Are you one of millions of Americans who are struggling through allergy season? You just want to enjoy being outside without all the sneezing, itching, and congestion. Ragweed, which is the largest culprit in seasonal allergies, grows faster as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, according to the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. That being said, there is also much evidence showing that the pollen count is rising in parts of the U.S., as well as allergenic trees such as oaks and hickories.
Allergies cause an inflammatory response in the body. For example, when pollen enters your nasal passages and lands on your mucous membranes, histamines are released. These histamines set off a host of reactions to get rid of the intruder, such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes, etc. Another reaction for some people is swelling in the bronchial tubes, which makes it difficult to breathe.
Personally, I have struggled with seasonal allergies for as long as I can remember. I also suffered from chronic sinus infections, which would lead to secondary bacterial infections and a round of antibiotics. I hated the feeling of constantly feeling sick and not being able to breathe. Every night during allergy season, I would have to put eucalyptus oil under my nose to clear my sinuses. I grew up sticking my head over a pot of an herb solution that my mom made up for me so I could find relief. In college, I was so desperate for a quick fix that I popped Claritin or Zyrtec on a regular basis and still never got complete relief. Today, I’m happy to say that I’m symptom free. No more sinus infections or seasonal allergy issues, and I feel great! The main solution was in my diet: I took away inflammatory foods.
TIPS TO BEAT ALLERGIES NATURALLY:
The goal is to build up the immune system by avoiding inflammatory foods and enjoying anti-inflammatory foods.
1. During allergy season, avoid sugary products and grains, especially wheat as these foods worsen your allergies.
2. Avoid or limit pasteurized dairy products. Some people may need to be completely casein free (the protein found in milk).
3. Eat more raw fruits & vegetables, which will improve your immune system. Raw foods contain more enzymes, which are essential for the digestive system to work. Heating foods to a high temperature kills the enzymes, and a lack of digestive enzymes can be a factor in food allergies. For many people, the underlying cause of seasonal allergies are food sensitivities and food allergies. Your body (nasal passages, sinuses, etc) may already be inflamed and the seasonal pollen and other triggers only worsen this inflammation. A food allergy blood test, which can test over 350 potential allergens, may be beneficial for you. You may not have any food allergies or sensitivities, but most people find that if they at least eliminate wheat and dairy, they see remarkable differences in their symptoms. Mine completely disappeared when I eliminated these 2 common allergenic foods. Try it for a few weeks, and let me know how you feel.
4. Eat raw, local honey daily. The reason why local is so important is that the bees in your area are traveling from flower to flower, collecting nectar from the same plants that are causing your allergy problems. By eating raw honey from the bees in your area, you are building your body’s immune response to these plants.
5. Of course it’s best to eat foods high in these nutrients, but if that’s hard for you, then take these supplements:
- Quercetin: Natural plant-derived bioflavonoid that helps to prevent mast cells from releasing histamine. Foods high in this compound are: citrus fruits, apples, onions, broccoli, and parsley. However, allergy sufferers usually need supplemental form. Start taking supplement before allergy season for better protection. (500-1,000 mg per day)
- Vitamin C: Powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system
- Vitamin D: Most people’s levels are low. Get your levels checked & aim for a goal of 65.
- Bromelain: Found in pineapple. It’s a proteolytic enzyme that reduces inflammation.
- Probiotic: Puts good bacteria in your gut
So if you’re miserable during allergy season, there is hope for you. You can overcome these allergies, naturally. Happy Spring!
Kristen M. Pardue, RD, LDN