QUESTION: “What can I do to prevent and treat my seasonal allergies other than conventional medicines?”
Answer by Integrative Clinical Pharmacist Scott Berliner, RPh, and Medical Director Henri Roca, MD:
Seasonal allergies can surely put a damper on energy and vitality. Allergies are a series of symptoms caused by irritation from outside triggers. These symptoms may range from simple eye irritation to skin problems, intestinal issues, sinus congestion and infection, respiratory issues, and even asthma. The effects of allergies can reach every part of a person’s “being.”
To help control allergies:
- Control the triggers
- Reduce the overall allergen load
- Evaluate and reduce food allergens and sensitivities
- Flush, flush, flush your nasal passages
- Support the body with anti-inflammatory botanicals, supplements and homeopathic remedies
- Use acupuncture
- Use conventional medications as necessary
For truly effective allergy control you need to remove as many causative agents as possible. Consider the carpet in your house that holds onto dust and dust mites, the small leak in the attic where fungus may be growing in the closet, even what you eat as it may contain chemicals or other substances that act as triggers for the allergic response.
The goal is to reduce or eliminate the allergic response. That allergic response may be partially due to stomach dysfunction, immune system dysregulation, food sensitivities, toxic metals or persistent infections. These issues should be evaluated by a medical professional knowledgeable in functional medicine. Assessing the role these factors may play in allergies is a proactive way of preventing and treating allergies. Holistic practitioners always take this into consideration.
It is important to realize that our bodies work as a whole and not individual parts. What we eat and drink can affect our entire body. This is particularly true when it comes to allergies. Eating a healthy diet low in allergenic foods can reduce allergy symptoms from environmental and other factors. The immunoglobulins that mediate allergic reactions are produced in the stomach, so eating well reduces the production of histamine.
Since many allergic symptoms are caused by the release of histamine in response to the activation of the immune system by a trigger, you have another wonderful opportunity for prevention. It usually takes about 30 minutes for these triggers to create an immune response. So, within the first half-hour of exposure, flushing your nose with nasal saline can stop or reduce that immune activation. You can flush your nose as frequently as necessary up to six times a day. Use an over-the-counter nasal saline flush or make your own and use with a neti pot.
For sinus sufferers, there are new and effective treatments that span the gamut from homeopathic to herbal, leaving no area untouched. Our Radiant Health Apothecary offers numerous products and can provide guidance and finding the right product for your needs.
Sinusin Nasal Spray from the German homeopathic company Heel has proven effective during the heating season, when chronic rhinitis is common. This condition is commonly caused by dry air, which dries and inflames the sinus passages. With plants, trees and grass blooming, allergies have taken the place of these winter problems. A number of homeopathic combinations can ease allergies. BHI’s Allergy formula is a broad homeopathic remedy that stimulates the body to produce its own antihistamine in a timely manner. There is also a nasal spray called Lufteel that works in a similar manner when applied to the nasal membranes as a spray. The key to success in the homeopathic treatment of allergies is getting the most appropriate formula for your individual issues. There are homeopathic eye drops, eardrops, nose drops, etc.
In the herbal world there are thousands of formulas promoted for treating allergies. D-Hist and D-Hist Jr (chewable for children) are combinations of standardized extracts from quercetin and stinging nettles leaf that act as natural antihistamines to relieve runny nose and watery eye symptoms. They also contain bromelain and n-acetylcysteine to boost the immune system and reduce some of the inflammatory response that accompanies allergies. Unlike pharmaceutical antihistamines, these are chemical-free, not sedating and have been used for years in herbal medicine. Beware of using nettles if you are taking testosterone or estrogen therapies.
Kold Kare contains an adaptogenic herb, Andrographis Paniculata, which is often used at the first signs of a cold or sinusitis and can open clogged sinus passages like pharmaceutical decongestants, but without the jitters and “speedy” feeling that these allopathic agents can cause.
Some supplements that are generally safe to use and have been shown to be effective in reducing allergy symptoms include omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and probiotics.
Acupuncture for Allergies
Acupuncture can help enhance the body’s resistance to triggers, open clogged nasal passages, and resolve symptoms related to allergies. Imbalances in the lung and large intestine meridians and their associated meridians – the spleen and stomach – are often the targets for therapy. These treatments should be done prior to allergy season and once a week during allergy season. Often the treatment is done in areas over and around the sinuses as well as on the arms and legs. This intervention is especially useful for those whose allergies tend to produce systemic symptoms, life-interrupting symptoms, and can lead to infections.
If all else fails, medications may be necessary for comfort. Cromyln sodium comes as a nasal spray and helps to prevent allergies from even being triggered. At times nasal steroids may be useful. For some, the newer antihistamines work well. For others they seem to not work at all. Anxiety and stress can make any allergy symptoms worse. Now is the time to create your allergy prevention plan. The best strategy is to intervene early and often. Please don’t wait until the symptoms are in full bloom.