and medication usage over several studies5, so I’m willing to bet they’ll help you too!>
Pop by one of our locations and we’d be happy to recommend a quality probiotic!
Natural anti-allergy agents can be quite effective if taken consistently and ahead of time. So be proactive and this year will be much more tolerable for you and your sinuses!
Andrew is a 3rd year Naturopathic student, a former seasonal allergy sufferer and nutritional nerd who will be accepting patients as an intern at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto in May.
You can reach him with any questions or comments at email@example.com!
1. Ross, Stephanie Maxine. "Allergic Rhinitis: A Proprietary Extract of Pinus pinaster Aiton (Pycnogenol) Is Found to Improve the Symptoms Associated With Allergic Rhinitis." Holistic Nursing Practice 30.5 (2016): 301-304.
2. Wilson, Dale, et al. "A randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled exploratory study to evaluate the potential of pycnogenol® for improving allergic rhinitis symptoms." Phytotherapy Research 24.8 (2010): 1115-1119.
3. Wei, L., et al. "Nigella sativa supplementation Improves asthma control and biomarkers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Phytotherapy Research (2016).
4. Hirano, Toru, et al. "Preventative effect of a flavonoid, enzymatically modified isoquercitrin on ocular symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis." Allergology International 58.3 (2009): 373-382.
5. Güvenç, Işıl Adadan, et al. "Do probiotics have a role in the treatment of allergic rhinitis? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis." American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy 30.5 (2016): e157-e175.