Though they’re effective, over-the-counter allergy medications have less-than-desirable side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue, abdominal pain, headache, dry mucous membranes, and nausea. Yuck! But there’s an alternative, so why not approach allergies in a way that’s gentle and yet effective?
Knowing the triggers of your allergy symptoms is the first step on your path to wellness. Start with some detective work to understand what affects you. When you’re most affected, stop to review the food you’ve eaten (or are eating), your past locations (in a park, office, home of your friend with a cat!) and present location. If it’s food that’s clogging up your nasal passages and making you itchy all over, there’s a simple blood test that determines problematic foods. Avoiding those foods to the best of your abilities is the most effective solution. There is also a test to determine environmental allergens. While it’s not always possible or realistic to avoid environmental allergens, there are many ways to address the havoc they wreak on your immune system.
Understanding the pathophysiology of allergies can be helpful in knowing how to treat them. Allergies (AKA hay fever, allergic rhinitis, or allergic inflammation) begin when you are exposed to an allergen. Soon after exposure, you experience what is called a type I hypersensitivity, which is the response of mast cells. When stimulated, mast cells release inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and histamine, which cause your sneezing and runny nose. Hours later, these inflammatory mediators cause other inflammatory cells such as eosinophils, T cells, and additional mast cells to travel to nasal passages and reconstruct nasal tissue, which causes obstruction or extreme stuffiness. Similar reactions can occur in the cells that line your skin and lungs, which is why people with hay fever often have a past or present history of asthma and/or eczema.
Conventionally, allergies are treated with oral and nasal antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids. Try these alternatives to approaching allergies for fewer side effects and longer lasting relief!
- (As always) Treat the gut! Avoid foods that your body is hypersensitive to—foods that activate your immune system and create inflammation. At least, rotate the foods you eat to avoid generating potential intolerance to them. Additionally, speak to an open-minded doctor about the possibility of intestinal permeability as a cause of your allergy symptoms.
- Rid yourself of allergens. If you’ve been exposed to an environmental allergen such as pollen, remove and wash your clothes and shoes upon entering your home. Additionally, take a shower and rinse your nasal passages.
- Incorporate foods that are high in quercetin. Quercetin, a flavonoid and antioxidant, acts like an antihistamine and has anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, this powerful plant pigment helps stabilize mast cells, which are the cells that release histamine. Foods high in quercetin include garlic, nettles, ginger, onions, apples, parsley, sage, tea, and red wine (yay!).