I would say it's that time of year again -- allergy season -- but if you have allergies, it always feels like "that time of year." Whether it's pollen or pine needles, no matter what you try, it may seem like nature is constantly fighting back, and winning. So what can you do?
The United States of Allergies
Allergies affect more than half of all Americans, with about 55 percent testing positive for at least one allergen. With the variety of climates and plant life across the country, there are allergens for every season. From spring’s pollen and spores to summer’s dust and smoke, allergies move onto the leaves of autumn and the molds of winter. The most common environmental allergens are pollen, dander from cats and dogs, cockroaches, dust mites and mold spores. They are the causative agents in hay fever, or allergic rhinitis.
How Allergies Work
To develop an allergy to a certain substance, you must first be exposed to it, which means you may not react to it the first time you encounter it. Being prone to allergies is a familial -- if one or both parents have allergies, your risk for developing one increases, even if you may not be allergic to the same triggers. The other risk factor for getting allergies is environmental -- if an allergen is in abundance in your environment, the greater your risk for developing an allergic reaction.
When allergies strike, the most common symptoms are sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, post-nasal drip, an irritated throat and pain over the sinuses. These more mild symptoms can make you pretty uncomfortable and really disrupt your productivity. A more severe reaction can occur when an allergy takes on the form of an asthma attack
Natural Treatments for Allergies
If you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies, you know there are a plethora of prescription and over-the-counter treatments. But may of them can make you feel groggy or tired, which may just make you feel a different kind of crummy. Time for the pen and paper (or just hit "print"). All-natural remedies for allergies are available in tablet, capsule and liquid form for seasonal allergy relief without the sleepiness:
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
A group of researchers in Switzerland found 32 mg of butterbur, taken daily in four divided doses, can inhibit symptoms of grass allergies when compared to a known antihistaminic.
Quercetin and Bromelain
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that blocks the release of histamines in the body, thereby preventing allergies. Bromelain, an enzyme mixture found mostly in pineapples, supports quercetin absorption and quells sinus inflammation. When combined, these two ingredients provide superior defense against allergic rhinitis, especially when pollen becomes more prevalent.
Quercetin and Grape Seed Extract
Taken in supplement form with ascorbic acid, these two ingredients have potent properties to fight allergy symptoms, according to James Dillard, M.D., a clinical advisor to Columbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Taking 1000 mg of quercetin per day after meals, in divided doses, works best to prevent symptoms during allergy season. As a preventive measure, take quercetin supplements at least six weeks before spring.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
This "weed" grows in many parts of the United States. As a supplement, stinging nettle extract provides the same results as synthetic drugs minus the drowsiness and dry mouth. A 300 mg daily dose of stinging nettle effectively reduces histamine production in the body for a few hours.
Also known as orange root, adding a goldenseal tonic to saline solution enhances the cleansing and flushing action through its antibacterial and astringent properties. The berberine in goldenseal attacks the fungi in mold and its spores.
Other Treatment Options
If you haven’t heard of the Neti pot, it’s that Aladdin lamp look alike found in most drugstores, often made of plastic. When filled with a saline solution of one half teaspoon non-iodized salt and one cup lukewarm distilled water, it's an effective method for rinsing the nasal passages and cleansing the sinuses. Hold the Neti pot in one hand and lean over the sink with your head cocked to one side. Place the end of the spout gently into one nostril and slowly pour the water into the nostril. The water will flow through the sinuses and drain out the opposite nostril. Repeat on the other side. The water flushes out the allergens stuck in the nostrils and relieves congestion and sneezing.
Certain foods help fight allergies and their accompanying symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and are thought to suppress allergy symptoms in people whose diets were rich in omega-3s. Omega-3s are abundant in cold water fish, nuts and flaxseed oil. Adding some horseradish, cayenne or hot mustard to your regular diet may also help keep the nasal airways decongested and promote better breathing.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
In this treatment, a patient puts a few drops of the allergen (1:1,000 dilution, initially) under their tongue and holds it for two minutes before swallowing. This process is repeated daily before peak pollen season and must be specific for a certain allergen. In a November 2009 study using house dust mites conducted by Robyn O’Hehir, director of the Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine at Australia's Monash University, SLIT was found to induce an immunological suppression of symptoms.
Don't let this spring and summer mean months of carrying around boxes of tissues and having everyone ask why you're crying. With natural and organic remedies for your allergies, you can enjoy life without the symptoms of allergies.