Spring is on its way in the Northwest and for many of us, that means seasonal allergies are not far behind. Seasonal allergies are often caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. In allergy sufferers, the immune system mistakes pollen for a threat and mounts a response to rid the body of it. This response triggers increased histamine release, mucus production, and inflammation, which leads to congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and headaches associated with allergies.
The symptoms can be miserable but there are many natural ways to help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms.
Reduce Exposure to Allergens
When we go outside, pollen circulating in the air tends to stick to our hair, skin, and clothing, meaning that even when we go inside, we can be exposed to pollen. Reducing exposure to pollen is an important way to combat allergies.
- Remove clothing and shoes worn outside as soon as you get home. Do not wear shoes around the house.
- Shower before bed to remove pollen from skin and hair.
- Changes bed linens weekly.
- Wear a pollen mask for doing outdoor chores such as mowing the lawn or gardening.
- Keep windows closed on days with high pollen counts.
- Keep indoor air clean with a HEPA filter or by using air conditioning. Make sure to change filters in central air conditioning systems before use.
- Vacuum weekly.
- Bathe pets regularly.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that may be helpful for reducing allergy symptoms. A recent study in South Korea found that children who had higher dietary intake of vitamin C had fewer allergy symptoms. Another study found that participants who took antioxidants, including vitamin C, along with over-the-counter steroid nasal spray noticed a significant improvement in nasal allergy symptoms. Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables including broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, kale, and citrus fruits.
Quercetin is a compound found in many fruits and vegetables including onions, apples, berries, and grapes. This compound has been shown to help reduce the immune response responsible for the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Quercetin seems to inhibit the release of histamine and decrease inflammatory molecules released by the immune system.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is common in the Pacific Northwest and has been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat allergies. Interestingly, the stinging leaves contain histamine but along with other compounds, this has been shown to reduce inflammation and histamine release by immune cells.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. A recent study looking at curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, found that participants who took a curcumin supplement for two months had decreased nasal symptoms including congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. Turmeric can be taken as a supplement or incorporated into foods like soups, stews, and curries.
Allergy season does not have to be miserable. Our physicians are knowledgeable about natural and pharmaceutical treatment options that may help reduce your symptoms. Schedule a visit to discuss options for helping you feel better this spring!
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