by Henri Roca, MD, and Scott Berliner, RPh
Allergy symptoms from seasonal pollen, grass or mold may appear as simple eye irritation or skin problems to intestinal and respiratory issues, sinus congestion and infection or even asthma. Try these natural approaches for keeping symptoms under control.
- Understand and 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.
A good way to start is by removing 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 foods may contain chemicals or other substances that act as triggers for the allergic response.
The goal is to reduce or eliminate the allergic response. This response may be partially due to stomach dysfunction, immune system dysregulation, food sensitivities, toxic metals or persistent infections. Assessing the role these factors may play in allergies is a proactive way of preventing and treating allergies. A holistic practitioner always takes this into consideration.
It is important to realize that our bodies work as a whole and not as individual parts. What we eat and drink can affect the 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 intestines, so eating well reduces the production of histamine. Having appropriate levels of stomach acid also reduces the production of histamine and reduces the likelihood that food sensitivities will contribute to a reduced threshold for allergy attacks.
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. The nasal wash Xlear is an excellent product that moisturizes the nasal mucosa, and also calms down its tendency to secrete histamine.
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.
With plants, trees and grass blooming, 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 Luffeel 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 nettle 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. Hist DAO contains diamine oxidase (DAO)—the main enzyme responsible for the degradation of ingested histamine. It supports healthy degradation of food-derived histamine.
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. Treatments that focus on the sinus area of the face can be done weekly to encourage chronically congested sinus to open. Similar approaches can be used for general nasal or eye allergies.
The best time to intervene is at the beginning of an allergy attack. Have in your medicine cabinet the key components listed above so that you’re prepared no matter which way the winds blow.