by Dr. Amy Wiesner
With spring now here and warmer weather approaching, many people will soon be suffering the effects of seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies, commonly referred to as hay fever, are caused by the immune system’s response to the pollen of trees, grasses, flowers and weeds. The pollen most commonly causes itchy eyes and throat, runny nose, congestion and sneezing and inflammation of the mucous membranes.
Eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to mitigate symptoms as these keep the immune system strong. Avoiding alcohol, dairy products and sugar will help, as will eliminating artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and other additives.
If you are excessively sensitive to pollen, however, more steps may need to be taken.
About 80% of our immune system is found in the digestive tract. If it is healthy, you will be less likely to get sick. However, if you eat an unhealthy diet and don’t eliminate properly, this will cause an imbalance that will affect your immune system. Probiotics are healthy microflora that help to stabilize the immune system. Taking them on a daily basis is preventive for both acute and chronic illness.
Taking extra amounts of vitamins C, A and E, magnesium and zinc, in conjunction with a good multivitamin, will also help. Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which on a long-term basis will keep both your immune system and mucous membranes healthy.
Bioflavonoids, including quercetin, are plant pigments found in the brightly colored fruit and vegetables that we eat. These pigments have been shown to inhibit histamine release, which can decrease the severity of an allergic reaction, as well as asthma. They are antioxidants whose absorption is improved by ingestion with vitamin C and bromelain. Ginkgo and grape seed oil contain bioflavonoids.
Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica, has been shown to help prevent allergy symptoms. It helps with the itching, runny eyes and nose and inflammation of the mucous membranes.
An Ayurvedic botanical called Tylophora asthmatica has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of hay fever. It is both anti-inflammatory and inhibits histamine.
A nasal rinse with salt water will also help with the discomfort associated with allergies. A neti pot is a specially designed product with a long spout that allows you to irrigate the nasal passage to decrease inflammation and mucus. Finding one made of ceramic or biodegradable plastic is great for the planet too!
Acupuncture is also an effective treatment for seasonal allergies. It not only directly affects your sinuses, nose, eyes and throat when needles are put in areas that help symptomatically, but it also helps to balance your body and your immune system to make you healthier as a whole.
Altogether, taking these steps at both prevention and treatment may allow you to avoid taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs this spring.
Image courtesy of ScienceDaily.com.