Updated: Jun 20
If you think the stuffy nose, red eyes, and the itch that comes with springtime is normal, I am here to tell you it is not. Although hay fever may be common, it’s not a healthy response. Instead, it’s your body ‘overreacting’ to something that it normally should be able to handle. Hay fever is an abnormal response made by your body’s immune system to a substance that is has perceived to be harmful. When you are exposed to this perceived allergen, your immune system will release histamines, thereby causing inflammation of the lining in your nose, sinuses, eyes, and lungs. The symptoms you experience, like sneezing and congestion, are the result of this attack. Your body is doing what it thinks it must do to get rid of an invader like a virus, bacteria, or fungus, but this is not an invader, it is only pollen or grass!
Although antihistamines can help relieve your symptoms, they will not stop the hay fever from happening day in and out while you are in allergy season. Instead, if you fix the underlying problem, like an overburdened liver, or a compromised immune system, then the hay fever will no longer be a problem. It is important to try to find out why your body is responding this way, in order to clear your seasonal allergies for good. I am telling you that this is possible; I have many patients who have cleared their hay fever.
You can start by modifying simple lifestyle factors to help reduce your hay fever. Sometimes there can be an underlying food intolerances or sensitivities that are hindering the immune system. By eliminating certain foods, you may be able to reduce the immune system irritations and lessen your seasonal allergy symptoms. Ensuring you are eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods, especially anti-oxidant rich fruits such as berries and cherries, can help to modify the body’s inflammatory response.
Reducing stress will also help to reduce seasonal allergies. Consider whether stress is playing a big part in your life right now and if so, take steps to reduce it. It is common for long-standing allergies to lessen or even resolve when people switch jobs, leave a bad relationship or otherwise eliminate a source of stress.
Knowing the time of year your allergies are worse can help you pinpoint what is causing them and help you manage them better. If you know that you have an allergy to pollen, for example, begin a prevention program 1-2 months before the pollen season arrives. If your allergies are worse near the end of summer, mold might be your main culprit. Ensuring that your living spaces are free of molds would therefore be particularly important. If you have allergies to dust mites you would have to ‘allergy proof’ your home by doing things like eliminating carpets, using allergenic covers for beds and pillows, and use a HEPA filter air purifier.
Certain herbs, vitamins and nutrients can also help reduce your symptoms. If you need some relief, I have outlined a few suggestions you could try:
Nettle – this herb can help to reduce the histamine-related inflammatory responses that lead to increased congestion and irritation. You can get this in tea, pill or liquid form.
Quercetin – this is a bioflavonoid which works to increase immunity, thereby decreasing allergy symptoms by reducing histamine release. It is found in foods like broccoli, asparagus, kale, bell peppers, onions, apples, and citrus fruits, as well as green tea. You can also buy it in pill form.
Bromelain – this is found in pineapples, is an anti-inflammatory, and aids in the absorption of Quercetin. Therefore, it is best to find a supplement that contains the two together.
Vitamin C is needed for antibody production and has natural antihistamine properties. You can get this from citrus fruit or in pill or powder form.
There are numerous different therapies, those I have mentioned above as well as others, that can help. Working one on one with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you discover what your underlying issues are and to find the therapies that work best for you. Together, I can help move you towards a summer where you can enjoy the great outdoors without the hassles of hay fever!
Yours in Health,
Dr. Tanya O'Brien, ND