Spring is here and summer is on the way! For those of you with allergies, these pollen-tiful seasons may mean runny noses, watery and itchy eyes, and post-nasal drip. There are natural options to consider when looking to support your body and prevent allergies.
What are the most come allergens? In the environment, the most common triggers include mold, grass, flower pollen, trees, dust, animal dander, feathers, metals (such as nickel), household chemicals, and some cosmetics. People who react to environmental allergens may also be sensitive to food allergens – most commonly dairy, gluten (the protein in wheat and other grains), eggs, corn, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, and citrus fruits.
Why do some people develop allergies, and others do not? The reason likely involves both genetic and environmental factors. People with allergies often have an excess accumulation of mucus in the body. Stress, a poor diet (high in sugar and processed food), and a depressed immune system also play a role in the severity of allergies.
Taking into account these factors, here are some simple natural options for people to support their bodies and immune systems*.
- Check out the environment around you –at home, at school, and at work. What allergens can you avoid completely and also what measures can you take to reduce allergen exposure there. For those with cats or dogs, regular brushing can be helpful to limit fur shedding and dander spreading. Carpets and upholstered furniture are like magnets for allergen particles. Weekly washing of your pillowcases, sheets, blankets, and mattresses pads in hot water with fragrance-free detergent can be very helpful. Also, consider an air purifier in your home, school, and/or work environment.
- Food as Medicine – Try to focus meals around having fresh vegetables (including dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and brightly colored vegetables like carrots and cauliflower) and fruits, a healthy protein source, such as raw nuts and seeds, quinoa, lentils, fish, chicken, or turkey, and a healthy fat source, such as cold-pressed olive oil and coconut oil, avocados, fish, raw nuts, and seeds. In allergy-sensitive people, foods to watch out for include all dairy products, eggs, fried and processed foods, refined flours, chocolate, and citrus fruits. Food allergies are common in people with environmental allergies, and an elimination diet and/or food allergy test may be appropriate.
- Antioxidants – Foods containing antioxidants quench free radicals and other harmful oxidizing agents, and play an important role in the defense mechanisms for the lungs and respiratory tract. Foods high in antioxidants contain beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These foods include all the berries, grapes, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens), sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut and acorn squash. Both quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in colorful fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C have been shown to inhibit histamine release from mast cells. Eating foods high in these nutrients and/or supplementing with them supports a natural anti-histamine effect in the body.
- Nettle Tea –This herb, known as stinging nettle, is used to reduce inflammation in the body including swollen nasal passages. Similar to vitamin C and quercetin, nettle acts as a natural anti-histamine by stabilizing the immune system’s mast cells. Tea can be made from nettle leaves or roots. Nettle capsules are also available.
- Probiotics and Fermented Foods – Probiotics, the good bacteria in the digestive tract that function as part of our bodies’ immune system, reduce the potential for allergies, and improve overall immune function in the body. Foods that contain probiotics include sauerkraut, miso soup, pickles, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt, which increase the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotic supplements can be taken to ensure optimal immune function and decrease allergic sensitivity.
*Disclaimer: The above article is meant for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor to discuss these options and figure out if they are appropriate for you
Marcy Feibelman is a Naturopathic Doctor at Leaves of Change Natural Medicine and Member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Dr. Feibelman graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and in 2011 graduated from the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Visit www.leavesofchangemedicine.com for more information.