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by Carly Neubert, BA, NC May 03, 2017
*02/16/21 - Added additional allergy guidance & updated graphics
Springtime brings the sunshine that warms the heart and hands of winter-weary people all over the United States. But Spring also brings sniffles, sneezing, and wheezing to allergy sufferers. Seasonal allergies most commonly occur during the Spring months of March, April, and May. But unfortunately, many people experience allergy symptoms that stretch through Spring, Summer, and Fall. In the Southern states, allergy season can start as early as January.
There are many over-the-counter medications available for allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, they all come with severe side effects. Who wants to feel drowsy and dopey all day long? Besides the spacey feeling associated with allergy medications, these medications completely block the natural balance of chemicals within our body. Take a natural supplement like Natural D-Hist, for example, and it will act as a potent allergy formula that supports your body's ability to cope with pollen and other allergens, without the nasty side effects.
I recommend relying on natural remedies that facilitate your body's own balance. This is why I've created a Survival Guide for the allergy season that focuses on a natural approach that will avoid the over-the-counter severe side effects and still provide allergy relief.
These terrible symptoms are known by many names: hay fever, seasonal allergies, and allergic rhinitis. These names all describe the same immune problem. Seasonal allergy symptoms are a product of your immune system over-reacting to mold, pollen, dust, or other spores.
Hay fever is a strange name for allergies because you don't have to be exposed to hay to suffer from allergy symptoms. And you don't typically have a fever along with allergy symptoms. If you aren't sure about your symptoms, take this Allergy Self Test.
What exactly causes these terrible symptoms? The short answer is that seasonal allergies are the result of mistaken identity.
It all starts with your nose. When you breathe in through your nose, you are bringing in air that is filled with microscopic particles of dust, pollen, mites, or chemicals. If your body recognizes those particles as "foreign invaders" your mast cells will release a powerful trifecta of protection: histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. Pollen and other spores are not dangerous foreign invaders, but your immune cells mistakenly recognize them as such.
This mistaken identity causes an immune response and you end up with inflammation. Seasonal allergies are the result of your immune cells being over-reactive and hypersensitive.
The result of your body releasing histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins are the symptoms that you identify as seasonal allergies.
Histamine is the first-responder to cause immediate symptoms. It causes tightening of muscles and mucous membranes which is responsible for the cough and congested nose. Sneezing is usually a result of histamine release. Histamine is also responsible for hives and watery eyes. Leukotriene release causes a runny nose and phlegm in your throat. Like histamine, prostaglandins cause tightening of smooth muscles. Histamine is an immediate reaction whereas prostaglandins kick in about 6-8 hours later. All three of these body compounds are involved in inflammation levels in your body.
Many people reach for over the counter allergy medications like Zyrtec, Allegra, or Claritin. Although these medications will relieve your symptoms, you run the risk of Alzheimers, dementia, and high blood pressure. Why take these chances with your health when you can use natural solutions without any side effects?
Quercetin is a top performing natural supplement for allergies. Quercetin acts like a "chill pill" for overexcited immune cells. It stabilizes your mast cells so they don't over-react to pollen and other particles. Quercetin slows down the process of releasing histamine and prostaglandins.
Quercetin is an antioxidant just like Vitamin C. It is in the bioflavonoid family of antioxidants. Bioflavonoids are found in many delicious foods such as red onions, apples, berries, and citrus fruits. Increase your quercetin intake by adding dark purple and red vegetables and fruits to your healthy diet.
Bromelain is an enzyme that is extracted from pineapple. All enzymes act as catalysts. They either speed up or slow down processes within the body. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down protein molecules. In the case of allergies, bromelain breaks down the inflammatory molecules that cause unpleasant allergy symptoms. It also inhibits the production of inflammatory molecules without the side effects of NSAIDS. It too is known as an anti-inflammatory supplement. As an added benefit, bromelain enhances the absorption of quercetin. This synergy creates a powerful anti-inflammatory supplement.
You can add more bromelain to your diet by eating pineapple. The fibrous core is the most concentrated source of bromelain, so make sure and eat that part. However, if you are trying to reduce inflammation or reduce seasonal allergy symptoms, I recommend taking a quercetin/bromelain supplement---unless you are willing and able to eat or juice a whole pineapple every single day!
Is there anything that Vitamin C can't do? Not much! Vitamin C reduces the production of histamine. It also enhances the adrenal gland and its ability to regulate cortisol during an "allergy response." Vitamin C also takes care of the free radical damage when excess inflammation is created through an allergic response. Vitamin C is an integral nutrient for coping with seasonal allergies and its draining symptoms. Liposomal Vitamin C is the most readily absorbed and easiest form of Vitamin C supplementation.
Stinging nettles leaf is a plant that most people try to avoid. It causes stinging and itchiness if you happen to accidentally touch it. In medical studies, dried stinging nettle extract will stop the production of inflammation. This is especially important during allergy season because inflammation is the culprit behind most allergy symptoms.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid. It is a precursor to glutathione which is the only antioxidant that is stronger than Vitamin C. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can help reduce the thickness of the mucous in your nose, throat, and chest. You can think of NAC as a natural decongestant.
Allergens are literally microscopic pieces of pollen or chemicals that you breathe in. So it only makes sense to filter the air you are breathing. Austin Air and Air Oasis are both top-rated air filters. The Austin Air has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. The Air Oasis utilizes ions to render inert allergens and other particles. We employ both types of filters in different locations in our house and office.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends both air filters and at the very least, changing your house ventilation filters every 3 months. Cutting down on the number of allergens you breathe is a foundational strategy for managing seasonal allergies.
On top of avoiding pollens and breathing in clean air, your immune cells will appreciate a break from chemical allergens.
We don’t often think about the multitude of chemicals we are putting on our bodies. It is estimated that the average woman applies over 500 chemicals to her body every single day. How many do you put on your body? And how does that affect your immune cells? Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens---simply put: science has shown that they cause cancer.
The constant barrage of toxic chemicals weakens your immune cells and their ability to fight invaders. Your immune cells may end up confused and misdirect their attacks from invaders to your own body. This process results in autoimmune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Crohn’s Disease.
Household cleaners and yard chemicals have the same effect on your immune cells. These chemicals are both destructive and over-stimulating to your immune system. The Environmental Working Group is a research institution that has devoted countless hours for your benefit. The website offers definitions, research, and toxicity risks for thousands of chemicals and ingredients. You can look up individual ingredients or search by product name. This tool is invaluable as you decrease the overall burden on your immune cells.
You may not be suffering from allergies all year long, but your immune cells still need support. Every cell in your body has a fatty membrane. If you eat damaged fats, then your cell membranes are constructed from those oxidized fats. These damaged fats make for an unstable and sickly cell membrane. These cells are much more susceptible to invasion from bacteria, virus, or other pathogens---not to mention toxins.
Eating a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids will allow your body to construct cells with strong fatty membranes. Your primary source of Omega 3 fatty acids is seafood. Wild caught salmon and sardines are loaded with Omega 3’s as are flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds.
The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 1000 mg (1 gram) of Omega 3 intake per day. That equates to 1 can of sardines or 1 (4 oz) filet of wild caught salmon every day of the week. If you don’t have that worked into your regular eating plan, then an Omega 3 fish oil supplement is your best strategy.
Wear a mask! Luckily, today’s mask-wearing mandates can lessen the impact of seasonal allergies too. Even before wearing a mask was a national requirement, some individuals with more severe allergy concerns have been using them as a preventive measure.
Along with blocking possible infectious materials, they can prevent you from inhaling common airborne irritants such as dust, pollen, mites, or chemicals. There is no specific allergy-preferred mask when it comes to brands and types. Using a clean mask for every outing can prevent you from inhaling certain irritants repeatedly, as well as allow you to practice the best general hygiene possible.
Another major part of preventing symptoms associated with this time of the year is controlling your indoor allergens in order to improve air quality. As mentioned before, air quality plays a role in whether or not your allergies affect you symptomatically. Because of this, improving your indoor air quality can help you keep your office or home an allergen-free zone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the main sources of indoor allergens are:
Though air filters can improve the overall air quality of your home, there are additional measures that can be taken to limit your contact with these allergen-inducing agents. For one, reducing indoor humidity can help control the accumulation of dust mites and mold. Air conditioners are excellent tools for this. Try to use air conditioning as often as possible, turning it on recirculate in order to reduce the introduction of outdoor allergens.
Another good way to reduce the number of allergens in your home is to prevent dust mites. One easy way to do this is to avoid clutter, where these mites often congregate. This is especially pertinent in the bedroom, as this is where we often spend most of our time. You can also accomplish this by vacuuming once or twice a week and using zippered allergen-resistant or plastic covers on your pillows, mattresses, and box springs. These are all wonderful ways to reduce your contact with dust mites, thus reducing the presence of indoor allergens overall.
Lastly, try changing your work clothes as soon as you arrive home for the evening. Being outside of your home all day, whether it be in an office, outdoors, a restaurant, or a workout studio, you are creating the possibility for allergens to be brought home at the end of the day. Not only is changing your clothes an easy way to relax and unwind at the end of a long day, but it can also help you get rid of those pesky outside allergens too.
Figuring out what exactly is causing your seasonal allergies is one of the best ways to knock them out from the source. First, let’s review some of the most common allergy symptoms. These most often consist of:
Many different items or encounters in our everyday lives can activate these allergic responses. Now, since not all of us have the time or money to take an allergy test, here are some of the most common allergic reaction triggers.
Sometimes your allergic responses can simply be caused by an overactive immune system. This occurs when your body’s natural defenses attack something that is normally viewed as harmless such as pollen, food, or animal dander. These reactions range from mild to life-threatening and affect about 30% of all adults in the United States.
The excess of pollen that occurs with the change of the seasons is one of the most prominent allergy triggers. Some of its most common side effects are sneezing, a runny/stuffy nose, and itchy/watery eyes. Thankfully, these can be remedied by many of the natural treatments mentioned in this article.
The changing seasons also prompt a change in the weather. In many cases, this means mold now has the perfect opportunity to grow. Breathing in mold spores can often cause allergy-related symptoms and be especially irritating around springtime. You can find them in most damp spaces, such as the basement, bathroom, and even in grass and mulch.
Lastly, our own medicines can cause unfortunate allergy responses! Whether it be an over-the-counter pain medication like Aspirin or a prescribed antibiotic such as Penicillin, these have the potential to cause allergic reactions. Though medication doesn’t change with the seasons like many of these other triggers, the increased allergy symptoms associated with this time of year can prompt you to reevaluate what exactly you are putting into your body. If you are looking to reduce your medicine intake overall, it may be best to consider replacing traditional allergy medications with cheaper, simpler, and more natural alternatives. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.
As anything has the potential to cause allergies nowadays, these aren’t the only allergy triggers. Some of the other common culprits behind allergies are: animal dander, cockroaches, latex, nickel and gold, food coloring, insect bites and stings, and cosmetics.
Remember, an allergic response causes inflammation. If your levels of body inflammation are already sky-high, then allergy symptoms will be intensified and severe. Keep your inflammation levels down all year long with turmeric supplements. Curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory component in turmeric has countless studies proving its power for reducing inflammation, pain, and even cancer growths.
Also, remember that 80% of your immune cells live in your intestines. If you want your immune cells to behave themselves, you must support their cellular health with proper nutrition. To sum it all up, here are my tips for surviving the allergy season:
My General Survival Guide for Seasonal Allergies:
1. Follow a Paleo or anti-inflammatory diet
2. Take 1 teaspoon of Liposomal Vitamin C approximately 15 minutes before each meal
3. Take 2 caps of D-Hist at each meal
4. Consider an air filter for your home and/or office
And of course, if you need help making your own personal plan for dealing with seasonal allergies, schedule a consult with me!
For additional recipes, biohacking tips and lifestyle hacks -- check out my other blog on my coaching site www.cleancoachcarly.com! I post weekly about nutrition and lifestyle topics, all backed by science. Happy Reading!
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