Tis the season for allergies
Published on Sat Dec 12, 2020 - 3 min read
Treating allergies during a pandemic is nothing to sneeze at.
If you’ve turned on a T.V. lately, you will get the impression that nobody gets sick from anything other than covid-19 these days. While the covid-19 pandemic is still sweeping across the nation, something else is taking people’s breath away – allergy season. Treating allergies is a top priority for chronic allergy sufferers, especially in Texas, where we have a seemingly perpetual allergy season. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more important to treat allergies, and it could be one of the key ways to slow the pandemic.
When a foreign substance enters the body, i.e., ragweed pollen, the immune system marks it for elimination by producing the chemical histamine. This causes watery eyes, sneezing, runny noses, and sinus inflammation, which is how our body eliminates foreign substances1 – unfortunately, it’s also how we most easily spread or get infected by coronavirus2. While histamine is a handy tool to remove harmful toxins, an allergic reaction to common pollen and dust is an indication the immune system is out of balance3. Fortunately, research shows us many natural remedies that can improve our immune response to allergens and reduce allergy symptoms4.
Here are some of our most useful remedies:
Diet & Lifestyle:
- Reducing environmental allergen exposure is the first step in fighting allergies5. It’s good practice to shower and wash clothes after being outdoors for an extended time. Don’t forget that shoes and pets are hidden sources of pollen contamination. Also, consider dust-proofing your bedroom by installing a HEPA air purifier, regularly dusting, and changing air conditioning filters. Be sure to check for hidden mold in bathrooms and living areas as well6,7.
- Wash your nose: Nasal sprays and Neti Pots are a great way to wash away allergens from the nasal cavity altogether. Several clinical studies using Neti Pots were shown to reduce nasal congestion, sinus infections, and improve the overall quality of life greater than prescription medications8!
- Diet is one of the most overlooked areas for allergy relief. A lot of healthy foods like tomatoes, spinach, citrus fruits, and others cause histamine production9. Processed foods such as wheat10, sugar11, and dairy12 can be inflammatory and keep our immune system on high alert. Reducing dietary histamine load and eliminating inflammatory foods can dramatically reduce seasonal allergies13.
- Stress reduction is a crucial step in treating allergies14. During times of stress, our bodies produce cortisol. This stress hormone makes our immune system hypersensitive to allergens15. If the stress is chronic it can further dysregulate our immune system leading to chemical hypersensitivity syndrome16. One of the key ways to reduce stress is to activate the body’s relaxation response, a proven physiological mechanism that lowers blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, adrenaline levels, and cortisol levels17. There are many ways to induce the relaxation response, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, or exercise18.
- Nettles are the number one anti-allergy herb. Nettle leaf has been used for hundreds of years to treat everything from high blood pressure, inflammation, and diabetes to seasonal allergies. Recent research shows that nettles contain a histamine-like compound that binds to our body’s histamine receptors and prevents natural histamine from interacting with them, avoiding inflammatory reactions much like modern medications but without the side effects19.
- Butterbur is a less well-known anti-allergy herb but one of the most powerful. In one study of 580 patients, 90% experienced significant allergy relief in just one week20. In other studies, directly comparing butterbur to Allegra and Zyrtec butterbur was equally effective without side effects21,22. Butterbur blocks leukotrienes, inflammatory compounds produced along with histamine by overactive immune cells23,24.
- Quercetin, Bromelain, and Vitamin C are a classic trio when it comes to seasonal allergy relief. Quercetin is an antioxidant that stabilizes the immune system and downregulates the production of actual histamine receptors25. Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory enzyme that not only helps quercetin absorption but reduces swelling in the sinuses and lungs26. Vitamin C helps with the detoxification of histamine. In one study, vitamin c alone dropped histamine levels by 40%27!
- Adaptogens are a particular class of herbs that help rebalance our immune system and reduce stress. Reishi mushroom is an adaptogen that has strong allergy reducing28 ability as well as stress-reducing properties29. Astragalus is perhaps the most powerful adaptogen of all, showing antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antitumor, and yes, anti-allergy activity30,31,32.
Lemon balm is another excellent herb for allergies as it helps decrease stress33, increase focus34, improve mood35, and is a potent antiviral36,37.
Using our guide, we hope you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, ditch the pharmaceuticals and their side effects for a better and more natural approach this allergy season.