Is it just me or did Autumn settle abruptly upon us this year?! And if you are one of the 10 million Canadians who suffer from allergies, this means the sneezing, sniffling, itchy eyes, headache and congestion has begun. If this sounds like you - or someone you know that needs allergy relief - keep reading.
Did You Know? Ontario residents suffer the most from seasonal allergies than in any other province (CAAIF, 2002)
Many of my patients report that they do not feel their allergy medications work effectively. This is additionally frustrating as these pharmaceuticals can be costly and come with unwanted side effects like drowsiness and nasal irritation. Add this to the fatigue and low mood that often accompanies allergies and the picture painted is not highlighting the rich colours of the season. Luckily it is possible to get outdoors and enjoy the fall leaves and scents without loading up on allergy drugs. Many naturopathic therapies work to support the body’s defences to prevent a reaction before it occurs. I know what you are thinking - just tell me how to get allergy relief already! Of course I will, naturally.
There are some simple lifestyle changes like avoiding use of window fans to cool rooms or driving with the windows open to decrease exposure to allergens. But while limiting your time outdoors when allergens counts are highest (mid-August to first frost) may be beneficial, it is not always possible. So let’s talk about some natural forms of allergy relief.
Allergy-Fighting Foods - A good place to start are foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can be found in grass-fed meat and eggs, cold-water fish, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds. You can also supplement with high quality fish oils to ensure adequate levels are being reached. Simply reducing inflammation in the body can reduce your reactivity to allergens. And to help keep airways clear, adding warming foods such as chili peppers or hot mustard act as natural decongestants. It is also important to avoid foods that you’re sensitive to as these foods can cause the body to be hypersensitive and be more reactive to environmental allergies. To learn more about food sensitivity testing, click here.
Bromelain - This proteolytic enzyme is found in pineapple, but unfortunately you cannot eat enough of it to get enough bromelain for symptom relief - so supplementation is required. Bromelain acts as an anti-inflammatory agent that helps provide additional allergy relief by reducing the nasal swelling and irritation caused by allergens to help you breathe more clearly.
Neti Pots - A little bit of saltwater can rinse away those allergies (and other causes of sinus congestion). This great instructional video by Ashley’s Green Life shows you how to use a neti pot. It may look a little daunting, but can provide some serious allergy relief. Rinse your nasal passages about twice a day during allergy season, especially in the morning and after spending time outdoors, and you're allergy-suffering days will go down the drain! (Sorry, I just had to.)
Quercetin - This bioflavonoid acts as an anti-histamine and anti-oxidant that stabilizes mast cells to keep them from releasing histamine. There are foods that contain quercetin, such as citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley and broccoli, but allergy sufferers will likely need to supplement to build adequate levels to prevent reacting to environmental allergens. To maximize the action of this bioflavonoid, it is best taken in combination with Vitamin C. Those with liver disease shouldn’t use quercetin, so please consult a healthcare professional before using this or any other supplement — especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
Stinging Nettle - This common weed (Urtica dioica) inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine providing temporary allergy relief for a few hours. You can make your own teas with stinging nettle, but be sure to protect yourself with sleeves and gloves as contact with this fresh plant can cause skin inflammation. And we do NOT want to add nasty, itchy skin rash on top of all your other allergy symptoms!
From my experience, combining a healthy diet with a few key supplements can work wonders for allergy sufferers. Many of my patients report significant reduction or no longer needing to take their allergy medications and with a little preventative action are able to reap the benefits of being outdoors in the harvest season with no symptoms at all.
Natural allergy relief - now that’s nothing to sneeze at!
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