If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you are not alone. Twenty percent of the US population (about 50 million people) make over 10 million visits to doctors every year for this common concern. Multiple factors conspire to create the dreaded days of runny noses, itchy and watery eyes, relentless sneezing, scratchy throats and just generally not feeling up to snuff. Unfortunately many of the over-the-counter medicines can create annoying side effects such as drowsiness, insomnia, headache, dizziness and upset stomach. Even though you really can’t control pollen releasing or smoke floating through the air, here are some sensible ideas to help reduce the impact of airborne and environmental allergens.
1) Relocate to an area with lower levels of pollution and consider living without pets.
2) If you want your unborn children to suffer less, breast feed them, don’t give them antibiotics early in life and try to time their birth to not coincide with peak allergy season!
3) Consider installing an HRV system in your home so you can keep the windows closed and prevent pollen and dust accumulating in the house. Avoid carpeted flooring.
4) Along the same lines, try to create a barrier between the shoes and coats, and the inner space of your home. Make sure everyone leaves their shoes at the door.
5) Shower in the evening to lessen the likeliness of pollen and other airborne irritants accumulating in your bed.
6) Keep your house clean and dust free. Vacuum carpets weekly and sweep under the furniture to get rid of dust bunnies.
7) Wash sheets and other washable bed covers in hot water every two weeks, and use hypoallergenic zipped covers on pillows, duvets and mattresses.
8) Don’t spend extra time outside on windy days or when the pollen count is high.
9) Eat well: no refined carbs, no white sugar, lots of fresh vegetables, as well as whole fruit (not juice) and lean, clean protein. Sugar reduces white blood cell function by 50% for 2 hours after consuming only 1/2 tsp. Non-diet soda pop contains 12 tsps of sugar per can. Fake sweeteners have fewer calories, but even more synthetic and potentially harmful chemicals. Plus “diet” pop stimulates insulin and does not protect against diabetes, contrary to popular belief.
10) Don’t smoke and don’t allow guests to smoke in your home.
11) Reduce mold growth in your home or office by running a dehumidifier in moist rooms like the bathroom or laundry area. Chronic sinusitis is USUALLY fungal, not bacterial. Sinusitis is frequently cited in the medical literature as the single highest cause for inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.
12) Regularly ingest natural anti-histamines, especially Vitamin C (about 2 grams daily) and bioflavonoids (Quercitin, Turmeric, Rutin, Hesperidin). These two super-nutrients are often packaged together: check your local health food store.
13) Take fish oil (2000 mg of mixed EPA and DHA) every day not eating wild (not farmed) salmon.
14) Use nasal irrigation daily. I like the “neck neutral” NasoPure. Old fashioned Neti pots work well also, as do bulb syringes from any big grocery store. Saline, about as salty as your tears, is much easier on the nasal passages than tap water without salt added. Slightly warm water feels better than cold. Nasal irrigation helps remove mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses, thus reducing congestion and further irritation. Warning: if you are frequently sick or otherwise immune-compromised please BOIL your tap water (or buy distilled water) before using in the Neti Pot.
15) Allium cepa is a helpful homeopathic remedy for watery eyes and itchy nose. For itchy eyes and runny nose try homeopathic Euphrasia. Any health food store will carry these remedies.
16) Butterbur, the plant medicine more commonly known as a migraine remedy, has been documented to work as well or better than both Allegra and Zyrtec in European clinical trials.
In summary, there are three basic ideas here. Reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants as much as possible. While it’s harder to avoid environmental allergens, you do have control over what you put in your mouth. Don’t compound environmental allergies with any additional burden of food allergens. The “big nine” of food irritants (almost everyone would live better with at least one of these so check it out) are wheat, dairy, soy, tomatoes, coffee, peanuts, shellfish, eggs and corn. If you are an “allergic” person, please give up these 9 foods for 2 solid weeks, and then slowly re-introduce the foods at a rate of one per 3 days (so this is a 6 week project). Pay attention in particular to any changes in mood, skin or bowel function. Unpleasant changes signal that the food is offensive to your immune system and you should avoid it completely for 6 months. Later, you may be able to tolerate the offending food once or twice a week.
Next, control your histamine levels naturally, not with the drying and drowzy-causing drug anti-histamines. Eat food high in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids every day (flavone is the Greek work for yellow). Drink lots of water to dilute the pollutants.
Finally, help out your mucous membranes. Wear a bandana or a mask (www.icanbreathe.com) if necessary. Use a Neti pot or other form of saline nasal lavage regularly. Wash your pillowcases in hot water, frequently. Stay well hydrated with 64 ounces of water. Avoid caffeinated beverages which are dehydrating. Fermented foods have been documented to increase the immune competence of mucous membranes by increasing natural killer cells, phagocytosis, and secretory IgA. Pickles, plain yogurt (if no dairy sensitivity), fermented breads (if no grain allergy), miso (if no soy allergy) and Kombucha drinks may help.