Seasonal allergies keeping you from enjoying the great outdoors? Try some of these natural remedies for allergies before turning to OTC or prescription meds.
Are seasonal allergies getting to you more than than they used to? There’s an explanation for that. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere that’s warming the planet makes the growing season for allergy-inducing plants longer while also encouraging plants to produce more pollen. Anyone who’s suffered from severe seasonal allergies will not be happy to learn that allergies are expected to get more severe as global temperatures continue to rise.
Besides working to reduce your carbon footprint and supporting the transition to clean energy, here are some steps you can take to tamp down your allergic response and address allergy symptoms without turning to a daily antihistamine.
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Natural Remedies for Allergies: Prevent a Reaction
There are some common-sense ways to avoid triggering a reaction in the first place:
- Keep windows shut when pollen counts are high
- Leave your shoes by door so pollen doesn’t spread around your house
- Shower at the end of the day and throw your clothes in the laundry
- Don’t line dry laundry outside
- Wear natural fibers rather than synthetics, which attract pollen particles
- Use a neti pot regularly to keep nasal passages free of pollens (read about safety precautions here before using)
If your allergies are very severe you may want to wear a mask when you see pollen counts are very high, or while doing yard work.
Additionally, since allergies are essentially your immune system misfiring, eliminating issues that mess with immune function may help as well. Finding ways to reduce stress and getting enough sleep have helped many allergy sufferers. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that eliminating grains and other efforts to support gut health could help also.
Natural Remedies for Allergies: Choose the Right Foods
Emerging research suggests that as with so many modern diseases, a healthy diet can help your body function more smoothly and prevent it from over-reacting to what it mistakenly perceives as “invaders” (in this case, pollen). The good news: the same smart choices that help with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic ailments can help prevent allergic reactions to pollen.
Try eating more of these:
Omega 3s. These potent compounds help reduce inflammation, which can protect against heart disease and cancer, and may play a role in regulating your body’s response to allergens. Cold-water fish, walnuts and flax, grass-fed meat and eggs, chia seeds and the humble weed purslane can all help add omega-3s to your diet. You might also consider a fish oil supplement.
Probiotics. No surprise that a healthy gut can help your immune system function better, seeing as an estimated 70% of your immune system resides there. Up your intake of fermented foods like miso, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha as well as all those fibrous veggies (prebiotics) that gut microbes just love.
Other foods high in anti-inflammatory compounds help support your immune system and may prevent or lessen a histamine response. A diet that includes an array of colorful fruits and vegetables is a good idea anyway, and it may help you feel better this allergy season.
Certain vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids show promise in preventing an allergic response and regulating the immune system:
Vitamin C: Besides citrus fruits, you’ll find plenty of vitamin C in broccoli, kiwis, red and green peppers, mango, and cauliflower. It’s always best to get your nutrients from food rather than from a supplement, and a number of sources suggest members of the crucifer family (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale, e.g.) also contain compounds that can help with allergies in addition to their significant vitamin C content.
Quercitin: This potent anti-inflammatory shows promise in blocking an allergic response. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center,
“In test tubes, [quercitin] stops the production and release of histamine, which causes allergy symptoms such as a runny nose and watery eyes. However, there is not yet much evidence that quercetin would work the same way in humans.”
Nonetheless, it can’t hurt to up your intake of foods high in quercitin, which are good for you in numerous other ways as well. Some top choices are apples (mainly the skin), onions, citrus fruit, tomatoes, and blueberries. Supplements are available, but they may interfere with medications, so it’s best to discuss this choice with your doctor.
Bromelain: Found primarily in fresh pineapple, bromelain is a potent anti-inflammatory that can help alleviate pain from arthritis and injury in addition to stopping allergic responses. There are some precautions you should take with supplementation, so it’s best to discuss bromelain with your doctor before taking supplements.
Eating more fresh pineapple, especially the core, may help your allergies. If you’re into juicing, add more fresh pineapple to your juices; you can juice the stem as well, which is the other place bromelain is concentrated.
Green Tea has also shown promise as an allergy-fighter. It contains compounds called EGCGs that block your body’s production of histamine. A regular green tea habit has lots of other health benefits also, with protective effects against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. Oolong tea might be effective as well.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Some enthusiasts report great success with allergy relief using this popular home remedy. ACV is also reputed to help with weight loss, immune support, and digestion, among many other superpowers. Read more here.
Vitamin D: It’s spring, so get outside! (At least when pollen counts aren’t too bad, or during lower pollen times of day, typically the middle of the day. Counts are usually highest from 5-10 a.m. and at dusk.) Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure in shorts and short sleeves (without sunscreen) produces a hefty dose of vitamin D in the body (it varies depending on your location and skin tone). Cover up or put on sunscreen after that, well before you start turning pink.
You will also find vitamin D in fatty fish and fortified dairy products. In the northern part of the country, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D in winter, and doctors often recommend supplementing. Speak to your physician if you’re considering supplements.
You may have heard that consuming local honey could help allergies. Many experts have disputed honey’s efficacy for this purpose, but some still promote raw, local honey as a useful way to combat allergies. You might try some before your allergies kick in to make sure any pollen in the honey doesn’t actually cause allergy symptoms. And if you like a little honey in your tea, there’s probably no reason to skip it. It might make an itchy throat feel better.
Natural Remedies for Allergies: Consider Supplements
Many allergy sufferers have found relief with acupuncture or with these supplements:
- Stinging Nettle (Read more about nettle leaf tea health benefits here.)
- Goldenrod (see Studio Botanica’s post on goldenrod tea)
- Tinospora cordifolia
The University of Maryland Medical Center has a pretty thorough write-up about these and other supplements (including homeopathic remedies you might also want to explore) and the precautions one needs to take with them.
Natural Remedies for Allergies: Some Foods to Avoid
Besides ditching processed food to promote a healthy gut, there are some foods to avoid because they contain some of the same compounds as your allergen trigger, especially when consumed raw (you may not have a problem when they’re cooked). This is called food-allergy syndrome or oral allergy syndrome, and you should notice an oral reaction shortly after you eat them.
- If your trigger is grass pollens, skip: oranges, tomatoes, melons, figs
- If it’s ragweed, skip: melons, sunflower seeds, bananas, cucumbers, zucchini, artichoke, echinacea, chamomile, and hibiscus
- Here are some other potential problem foods.
My husband has a tough time in early spring with tree pollen, so this year we’ll see if focusing on some of these key nutrients helps. Here’s what we’ll try to eat more of, since they pack the most punch:
- crucifers like broccoli and kale
- green tea
- citrus fruits and berries
- fatty fish, walnuts, and fish oil
If his allergies persist, maybe we’ll explore a supplement. I’ll let you know what happens!
Have you tried natural remedies for allergies? What’s been your experience?
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Disclaimer: I’m not a physician, nor do I play one on the internet. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are referenced above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Photo credits: Tina Franklin, lcm1863, Yumi Kimura, wildbindi via Flickr