The warm weather does not only signal that summer is on its way, but that the pollen is on its way out! Allergy sufferers worldwide understand this love-hate relationship with summer. Natural allergy relief was one thing that attracted me to the naturopathic profession, as I myself, found a vast improvement after changing my approach to allergies.
Before we get into what we can do about allergies let’s have a closer look at what is actually going on in the body. Pollen is recognized by your body as a foreign antigen (invader), causing the immune system to recruit mast cells (defenders) that gobble up the antigen and release histamine. Histamine leads to even more blood flow attracted to that area where the pollen is (ex. nose, eyes, throat), creating congestion, itchiness and an ongoing allergy cycle. Pharmaceutical antihistamines are targeted at preventing this cycle from getting out of control. Research shows that there are naturally occurring plant compounds that have anti-histamine effects.
Like medical doctors, Naturopathic doctors like to first do no harm. This means to start with the basics such as: closing windows to avoid pollen buildup, using HEPA/air purifier filters and frequent washing of bedding just to name a few (1). Other basic "anti-allergy strategies" begin with a healthy diet high in antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods. This isn't anything elaborate, but goes back to eating large servings of fruits and vegetables, choosing more lean proteins/fish over processed meats, healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil), and spices like turmeric and ginger that target inflammation. Packaged foods with high fat and sugar promote more congestion and inflammation, leading to more allergy symptoms. Stress reduction helps the body better tolerate excess antigens (the pollen "invaders"), allowing your body to have less of an immune response. So try some yoga, meditation or going for walks to help promote healthy breathing and aid in relaxation.
On top of these basic lifestyle strategies, there are a few herbs and supplements that will be discussed:
1. Quercetin – This compound is a flavonoid (plant antioxidant) that has been shown to have anti-allergy effects in studies (2). Foods that are high in quercetin are: capers, onions, apples and dark red or blue berries (3).
2. Vitamin C – Absorbic acid, the active constituent in Vitamin C, was found to reduce histamine concentrations in the blood of patients with allergic diseases (4). Vitamin C is found in a plethora of foods like: bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and citrus fruits (5).
3. Nettle – This plant called “stinging needle” due to its small spikes, has many uses, and has shown promise in allergy reduction. A cell study study found that Nettle was an antagonist of Histamine receptors (basically inhibiting the receptor stimulation), and inhibited pro-inflammatory pathways (6). Nettle tea can be purchased at most grocery stores. Just don’t go and pick them out in the wild unless you know how to handle them because they will sting you!
Do you suffer from allergies or know someone that does? I’d love to tell you more about how naturopathic medicine can help with allergy relief. Acupuncture, other herbal remedies and eliminating food sensitivities can also help manage and reduce allergy symptoms.
Don't let allergies dictate your summer any longer! Book your Allergy Consultation here.
1) Hay Fever (2017). Mayoclinic. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20020827
2) Chirumbolo (2011). Quercetin as a potential anti-allergic drug: which perspectives? Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. Jun;10(2):139-40. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21625024
3) Kerns (2015). Foods With the Highest Content of Quercetin. Livestrong.com. Retreived from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/301326-foods-with-the-highest-content-of-quercetin/
4) Hagel et al (2013). Intravenous infusion of ascorbic acid decreases serum histamine concentrations in patients with allergic and non-allergic diseases. Naunyn Schmeidebergs Arch Pharmacol. Sep;386(9):789-93. Retreived from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23666445
5) The 10 Best Foods High in Vitamin C + Health Benefits. HealthAliciousNess.com Retrieved from: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/vitamin-C.php
6) Roschek et al (2009). Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res. Jul;23(7):920-6. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19140159