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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Natural Allergy Relief

If you are one of the 35 million Americans that suffer each year during the pollen season, this article is for you! Seasonal allergies tend to occur during the spring and fall, when pollen and ragweed are at their peak. Each season, those who deal with allergies are often desperate for ANY solution to their suffering. Below is a more natural approach to relief instead of over the counter or prescription drugs.

Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Andrew Weil. He is one of the leading physicians in the health and wellness field right now. He is the author of several best-selling health and nutrition books including Spontaneous Healing, Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, Eating Well for Optimum Health and the cookbook The Healthy Kitchen. Dr. Weil is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at that institution.

Being a proponent of holistic and integrative nutrition, Dr. Weil is not a great fan of antihistamines, which don't change the allergic process but merely block its expression. He says that steroid nasal inhalers used for treatment of hay fever and other seasonal allergies can be very effective, but some of the steroids are bound to get into the rest of the body and these hormones weaken the immune system. His preference among conventional treatments is the non-prescription drug cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom Nasal Solution). It works and is nontoxic. If that doesn't help, you may have to try a steroid nasal spray such as Vancensae, preferably for a limited time.

Dr. Weil also recommends trying some lifestyle modifications. All allergies have the potential to disappear if you make changes in both lifestyle and your mental state. Here are some of his suggestions:

Skip on the milk. Follow a low-protein diet and try to eliminate milk and milk products. Excessive protein can irritate the immune system and keep it in a state of over activity. The protein in cow's milk is a frequent offender.

Get hypnotized! Try hypnosis, which can lessen or completely prevent allergic reactions and facilitate the immune system's unlearning of its pointless habits (in this case, an inappropriate response to pollen, dust, mold or animal hair or other substances that cannot really hurt us).

Chill out. Consider whether stress impacts your allergy and, if so, take steps to reduce it. Dr. Weil has seen long-standing, severe seasonal allergies disappear when people switched jobs, left a relationship or otherwise eliminated a source of stress.

Dust-proof your home. Dust-proof your bedroom by eliminating wall-to-wall carpets, down-filled blankets, feather pillows and other dust catchers. Encase your mattress in an airtight, dust-proof plastic cover; dust your furniture with a damp cloth; and damp-mop floors regularly to pick up dust.

Get a HEPA filter. Consider buying an air filter. Dr. Weil recommends a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores. These devices work well and aren't too expensive. Get one for the main rooms in your house, or move one from room to room regularly. Avoid air-filtering equipment that generates ozone (HEPA filters don't).

Invest in a neti pot. What could be simpler than rinsing away allergens with saltwater? Neti pots have been used in India for thousands of years to flush the sinuses and keep them clear. It’s an idea that takes some getting used to for most Westerners, but it’s a bit like using nasal spray. A little douse of saltwater can rinse away those prickly pollen grains and help treat allergies and other forms of sinus congestion. Refer to my old blog post regarding the neti pot for more information.

Ask your doctor about quercetin. A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season. Those with liver disease shouldn’t use quercetin, so please consult your doctor before using this or any other supplement — especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

Eat allergy fighting foods. A recent health study found that participants who ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to suffer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t regularly eat these foods. Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs.

To help keep airways clear when pollen counts are high, add a dash of horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food — all act as natural, temporary decongestants. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that you’re slightly allergic to until the air clears. Fighting off allergies can render the body hypersensitive to those foods, causing more severe reactions than usual.

Hopefully you will find some, if not a lot of relief from one or more of the suggestions above. My favorite thing to do during this season is to drink a cup of hot water first thing in the morning with nothing in it. The steam helps to relieve any congestion in my sinuses. Best wishes for a sniffle-free Spring for you!

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren


  1. One word....acupuncture. Best thing ever for my allergies. Have not taken antihistamies or any meds for over 2 years now.

  2. yes! i've heard that over and over again! totally spaced on putting on the list-ha! thanks so much-

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