By Bryce Wylde, BSc (hons), DHMHS
As much as we enjoy spring, allergies can make this time of year miserable! Sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat and / or itchy, watery eyes can put a damper on your quality of life. It’s not like you can hibernate indoors for a few days. Spring allergies often start as early as February and endure through early summer. The trick is learning how to minimize your exposure to allergens and maximize your symptom management.
What causes allergy symptoms?
Pollen, dust and dander are just some of the things that can trigger immune cells, called mast cells, to release the chemical histamine. Histamine’s job to get rid of bothersome allergens. But in doing so, they often cause their own havoc because they are associated with common allergy symptoms. That’s why many people reach for antihistamines this time of year.
Seasonal allergy facts and tactics your allergist may not discuss with you
Allergists do an exceptional job at diagnosing and treating spring allergies. But they may not have the luxury of time during an office visit to dig deeper into why you’re experiencing symptoms and some of the best (and easiest!) natural strategies for managing them.
Here are some facts that may help you understand your seasonal allergies:
- Your symptoms may not be due to seasonal allergies. It can be difficult to differentiate between the effects of pollen and smog indices, for example. Similarly, you may develop allergy-like symptoms, or worsening symptoms, due to intolerances or sensitivities to chemicals, preservatives and additives in food. Some people cannot tolerate red food dye 40 or MSG, for example. These intolerances don’t cause the release of histamine which may be why antihistamines may not provide relief.
- The timing of your allergy testing matters. Ideally, they should be done while you are experiencing the most symptoms. Otherwise, you may get false negative results.
- Your body’s response to allergens is not fixed. It is determined by how healthy you are, and how diverse and strong your microbiome is.
- A leaky gut may make your allergies worse. A leaky gut simply means that the lining of your gut wall has become permeable. It’s allowing substances to get into your bloodstream that shouldn’t be there. If your doctor says you have a leaky gut, try avoiding high-gluten foods. And if you know you have a grass pollen allergy, you may also want to steer clear of consuming dairy products from grass-fed cows.
- Seasonal allergies are another reason to lower your stress levels. You can develop allergies at any age. No, you aren’t going to wake up on your 40th birthday with a shellfish allergy. But you can develop environmental and seasonal allergies at any time, and they seem to correlate with stress and age-related hormonal changes.
Natural approaches your allergist may not tell you to manage seasonal allergy symptoms
You can’t control what’s floating around the air at your workplace or even in your city. So, let’s look at how you can control what’s in your home and what you put into your body.
- Try a homeopathic approach to managing symptoms. Homeopathic preparations that contain natural active ingredients — no dyes, chemical vasoconstrictors, decongestants or steroids, such as Similasan Allergy Eye Relief — can be used regularly without that annoying rebound effect. Moreover, they help to activate your body’s own defense mechanisms to address the underlying problem.
- Manage your sleeping environment. All that pollen and dander floating in the air may be why you wake up with a stuffy nose. If you don’t have an air filter — I recommend using a hepa filter — your body is the filter. Take control of your space, especially your bedroom.
- Swallow some bugs. It may be beneficial to add probiotics to your daily routine. Some strains are associated with supporting seasonal allergy relief. They include: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium longum.
- Eat more brightly colored fruits and vegetables to support your immune system. Foods high in vitamin C, quercetin, and various other plant sterols and bioflavonoids can be an allergy sufferer’s best allies. There’s a ton of research showing that the quercetin found in such common foods such as apples and onions helps stabilize the mast cells before they start releasing histamines.
- Avoid foods that naturally contain high levels of histamines. These include aged cheeses, avocado, dried fruits and processed meats. You may also want to avoid alcohol and minimize your intake of processed foods and added sugar. Your goal is to minimize your body’s inflammatory response.
Just because you are susceptible to seasonal allergies doesn’t mean you need to confine yourself to your home or resign yourself to pesky allergy symptoms controlling your life.
About the author
Bryce Wylde BSc (hons), DHMHS is a leading health expert in functional medicine specializing in clinical nutrition and supplementation. Practicing at VennMed in Toronto, he blends the latest in science and technology with traditional and ancient remedies. Wylde is also co-founder of The DNA Company, and founder of Mymmunity – a startup dedicated to optimizing immune health through personalized nutrition. Wylde is the author of four national best seller books, previous host of CTV’s Wylde on Health, and is a frequent guest health expert on U.S. and Canadian TV.