What You Need To Know About Seasonal Allergies
BY DR. TARA DUNNE, BS, MA, ND
Allergy season is upon us.
Runny nose, sinus pressure, itchy eyes, dry cough – these are among a few of the more common symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. It’s not the most delightful way to usher in a new time of year. Each new season should be celebrated as a time of new beginnings, new growth, freshness; but if you suffer from seasonal allergies it can be anything but these things.
What Are Allergies?
Seasonal allergies (or hay fever) specifically are an overreaction of the immune system to allergens resulting in a fairly aggressive attack on the delicate tissues of the body (thin nasal tissues, eye tissues, etc). The immune system is reacting to something it doesn’t normally see other times of the year because these allergens tend to only be in the air for those certain times of the year. Each season comes with its own new growth and own pollens, spores, molds or dusts including:
- Spring Season: Tree pollens
- Summer Season: Grasses and weeds
- Fall Season: Ragweed
Geographically, these can change as well. Living in different parts of the country will change what allergens specifically you are exposed to at these times.
But all hope is not lost if you suffer from these seasonal invaders! There are some great ways to support your body though these times. Over the counter allergy medications can easily leave you feeling drowsy or even hyperactive (more commonly seen in kids taking allergy medications). Natural remedies can be just as effective (if not more so!) without as many negative side effects.
Here are a few options to help you amp up your defenses this season:
The removal of dairy products from the diet has been helpful for some people with respect to helping alleviate congestion or reaction to seasonal allergens. A recent study showed dairy elimination helped with a reduction in nose and eye symptoms in general after exposure to spring time allergens. Additionally, a diet filled with whole foods, organic fruits and vegetables, no sugars or processed foods, and no refined oils can greatly impact and strengthen the immune system in general. This can help the body fight off whatever allergens it is trying to fight more efficiently.
Bioflavonoids including quercetin (rose hips) given with Vitamin C can help to reduce allergies to things like ragweed and pollen. Quercetin naturally inhibits the production of histamine, which is what your cells release when they encounter an allergen are looking for help to fight it off. Certain foods have higher quercetin in them, including citrus fruits, apples, olive oils, onions, etc, but given the higher dose required to have a really good impact on seasonal allergies, I often recommend it in supplement form. These supplements work most efficiently when taken in higher doses 2-3 weeks before allergy season really hits its peak.
Raw Local Honey
Not to be given to babies under the age of 1, raw local honey is also a powerful treatment used to fight seasonal allergies. Honey is packed with vitamins and minerals that act as powerful antioxidants benefitting our immune, nervous, and digestive systems to name a few. And remember, sourcing is important when it comes to selecting a honey that will ultimately help you during allergy season. Search for local, organic, raw honey as this is honey in its purest form. Why local? Local honey comes from bees that live in the same environment as you do. This means that they are exposed to the same environmental allergens you are exposed to. Most raw honey has some small amounts of bee pollen in it. When you eat this honey and subsequently this small amount of pollen, you are able to build up immunity against the pollen.
Bee Pollen & Propolis
Think of bee pollens as local honey squared. Isolating bee pollen from honey as well as the propolis bees make give you exponentially more power to fight allergens. Bee propolis and pollen can help to calm the inflammatory responses your immune system wants to amp up when you are exposed to allergens. Local honey contains pollen and is fantastic to keep you on track throughout the year, but if you need an extra boost during peak allergy season, reach for the pollen.
Multi Strain Probiotics
Using a probiotic supplement with at least 1-4 billion CFU (colony forming units) per capsule can help normalize the gut flora and reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The majority of your immune system is made in the gut (around 80%!) so supporting gut function during allergy season can greatly increase your chances of warding off nasty allergy symptoms.
Increasing foods high in Zinc will also help to prevent seasonal allergies or alternatively supplementing with the mineral can help boost your immune system. Food containing good amounts of zinc include, but are not limited to: Meats (highest in beef, lamb and pork), shellfish (oysters, crab, shrimp, mussels), seeds (hemp, flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) and many more.
Clean it out
Using a saline nasal rinse when coming in from the outdoors can eliminate some of the dust or pollen trapped in your nasal passages. A simple flush can drastically impact any delayed reaction to allergen exposure. Also, try cleaning the air in your home by using a HEPA air filter while you sleep at night.
Don’t let seasonal allergies ruin the change of seasons for you or your enjoyment of nature!
Try incorporating some of the above therapeutics and see what works best for you and your unique health needs. Nature is waiting for you!
About the author
Dr. Tara Dunne is a licensed naturopathic doctor who received her degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She also holds a master’s degree in Health and Wellness and a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She is passionate about natural wellness and helping people achieve optimal health.
Her special medical interests include atypical neurodevelopment, pediatrics and biochemistry. Tara spent several years training under some of the world leaders in these specific topics, and she now uses that training coupled with natural therapies to help people overcome illness and achieve optimal health. She is dedicated to making sure the best possible care, outcomes and information is available to everyone. In a world of health information overload, she's committed to helping people navigate their own personal health journeys. Her other interests include caring for her family, triathlon training and fitness, volunteering for people living with special needs, major league baseball, and cooking.