It is that time of year where many of us, myself included, are suffering from seasonal allergies such as hay fever. Hay fever is a type of seasonal allergy specific to grass pollens. Seasonal allergies are generally due to an allergic reaction to the pollen in the air during spring and summer months. The usual symptoms include itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, running nose, sore throat due to post nasal drip, sinus inflammation, puffy eyes, and general congestion. For those of us who have it, it can be pretty rough, and spending the whole summer medicated isn’t the ideal solution. The good news is that there are alternative methods to dealing with seasonal allergies. Natural remedies treat the issue of seasonal allergies holistically. They are safer, healthier, and nourishes our bodies at the same time. In this article we will explore alternative allergy relief.
Why Do We Experience Allergies?
It is still up for debate why exactly some people experience allergies while other people do not. Genetics is a factor as people whose parents suffered from allergies are much more likely to also have allergies. A compromised immune system may also play a factor in susceptibility to developing allergies. The medical community theorizes that if you are exposed to an allergen during a time of weakness (such as after you have suffered from a viral infection) your body is more likely to develop an allergy (source). Being sensitized to an allergen means that your body has produced antibodies that will recognize it next time you are exposed. Upon further exposure to these allergens, they will then stimulate histamine and other inflammatory mediators to be released into the body (through a series of steps). This produces those classic seasonal allergy symptoms when they bind to their receptor sites in the body. Many people blame pollen, dust, and animal dander for their allergies but these are harmless bystanders; it is your bodies inappropriate reaction to these neutral environmental factors that is the true cause of allergies.
From a holistic point of view, the fact that peoples immune systems are becoming increasingly compromised (due to poor diet, lifestyle choices, and overuse of pharmaceutical drugs) could account for the vast increase in seasonal allergies in today’s society. This type of lifestyle promotes bacterial overgrowth (such as candida), nutritional deficiencies, weakened adrenal glands, as well as an overburdened liver. Some people simply produce more histamine than others; these people are known as ‘histadelics’. The high histamine production relates to the methylation cycle discussed in more detail below. Whether there are genetics or lifestyle factors (or both) in play, making better dietary and lifestyle choices along with some supplementation can improve and even eliminate your allergy symptoms.
Eating a whole food diet is important when dealing with allergies, but on top of this doing an elimination diet of common food allergens can be helpful to identify food intolerances and/or allergies that may be adding to the problem. This is because if the immune system is already working to fight off dietary allergens, it will respond more strongly when additional allergens (pollen) are introduced. To do an elimination diet you must cut out all common allergens (listed below) from your diet for a few weeks, then reintroduce these foods one by one and closely monitor your bodies response to their introduction. For more information on how to do an elimination diet, check out this article.
- Wheat, Rye, Barley (glutenous grains)
- Citrus Fruit
- Nuts (including peanuts)
- Nightshade Vegetables (white Potato, tomato, all types of peppers, eggplant)
- Pork and Beef
In addition to this, if you have any known food allergies, you should be avoiding those foods as well. While eliminating common allergens is very important, what you replace them with is equally important. Make sure you are eating lots of anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, fruits, grass-fed meat and other omega-3 rich foods, and healing spices such as tumeric and ginger. Keep in mind that some spices such as cayenne pepper and chili spice are part of the nightshade family. Avoid packaged snack foods even if they are free of everything you are avoiding as they are generally processed and have little nutritional value regardless of what they do and do not contain.
Alternatively, if you are suffering or could be suffering from candida overgrowth, following a candida diet may help your allergies. This is because candida overgrowth itself can cause an allergic response in the body. Similar to eating foods you are allergic to, your body will already be fighting off allergens (candida) and will respond more intensely to environmental allergens. Following a candida diet can also help correct food intolerances.
The Low-Histamine Diet
If you have already done an elimination diet and are still experiencing seasonal allergies, you might be interested in trying the low-histamine diet. Some foods contain histamine or promote histamine production in the body. Avoiding these foods can help reduce severity of allergies, or even eliminate them.
Worst offending foods
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha)
- Vinegar-containing foods (pickles, olives, ketchup, mustard, relish)
- Cured meats (bacon, salami, pepperoni)
- Sulfite containing foods (wine, grapes, dried fruits)
- Soured foods (sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread, etc)
Other foods to avoid
- Citrus fruits
- Aged cheese
- Walnuts, Cashews, and Peanuts
- Avocados, Eggplant, Spinach, and Tomatoes
- Smoked fish, mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines
- Preservatives and food dyes
(Source of above information: 1, 2)
For more information on the low histamine diet check out The Low Histamine Chef.
Supplements for Allergies
If you aren’t a big fish eater, fish oil can be supplemented as it is anti-inflammatory due to it’s high omega-3 content (source). However, if you are currently following the elimination diet, leave out the fish oil until you finish as it counts as seafood. My favorite fish oil is Natural Factors Herring Gold because it is non-GMO, highly absorbable, sustainable, and contains the additional nutrients including choline and astaxathin.
Quercetin, a bioflavanoid, is also helpful due to its anti-histamine effects. My favorite quercetin supplement is Natural Factors Bioactive Quercetin which is 40 times more absorbable than regular quercetin, meaning it works faster and better. I can definitely feel the difference when I take this supplement!
Adrenal and Liver Support
Supplements that support the adrenal glands can help with allergies as they secrete corticosteroids that will minimize inflammation caused by allergic response. High doses (3 to 4 grams) of vitamin C will support the adrenals and also have an anti-histamine effect in the body. Pantothenic Acid(B5) is also very important for the adrenals.
Supporting the liver will also help allergies. N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant and helps allergies by thinning mucous and supporting the liver.
Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P), an active form of coenzyme B6, may help histadelics. This relates to Dr. Carl Pfeiffer’s research on the methylation cycle; a biochemical pathway in the body. Histadelics are thought to be ‘under-methylators‘ meaning their methylation cycle is slowed down. The cycle requires numerous vitamins and minerals; supplementing certain ones can push the cycle one way or the other. Supplementing vitamin B6 and zinc promotes methylation and thus reduces histamine levels in histadelics. The methylation cycle is a complex biochemical process, but if you would like to research further you can read here for an overview or here for a more technical look at it.
Butterbur and Mullein
Avoiding going outside is a very impractical way to deal with allergies. Getting fresh air is never a bad thing, and there are more productive ways to manage your allergies. Avoiding known areas in which your allergies worsen may be a good idea as certain geographic locations may be worse for you. Using a neti pot with a saline solution can help flush allergens from the sinuses and reduce or thin the mucous. Exercising on a regular basis can also help manage allergies as it supports your immune system and reduces stress. In fact, reducing stress in other areas will also help manage allergies as it supports proper function of the adrenal glands. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night is important for stress reduction and proper immune system function. Check out my article on reducing stress naturally here!
What alternative treatments have worked for your allergies?