Many people feel a sense of relief and well being upon the arrival of spring. Days are warmer and longer, flowers are blooming, and many enjoy wearing lighter clothes and feeling the warm air against their skin. And in Boulder, opportunities for a myriad of outdoor activities abound. This makes many people grateful that winter is finally over. If one suffers from seasonal pollen allergies, however, springtime means the discomforts of a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and/or skin, trouble breathing, and fatigue.
Many factors contribute to the onset and development of seasonal allergies. Some are due to heredity and others are due to cumulative lifestyle factors and stresses on the body.
If one has undetected food allergies and continues to eat their allergens, an excess burden is placed on the body’s immune system. I often attribute repeated exposure to food allergens akin to driving your car with dirty oil. It puts a drag on the whole system so your organs don’t function at an optimal level. Exposure to extra insults to the body such as grass, weed, or tree pollens often sends the body “over the edge” into an acute allergy attack. One of the first things I do with many of my patients with allergies is to identify and eliminate food allergens.
People who have been exposed to toxins repeatedly in their home and/or workplace often have a higher susceptibility to allergies due to their liver needing to work overtime to detoxify. Again this places undue burden on the body so that pollens can tip the immune system into reactivity.
Chronic stress can over time wear down the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands evolved for the purpose of giving us extra energy in fight or flight situations. Today we are not generally needing to run so we can elude a wooly mammoth, however day to day stresses along with excess caffeine intake will take their toll on the adrenal glands. Adrenals also support the immune system and secrete hormones that inhibit the release of histamine. So if your adrenals are worn out, your body’s natural antihistamine producers also get worn out, increasing the likelihood on an allergic reaction.
Here are some of my favorite remedies for acute usage during allergy season.
Vitamin C – supports the immune system and inhibits the release of histamine.
Quercitan and other bioflavenoids – These substances, which also include rutin and hesperidan, stabilize the cellular integrity of mast cells. Mast cells release histamine which is what causes the inflammatory reaction which produces allergy symptoms.
Licorice root –supports the adrenal glands ( has a cumulative effect) and also the immune system.
Nettles - has a mild astringent (drying and tonifying) effect on mucous membranes of the respiratory system so it is helpful with alleviating respiratory congestion. It is also a good source of Vitamin C (see above).
Eyebright - also helps tonify and strengthen mucous membranes, so it is helpful in eliminating respiratory congestion and excess watering of the eyes.
Nasal saline wash – clears nasal mucous membranes so can help prevent secondary sinus infections from developing.
Constitutional homeopathy - This 200 year old form of medicine can strengthen all systems of the body and over time lessen allergy symptoms. A practitioner highly skilled in prescribing homeopathic remedies is recommended.
Allergies are more often than not able to be treated successfully with natural medicine. Emergency anaphalactic reactions do require allopathic (orthodox) medicine as that is a life threatening situation. Treating allergies as a more chronic whole body condition rather than dealing with acute symptoms is preferable in the long run to eliminate or lessen the severity of an allergy attack, though nature abounds with acute remedies as well for non life threatening allergy symptoms. Much of the basic work of allergy treatment is lifestyle changes to improve diet, eliminating foods one reacts to, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and eliminating exposure to environmental toxins. Once this occurs a previous allergy sufferer may once again be able to enjoy springtime’s birds and flowers. Be well!