Beat the Sneeze – Natural solutions for your Seasonal Allergies
It all started about 10 years ago with an obnoxiously loud sneeze one early May morning on the TTC. Don’t worry, I pulled the elbow move (no one sneezes in their hands anymore!), but seriously, it turned a few heads.
I thought I was catching one of those Spring colds, or perhaps had a tickle in my nose from a nearby passenger’s rancid perfume that should have been discarded years ago (correction, never been purchased).
A few hours into work my eyes were watering, my nose was blocked, and my throat was so itchy that the thought of using the metal fork I had packed in my lunch bag to scratch it was appealing…
I eventually realized that what I had were seasonal allergies (aka allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever):
Allergic Rhinitis is a symptomatic disorder of the nasal mucous membrane which occurs when a stimuli (i.e. dust, pollen, dander, mites, or spores) is recognized as a foreign invader by the immune system, and is ‘flushed out’ with an IgE inflammatory reaction. Typical symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, headache, and daytime tiredness.
During my reign as Queen of Kleenex Mountain over the next few weeks, I tried several different drugstore remedies that promised to provide relief. Some did, temporarily, but they often had unfavourable side effects and weren’t addressing the underlying cause. My allergies continued to come back year after year, appearing almost every spring, and typically carrying on until mid-June, thankfully disappearing in time for my birthday (June 25th – I accept dark chocolate, flowers, and hand-written poems thank you).
I started to become frustrated when each spring rolled around and I would begin to experience those all too familiar symptoms. Those of you that suffer from allergies get it. It sucks! It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, annoying, and ugly. It turns you into a grouchymcsneezerson that wants to curl up in the fetal position and hide from the world until it all goes away.
So, let’s deal with it!!
Although I still experienced symptoms of seasonal allergies the past couple springs, I noticed that my symptoms were much less severe and didn’t last as long after I went to school to become a holistic nutritionist in 2013. I didn’t somehow gain a magical ability to cure myself of this particular ailment, but I made a ton of healthy changes in my life. For one, I cleaned up my diet (which for me, meant reducing dairy, wheat, and processed sugar), and started to value my sleep more, aiming for 7-8 hours a night.
My diet change meant that I was eating more fruits and vegetables, and also eliminating foods that were engaging my immune system in constant, low-level warfare and causing inflammation in my body.
And my improved sleeping habits were keeping my immune system healthy and balanced, versus being run-down and hypersensitive.
I also learned that the best way to deal with seasonal allergies is to be proactive. Remember having this lesson drilled into your head as a teenager when you were scrambling to finish an assignment the night before it was due? Damn those authority figures for having some useful advice… But in all seriousness, if you have recognized an allergy pattern, begin prepping at least 4 weeks before your symptoms typically arise.
Yes it does help to stay indoors during allergy season. And yes it does help to close your windows at night so you don’t wake up to a bloom of pollen hitting your nostrils first thing in the morning. And besides the obvious advice to eat a nutritious diet rich in whole foods, get a good night sleep, stop smoking, back off the booze, and exercise on the reg, there are two main routes to take when it comes to seasonal allergy prevention & treatment; 1) homeopathy or 2) plant/herb-derived therapies.
Individuals swear by the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, which take the energy of a diluted substance and transfer it into a pill or liquid to treat a symptom or issue using the Similarity Principle (i.e. like treats like).
Clinical studies have shown the effectiveness of this form of treatment. For instance, a study conducted over 2012 & 2013 on Pascoallerg (a popular remedy from the German Homeopathic company Pascoe) showed that over a 4 week period, the majority of participants using Pascoallerg experienced an improvement in symptoms associated with hayfever, such as dry and itchy eyes, sneezing, fatigue, and headaches, with no side effects (1).
The positive results individuals experience from using homeopathic medicine speak for itself, but for more information or to attain a personalized treatment plan, you can make an appointment with your local homeopath, or visit the Big Carrot’s Wholistic Dispensary for more information.
The other popular route to take when it comes to treating seasonal allergies is to take supplements containing plant extracts.
One of the most well researched ingredients that has proven to be effective in reducing symptoms associated with seasonal allergies is quercetin.
You have probably seen or heard mention of it before. Quercetin (kwers-et-in) is a bioflavonoid naturally present in food such as citrus fruits, onions, capers, apples, dark berries, and leafy greens (kale, spinach, and romaine). It has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as an inhibitor of mast cell secretion (i.e. the release of histamine) (2).
Lucky for you, biting into an onion is not the only way to get a high dose of quercetin into your system, (although – it would be a seriously wise decision to incorporate the above-mentioned foods into your diet leading up to, and during allergy season).
The Big Carrot’s Wholistic Dispensary carries a variety of Quercetin supplements in capsule form. Sometimes you will see it partnered with bromelain (from pineapple), a powerful enzyme which helps in the battle against allergies by breaking down food & allergen proteins.
Another popular herbal supplement to treat hay fever is stinging nettle. To receive the most benefit from this plant, try using nettle as an ingredient in your kitchen! Check out Registered Holistic Nutritionist Alex Picot-Annand’s blog on “How to Eat more Nettles”.
If you are interested in taking a nettle supplement, make sure that you are getting it as fresh as possible (in a tincture, or freeze-dried form in a capsule). This ensures that the antihistamine agent is still present.
These are just a few natural remedies & tips to help you beat the sneeze this season, but feel free to pop into the Big Carrot’s Wholistic Dispensary to chat with one of our knowledgeable consultants to answer any of your questions.
Be well, and remember that real health works!
Alex Comrie B.Comm, Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.) Nutritional Consulting