It's the sniffle season but not to worry, I have the very best tips for natural allergy season solutions that are delicious, too.
I personally don't get seasonal allergies -- never have -- but as someone with a predisposition to auto-immune disease, what with a bout of Crohn's back in the day and whatnot, I am also extra mindful around this time of year to make sure my immune system is stable and strong. I am taking great care to support my busy schedule by not falling prey to allergies or any other icky spring colds and flus.
There are many things to consider when we truly want to strengthen our immune systems. Whether we believe we are sensitive to certain things or not, there are key things we want to keep to a minimum in our diet and in higher doses in our supplements, as well as some lifestyle practices that will help.
Foods to avoid during allergy season (and maybe always)
- Wheat and other glutenous grains: These will stress and strain the digestive system; if you have a sensitivity to gluten, it can increase our sensitivity to other things like pollen causing hay fever.
- Sugar: Glucose competes for uptake with vitamin C, a natural anti-histamine, and so the more sugar we consume, the less Vitamin C we can absorb, thereby weakening our immune function. Additionally, sugar is acid forming in the body, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and viruses.
- Dairy: Like sugar and refined grains, dairy is also acid forming in the body and as such creates a breeding ground for the bad guys. Additionally, dairy can make us really mucousy, adding to the congestion common with seasonal allergies.
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At least 25 per cent of people suffer from seasonal allergies, says Dr. Susan Waserman, allergist and clinical immunologist of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont,. People of any age can suddenly develop allergies. "Many children grow up with allergies and other people get them as adults."
Where you live can also affect your allergies, Waserman says. People who live in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba for example have more exposure to ragweed than people who live out West.
If you or your partner have sneezathons during spring months, don't be surprised if your kids have similar symptoms. "In order to become allergic you need genetics and exposure in the environment," Waserman says.
A common myth people have about spring allergies is that allergens like ragweed and tree pollen all appear during the same months. Waserman says tree pollen appears anytime between the end of March to early June, while grass allergens appear between the mid-May and mid-July, and ragweed allergens appear mid-August to the first frost.
Outdoor moulds, mildew and even your pet can cause springtime allergies, Waserman says.
Sometimes your cold symptoms can actually be an allergy. "The mistake people make is that they think it's just a cold — but these symptoms can go on for months," Waserman says. If you're having a hard time distinguishing between the two, remember this: allergies don't have fevers or greenish nasal discharge.
"People tend to trivialize hay fever and asthma as just an allergy and not a big deal," Waserman says. These conditions, she says, can get serious over time if they are ignored. Always consult your allergist or doctor if you believe you're experiencing asthma or hay fever.
For the most part, you can't "cure" your allergies, but there are small ways to avoid them. If you're allergic to grass or pollen, keep your windows shut and turn on the air conditioning, Waserman says. Think about it this way: it's a good excuse to not mow the lawn.
Sometimes, it could be your bed. "Dust mites are not airborne, but some people have increase symptoms this time of the year," Waserman says. These dust mites usually settle in your bedding or mattresses.
If your allergies don't seem to go away on their own or if you're tired of using different over-the-counter products, visit an allergist to take an allergy test and find out exactly what you're allergic to.
Natural Remedies For Allergy Season
Part of getting out the bad stuff -- and short of moving to the arctic for the seasonal thaw -- there are loads of natural remedies you can add in. These are recommended by clinical nutritionist Josh Gitalis.
- Quercetin: It's one of the best natural antihistamines. It works by stabilizing the membrane of histamine-releasing cells. It also has anti-inflammatory properties (up to six, 500 mg capsules a day may be needed).
- Vitamin C: A natural antihistamine and immune system booster.
- Nettles (Stinging Nettle): A herb that has been shown to alleviate allergic rhinitis.
- Sabalia: A homeopathic remedy effective for treating seasonal allergies.
- Echinacea and/or Astragalus: Herbs that boosts the immune system (don't use for more than three weeks at a time)
- Vitamin B5: Helps strengthen adrenal function, which is intimately involved in the immune response.
Lifestyle Practices For Symptomatic Relief
- Neti Pot: Using warm salt water in the neti pot allows you to flush your nasal passages, as a way to clear out sinuses. It also works as a way to prevent sinus infections.
- The Salt Pipe: Over here in the kitchen we all have one and love it. You breathe in through the pipe, inhaling the minerals and the natural cleansing air through a sea salt filter. This helps cleanse the lungs and open the airways, and can also be a great relief for wheezing and even asthmatic responses as a means to avoid steroidal puffers.
- Yoga: Get yourself upside down! Inversion poses like the shoulder stand, headstand, plow, or even bending over while standing and hanging your upper body upside down will help drain the nasal passages and cleanse the lungs. Start for just one to two minutes to avoid too much pressure on your head if you're heavily congested.
- Steam Inhalation: Another great way to drain the sinuses and relax the lungs is through steam. Boil some water in a pot and then drop some food-grad essential oils of eucalyptus peppermint and/or myrtle. Put your head over the pot, cover with a towel and breathe in the goodness.
- Air Purifier with a HEPA Filter: Using a HEPA filter is an amazing way to remove spores and pollen from the air. Ideally you would have one to keep in your bedroom with the doors closed while you sleep.
Foods to eat lots of during allergy season
Now we get to the fun and delicious part. I love great food all year long, but come this time of hear, I pay extra attention to high, high, high dose on some potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich powerhouses. My favourite way to take all these in is via the blender as they mix together to make a delicious, refreshing drink.
- Turmeric: A potent anti-inflammatory root containing curcumin. This helps to bring down any inflammation in the body, including in the lungs and gut which are vital for preventing allergies and other immune-stimulated sensitivities.
- Lemon:Bring on the vitamin C/antioxidant power to help the white blood cells zip around and do their thing and also to work as a natural anti-histamine.
- Ginger: Ginger is another anti-inflammatory food that also promotes the production of digestive juices to better help us process what we eat, as well as increase the circulation of the good stuff through our body. As a bonus, ginger stimulates the part of the immune system that produces anti-bodies, thereby amping up your body's natural defenses to foreign invaders.
- Cayenne: Cayenne boosts immune system function and increases circulation throughout the body. It also can be helpful in healing intestinal inflammation, which is common in people who suffer from multiple food sensitivities.
- Raw honey: Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and is a powerful antioxidant that helps strengthen the immune system. Honey has been shown to help eliminate pollen allergies by taking it in small doses (about one teaspoon twice a day), similar to how an allergy shot might work. The key is to consume honey from your area, where the pollen you are breathing might affect you.
- Irish Moss, Chia Seed and/or Aloe: These foods all have a potent mucilaginous property; the slimey-ness helps clear excess mucous from your lungs while supporting the health of the lining of the intestinal tract- a key to reducing environmental and food sensitivities.
Allergy Season Anti-Inflammatory Elixir
1 tsp turmeric
juice of 1 whole organic lemon
1 tsp fresh ginger root, grated
1/2 tsp each ground cardamom, clove, and coriander (for extra antioxidant power)
pinch of cayenne (or more if you can handle it!)
raw honey (or more to taste)
1-2 tbsp of prepared Irish Moss, Aloe Gel or Chia
3 cups water or chilled herbal tea
Place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. Sip up and feel the power!
Question of The Day: What are your tips to thriving through allergy season?
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