It's that time of year again! The crocuses are sprouting from their thawing terrain, the weather is slowly turning warmer, allowing us to shed our cocoons of winter clothing... is that sound of a robin I hear?
Achoo! Hold on, that's not the sweet song of our red breasted friend but rather the chorus of the ever uninvited guest, seasonal allergies!
For many the seasonal transition from winter to spring includes not only thoughts of warmer weather, gardening, and lighter clothing, but also the bothersome and downright annoying symptoms of seasonal allergies.
These symptoms can include, but are not limited to, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, cough, as well as aggravate asthma in some individuals.
While there are any number of culprits when it comes to seasonal allergies, the main players often include common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), pollen, mold and grass [9, 10, 14].
The warmer weather of seasonal change signals for plants to grow and release particles into the air in the hopes to spread their seeds and propagate . Unfortunately, when potential allergy sufferers inhale these same particles, an allergic reaction is triggered and the body mounts an IgE (immunoglobulin E) immune response, releasing histamine in the body [3, 14].
This histaminic response is your body's way of trying to eliminate these unwanted particles via routes of elimination from your lungs, skin, eyes and nose . While this might be your body's way of protecting itself, unfortunately this response can be exaggerated in some, giving rise to a variety of allergy symptoms [9, 10, 14].
So what's an allergy sufferer to do when you're literally itching to get outside?!
While there are any number of pharmaceuticals to take to decrease your allergy symptoms (ie. anti-histamines), giving some more natural options a try might be just what you need to send your seasonal allergies back into hibernation, especially in advance of when you typically start to experience spring sniffles.
1. Natural Anti-Histamines:
We all know the key to any problem is to look at the source, and our health is no different. Anti-histamines are chemical structures that block the binding of histamine to its receptor sites in the body, helping to evade our body's exaggerated allergic response and symptoms .
Foods high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids (which contribute to the bright colours of fruits and vegetables) are natural anti-histamines and also have the bonus properties of helping to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease [4, 6].
- Try incorporating foods such as oranges, lemons, peaches, papaya, mango, sweet peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, organic strawberries, garlic, spinach, and green tea into your diet for their anti-histamine effects 
- Quercetin and spirulina can be taken preventatively for those with all types of allergies, including seasonal, pet, dust, and food . Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine that promotes heart health and decreases inflammation and oxidative damages . It is sometimes combined with digestive enzymes (bromelain, papain) and vitamin C to minimize the inflammatory response of the immune system.
2. Say Goodbye to Stress:
Stress affects everyone in many different ways, however when it comes to allergy sufferers, the experience of and one's ability to deal with stress, can influence the severity of allergic symptoms .
In fact, research has shown that even slight stressors can substantially worsen one's allergic reaction to even routine allergens, and also lead them to get worse over time . While we cannot always control stressful situations and events in our lives, we CAN control our responses to them. Meditation, regular exercise, as well as healthy eating are all ways to help combat stress.
Vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B5, and magnesium are also great at helping our bodies cope, improving our body's response to stress.
- Try including foods high in B vitamins and magnesium such as legumes, salmon, sardines, seafood, meat, fowl, eggs, avocado, dark green veggies, green peas, cauliflower, nuts, seeds, dates, fruit, sweet potatoes, and whole grains to control your allergic symptoms .
3. Natural decongestants:
If you've ever suffered the effects of a cold you know the misery of nasal congestion (and who of us hasn't). While our bodies are designed to breathe through both our nose and mouth, this only gets us so far when we're trying to get a full night of sleep without a clear nasal passage.
While you might think that a blocked or stuffy nose is due to mucus accumulation, nasal congestion is actually the result of swollen blood vessels in the mucous membranes lining our nose. Nasal decongestants relieve nasal congestion by narrowing, or constricting, these blood vessels, helping to reduce swelling and allowing you to breathe more easily . While there are plenty of nasal decongestant available over the counter, you might want to try some natural ones.
- Try bitter orange peel, spices (peppermint, cayenne pepper), horseradish, raw garlic, ginger, and onion to help loosen mucous build-up and open up the nasal passages .
"Spring has sprung... a leak" is perhaps a better phrase to reflect the symptoms commonly experienced by allergy sufferers this time of year, from watery eyes to leaky noses. Being ready for seasonal transition with natural solutions is crucial when it comes to controlling allergy symptoms and something to should incorporate into your healthy lifestyle.
It's time to spring into action!
- By Dr. Alison Chen, ND
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