Runny noses, watery itchy eyes, nagging coughs, headaches, and ohhh let’s not forget the nonstop sneezing. Although I'm pretty sure there isn't a person out there who's not happy to bid this brutal winter goodbye, with the coming season comes air full of new allergens. Spring allergies are nothing to “sneeze” at. Sorry, I just could not resist the pun.
Discovery Health estimates that 36 million people suffer with seasonal allergies and climate change theories suggest the problem is growing. Common allergen triggers include pollen from grass and trees, the fecal particles of dust mites, animal dander, certain foods, air pollution, beauty product ingredients, or even insect bites.
But, when you understand what’s happening during allergy attacks, treating them naturally seems like common sense. Picture a grain of pollen — it looks something like a spiny sea urchin. Now imagine this prickly invader entering your nasal passages and latching onto soft mucous membranes. These mucous membranes line our bronchial and nasal passages and contain immune cells, called mast cells, which are loaded with histamines. Receptors sit on top of these mast cells, and when an allergen trigger such as pollen, mold or pet dander lands on top of the receptor, it alerts the mast cells, which respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals. The histamine then initiates a series of reactions designed to help the body get rid of the intruder, including sneezing, watery eyes and itching. For some people, particularly those with asthma, this reaction may also include swelling in the bronchial tubes that makes it difficult to breathe.
Most allergy medications attempt to treat the symptoms your body instigates to get rid of the allergen. But doesn’t it make more sense to shore up your defenses before your body goes into attack mode? Many of the natural remedies discussed below are designed to prevent a reaction before it occurs.
So, before you grab that decongestant to subdue your sinus congestion or antihistamine to stop the sneezing linked to spring allergies, a few minor lifestyle changes can go a long way toward keeping symptoms under control:
Diet: Strong gut health, and health overall can make a big difference when it comes to seasonal allergies because allergic response has everything to do with the immune system. Start by incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce your risk for allergies and many other health problems. Caring for your body with nutrient-dense foods gives your immune system the ability to repair itself, bringing it back into balance so it can fight off common allergies in your environment.
Essential Oils: One of the most amazing benefits of essential oils is their ability to fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Essential oils for allergies will help to detoxify the body and fight infections, bacteria, parasites, microorganisms and harmful toxins. They reduce the susceptibility to outside sources and reduce the overreaction of the immune system when it is faced with a harmless intruder. Some exceptional essential oils even work to relieve respiratory conditions and increase sweat and urination therefore, helping with the elimination of toxins.
Stinging Nettle: one of my personal favorites, it has a rich history of medicinal use dating back to medieval Europe, where it was used as a diuretic to relieve people of joint pain and fluid retention known as edema. If you decide you need an antihistamine but want a natural option, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves in much the same way as many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, but without the unwanted side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness, According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies suggest that stinging nettle can effectively treat a wide range of health concerns naturally controlling histamines. I have it every morning as a tea which has a very pleasant taste.
Butterbur: derived from a common weed in Europe, butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is another alternative to antihistamines, though it may be hard to find in the United States. In the days before refrigeration, its broad, floppy leaves were used to wrap butter during warm spells, hence the name butterbur. A Swiss study, published in British Journal of Medicine, found that Butterbur was as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec. Even though cetirizine is supposed to be a non- sedative antihistamine, researchers reported that it did cause drowsiness, though butterbur did not. Participants in the study took 32 milligrams of butterbur a day, divided into four doses. Effects of taking butterbur over a long period of time also are unknown.
Quercetin: A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season. Please consult your doctor before using this or any other supplement, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
Neti Pots: What could be simpler than rinsing away allergens with saltwater? Neti pots, small vessels shaped like Aladdin’s lamp, have been used in India for thousands of years to flush the sinuses and keep them clear. It’s an idea that takes some getting used to for most Westerners, but it’s a bit like using nasal spray. A little douse of saltwater can rinse away those prickly pollen grains and help treat allergies and other forms of sinus congestion.
Raw Honey: contains bee pollen which wards off allergies. Use local raw honey made from the same flowers in your neighborhood. The honey produced this way will strengthen your immunity to the pollen allergies where you live.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: promotes alkalinity and pH of the body which is one reason it works as a natural remedy to ward off all types of allergies. If you take a good look at a jar of apple cider vinegar, you will see little floating strands; these are living enzymes that keep allergies at bay. Mix one tablespoon of ACV with 1 tbsp. of lemon juice and ½ tbsp. of raw honey. Take this portion three times a day. It might take several weeks to see positive results.
Probiotics: work on all forms of allergies. They improve the mucosal lining of intestines, hinder the growth of pathogenic bacteria, stimulate immune enhancing substances and have a direct influence on immune response. Include a lot of fermented foods in your diet, such as Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kim chi, Greek Yogurt etc.
Home Tips: Avoid using window fans to cool rooms, because they can pull pollen indoors. Keep windows closed when driving, using the air conditioner if necessary, to avoid allergens. Limit your time outdoors when ragweed pollen counts are highest, from mid-August until the first frost.
Finally, to bring a sense of ease and comfort to your body during allergy season, our Allergy Roller-Ball from the Healing Drops Collection was created provide you relief against seasonal symptoms.
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