Don’t you love spring? The days get longer, the sun is warmer, and the birds are chirping. What’s more, everything is budding and flowering.
And that brings us to…allergies. If you have seasonal allergies, instead of enjoying the beauty of spring, you may be busy dealing with itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and lots of sneezing. Spring becomes the enemy if you have bad allergies.
Seasonal allergies are our bodies’ response to pollen in the air. Your innate immune system interprets pollen as a dangerous pathogen, and it sends out an army of Immunoglobulin E to mount an attack. This attack takes the form of histamine which produces the watery eyes, runny nose, the itching, and sneezing, and sinus headaches. What’s more, climate change and increased CO2 have created longer, more powerful pollen producing plants.
Why do the immune systems of people with seasonal allergies have the tendency to overreact to pollen?
Back in primal days, humans often had populations of parasites such as hookworms, pinworms, roundworms, tape worms and others. While that sounds pretty gross, those parasites kept the immune system busy instead of going after innocent things like pollen.
What’s more, kids who grew up in a less-than-sterile environment, like they did back in our ancestors’ days, exposed to outside dirt, pets, livestock, dirty dishes, poor hygiene, and no hand sanitizer, had stronger immune systems as well.
Genetics also is part of the picture. Neanderthal fossilized feces show evidence of a lot of parasites taking up residence, and their DNA has evidence of immunity genes that fought off the parasites. When ancient humans interbred with Neanderthals, these genes carried over into the offspring. Populations with the most Neanderthal DNA, such as those from Europe or Asian descent seem to have the most hay fever and allergies. It seems having powerful immunity doesn’t do as well in a modern sterile environment.
Inflammation is a big reason why so many people have allergies—whether they are seasonal allergies, food allergies or environmental allergies. Excessive inflammation due to a poor, high sugar/starch diet, refined and processed foods, too much alcohol, or exposure to environmental toxins all increases overall inflammation. When inflammation is high, reactions to other potential allergens is also going to be bigger. The key is to reduce inflammation and reduce allergic reactions.
My allergy doctor once likened this to “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” In other words, you can load your body up with various types of things that cause or increase inflammation, until it breaks the camel’s back, and you start having bad reactions. Those reactions can take the form of rashes, eczema, brain fog, achiness, stuffy nose, sinusitis, asthma, wheezing, sleeplessness, anxiety, irritability, depression—or any combination of the above.
Nutrition also plays a big part, especially vitamin D levels, vitamin C levels, B12, iron, and zinc deficiencies. Each of these nutrients play an important part in your immune and inflammatory response and deficiencies of any of these can increase inflammation and lower your immunity.
How does one naturally reduce seasonal allergies?
First, the obvious answer is not to load up on over-the-counter allergy prescriptions. These medications have undesirable side effects. Antihistamines often cause dry mouth, dehydration, drowsiness and/or agitation, reduced co-ordination, reaction speed. They can also cause blurred vision and constipation.
The better choice is to reduce overall inflammation, which not only aids your allergies, but is great for your overall health. How do you start reducing inflammation?
Cutting out sugar, processed foods, inflammatory vegetable oils, and removing all grain makes a huge difference. It’s known –at least anecdotally–that people who give up grains often report their seasonal allergies go away. I know, I tried it and was shocked to see my previously severe seasonal allergies suddenly fade into the background. Along with that, my aches and pains receded, as did brain fog, rashes, stuffy nose, and congestion. It works!
Getting your gut health back in shape is super important too, so the next step is to calm your gut. Food allergies and intolerances not only increase inflammation, but are also the consequence of poor gut health. When the gut is inflamed, there is an increased risk of gut permeability, and that allows for additional allergens to circulate in your system further stimulating an immune response.
Remove potential food allergies and sensitivities, at least during allergy season. If you aren’t sure which foods are provoking problems, you can do a short 7-day elimination diet, and remove dairy, gluten, corn, white potatoes, and any other problem foods you may be aware of.
Eat More Omega 3 Fats
Wild caught fish are known to have a good amount of omega 3 fats in them. Omega 3 fatty acids are made up of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) components; both of these have been shown to lower inflammation. This study also shows that increased intake of omega 3 fatty acids reduces seasonal rhinitis.
100% grass fed beef also contains higher amounts of omega 3 fats. Additionally, cod liver oil would help as well, since it provides omega 3’s, vitamin D, and vitamin A—all of which modulate the allergic response.
Raw Local Honey
Raw, local honey contains small amounts of local circulating pollen and by introducing small amounts of this pollen, it can lower the reaction to certain pollens and reduce sensitivity. Researchers have found that eating honey from local pollen prior to allergy season commences reduces allergy symptoms, resulting in less need for other allergy medication. But in order for this to work, the honey must include pollens you are allergic to.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Reducing alcohol or avoiding alcohol will help improve allergies in two different ways:
1-Alochol is highly inflammatory to the gut, so cutting back or completely eliminating alcohol calms inflammation in the gut. This helps you repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria, lowering overall inflammation in the gut and system wide. Because inflammation is reduced, allergic reactions improve.
2-Alcohol especially beer and wine, contains large quantities of sulfites and histamines. Histamines initiate the process to remove allergens from your body. Histamines can cause sneezing, eye watering, itching and more.
Histamines are a big part of your body reacting to allergens, so reducing your levels of histamines helps to reduce allergic response overall.
High stress levels can cause worsening allergic responses and while it may seem counterproductive, getting outside and getting some exercise can reduce overall allergy reactions, while reducing stress. Pollen levels are highest mid-morning so if you do want to get out, getting out early in the day or later in the early evening may be the best time. Meditating, believe it or not can also reduce stress and help allergy symptoms.
Lifestyle makes a huge difference in allergy reactions. One of the first things to do is to stop your exposure to toxic chemicals in commercial home cleaning agents, laundry detergents, personal care items, antibacterial cleaners and hand sanitizers, and switch to a more natural approach, Apple cider vinegar makes a safe and effective natural cleaner for most all surfaces, and washing your hands with a natural soap instead of harsh antibacterial soap is just as effective at removing harmful germs and is far gentler to your system.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also effective at calming cortisol levels and counteracting stress, as well as aiding your allergic reactions.
Overall, I noticed a huge reduction in my seasonal allergies when I switched to a Paleo diet, removed grains and sugars, got better sleep, and removed all other inflammatory foods from my diet.
Supplements for Seasonal Allergies
A vitamin D deficiency has tied to allergies, including seasonal allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and even anaphylaxis. Vitamin D is important for regulating immune system cells and slowing down the release of histamines.
There are several studies that suggest vitamin D supplements may reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. One study had the participants who were low in vitamin D take vitamin D supplements along and antihistamines. Those participants showed much improved allergy symptoms after just eight weeks. And this study also showed that adding in vitamin D supplementation improved allergy symptoms as well.
I am generally not an advocate for probiotics. Each of us has a unique microbiome and it’s somewhat difficult to ‘guess’ as to which probiotics will benefit your particular health needs. However, getting a good general probiotic mix can help lessen allergy symptoms and reduce inflammation in the gut. Specific probiotics have been shown to improve seasonal allergies, including B.longum, B.lactis, L.paracasei, L.rhamnosus, B infantis, and L.acidophilus.
There are a few studies have found that magnesium supplementation in people with seasonal allergies reduces IgE levels and allergy symptoms. Because many people are magnesium deficient these days, this can be a safe and easy thing to try—with plenty of other good health benefits as well. There are many forms of magnesium that will work but magnesium glycinate is often one of the best forms for overall health—without the digestive complaints.
Spirulina is a type of microalgae that comes from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Spirulina has been highly valued as a nutrient-dense supplement that is abundant in protein, vitamins, fats, and minerals. It’s also a potent immunomodulator –meaning that it works to calm the immune system without suppressing it. It has shown some efficacy in reducing the symptoms of seasonal allergies, even compared to an over-the-counter antihistamine drug.
In studies, quercetin prevents immune cells from releasing histamines, which are the chemicals that cause allergic reactions. This means that taking quercetin may help reduce symptoms of allergies, including runny nose, watery, itchy eyes, hives, and even swelling of the face and lips. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables and it has quite a few health benefits including lowering inflammation, fighting heart disease, and protecting against cancer.
Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil is considered a powerful medicinal substance that has been used for thousands of years to treat chronic diseases, inflammation, and allergies. In one study, people put black seed oil drops in their noses to treat mild, moderate, or severe cases of allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever. After 6 weeks, 9 out of 10 people said their sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and other symptoms got better or went away completely. In addition, black seed oil promotes wound healing, hair growth, reduces acne, heals psoriasis, improves blood sugar, and helps with weight loss.
There you go, that is your seasonal allergy toolbox. Hopefully this will help you avoid sneezing, watering eyes, and itchiness that goes along with seasonal allergies. To your health!