As the spring months approach, many of us find ourselves struggling with itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, scratchy throats and sneezing attacks as seasonal allergies start to kick in. We start to depend on medications, nasal sprays, eye drops to get us through the allergy season. While it may seem like we need these to get by, many of these medications do more harm than good, especially when taken long term. Antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids counteract the effect of histamine produced in the body, but also disrupt the body’s natural senses and can interfere with the body’s natural mucus production, causing us to be more prone to infection. They also cause a host of other side effects such as rapid heart rate, drowsiness, anxiety, insomnia, and dry mouth/eyes. In children especially, the effects can be more severe, including nightmares, restlessness, stomach problems, and impaired cognitive ability. Most importantly, these medications don’t cure the actual problem! They are only designed to provide temporary symptomatic relief, yet they are dangerously overused. The good news is that natural allergy treatments can be, in many cases, more effective than traditional allergy medications.
Underlying Cause of Allergies
Allergies are caused by a dysfunction in the immune system. The immune system becomes hypersensitive and overreacts to otherwise harmless substances. Common substances include grass, pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust. In response to these substances, it produces antibodies to attack them, which eventually leads to overproduction of histamine. This reaction is inflammatory in nature which then leads to an array of unpleasant symptoms such as runny nose, sinus pressure and congestion, ear aches, coughing, and sneezing.
Your risk of suffering from allergies is greatly increased if you suffer from certain underlying medical conditions that weaken the immune system. Asthma, recent trauma or illness, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, pregnancy, nasal polyps or a deviated septum can put you at heighted risk for allergies. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation make you especially susceptible since these play such a strong role in a proper functioning immune system.
Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergies
Chiropractic works to restore proper function of our nervous system, which naturally enhances our body’s immune system. When spinal misalignments occur, they cause spinal nerve interferences which disrupt messages being sent from our brain out to the rest of our body. A specific area of focus when it comes to allergies is the neck region – the nerves coming out of the upper part of the neck travel to our sinuses, throat, ears and eyes. Nerves from the lower part of the neck travel to the chest and lungs. Thus, our immunity can be compromised when these specific bones are restricted and out of alignment. These misalignments can also have a hyper excitable effect on the nervous system, causing an increased sensitivity to allergens. Removing these interferences from the body calms the nervous system, increases function and decreases inflammation, allowing the body to better cope with allergens. While chiropractic cannot magically cure or eliminate allergies, it has a major effect on allowing the immune system to function more optimally, and can offer tremendous benefits on lessening the severity of the reaction.
Allergies cause inflammation in our system – puffy, swollen eyes, scratchy throat, swollen glands – these are all inflammatory responses that occur in response to allergens. Therefore, focusing on eating an anti-inflammatory diet can greatly improve symptoms. This means limiting sugar and processed grains. Foods that are especially beneficial when experiencing allergies are:
Raw, local honey – It has been shown that consuming 1-2 tablespoons of local honey regularly may provide a natural protection against pollen since it contains local pollen that triggers allergies.
Ginger – Ginger acts as an anti-histamine in the body which makes a wonderful natural allergy treatment. It also warms the body and improves gut health, which in turn boosts the immune system.
Garlic – Garlic is a wonder food that works as a natural antibiotic and powerful antioxidant. It is one of the most effective immune boosting foods and helps to fight off infections, viruses and allergic reactions.
Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries for thousands of different health ailments. It has numerous beneficial properties to help balance the body’s pH level, break up mucous production in your body and promotes lymphatic drainage. For best results, mix one tablespoon apple cider vinegar to 8 oz. of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and a half tablespoon of local honey. Have this in the morning and evening.
Fresh, organic vegetables – Vegetables contain high levels of quercetin, which act as a natural anti-histamine. Focus on vegetables that are rich in color – dark green, bright yellow, and orange having the greatest properties.
Pineapple– Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which is an anti-inflammatory that can help reduce your reaction to allergies, as well as being high in vitamins B and C.
Fermented foods – Fermented, probiotic rich foods such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut help to promote a healthy immune system by improving overall digestion and gut health.
Wild caught fish – Wild fish, especially salmon and tuna are rich in omegas 3s, which decrease the overall inflammatory burden in our body.
Foods to Avoid
The following foods should be avoided especially during allergy season as they are pro-inflammatory, causing allergic reactions and symptoms to worsen, and further weakening our immune system.
The following supplements support a healthy functioning immune system and can help in preventing and reducing allergy symptoms. They contain powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties to give our immunity boost during allergy season.
Omega 3s – 2000 mg (foundational support, anti-inflammatory)
Stinging Nettle – 300 mg (natural anti-histamine – take as needed)
Quercetin – 500-1000 mg per day (natural anti-histamine, take as needed)
Probiotics – 10-20 billion IU (foundational support, gut repair/immune booster)
Bromelain – 1000 mg (natural anti-inflammatory, enzyme in pineapple)
Vitamin A – 1000 mcg (powerful anti-oxidant, immune booster)
Vitamin C – 2000 mg (powerful anti-oxidant, immune booster)
Zinc- 20-30 mg (supports a healthy immune system)
Note- Talk to your health provider for the specific dosage that is right for you.
One of the most amazing benefits of essential oils is their ability to fight off infections, boost the immune system, and relieve stress. The best essential oils to use specifically for allergies are peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and lavender. Essential oils can be diffused into the air, as well as used topically – a carrier oil such as coconut oil may be necessary for sensitive skin. They can also be taken internally if they are pure therapeutic grade, labeled for internal use on the bottle, and diluted properly.
Peppermint helps to break up mucous production in the sinuses as well as clearing up the respiratory tract. Eucalyptus is a stronger oil and also works to clear the lungs and sinuses, increases circulation and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Lemon supports lymphatic drainage, helping to reduce respiratory conditions. Lavendar has a calming effect, soothing sinus pressure and headaches that often times come with allergies.
My favorite way to use the oils during this season is to add a few drops of peppermint, eucalyptus, and lemon to a diffuser and run it at night. Before going to bed, try massaging a few drops of lavender oil on forehead, temples, cheeks and sinuses – this decreases the pressure and has a relaxing effect. During the daytime, I like to use peppermint oil on the base of the neck as it has a soothing, cooling effect and clears up the airways.
While I have not personally used them, I have had several patients get tremendous results with this device. Neti pots have been used for thousands of years to flush out the sinuses and relieve nasal congestion. They are simple, effective, and inexpensive tools. To use, just mix a quarter tablespoon of salt into a cup of warm, filtered water and pour into the pot. Lean over the sink with your head slightly tilted to one side, then place the spout of the neti pot into the top nostril and allow the water to drain into the other nostril. Use about half of the solution, then repeat on the opposite side. Try and do this both in the morning and evening for best results.
Lastly, It is additionally important during allergy season to make sure that you are keeping your home extra clean. While we can’t eliminate the allergens from the air, try to sweep and vacuum regularly, de-clutter, dust, and wash bedding often to eliminate these substances from accumulating in your home. Closing windows, taking a shower after being outdoors, and using a humidifier at night can all prove to be very beneficial during allergy season. Most importantly, try to limit outdoor exposure, especially windy days, as best as possible during these months to avoid common allergens all together.
If you or someone you know suffers from allergies and needs additional support, I would love to help! Call the office at 949-783-0696 or schedule online for a free consult!