As with any allergy, when suffering from seasonal environmental allergies, the immune system is over-reacting to some kind of stimulus. Most often, spring and fall allergens include pollens from trees, grasses and weeds, as well as the accumulated indoor house dust that becomes airborne when people open the windows as the weather changes. When the allergens interact with the membranes lining the upper respiratory tract, an exaggerated immune response is triggered involving the release of a variety of immune-mediating chemicals resulting in an inflammatory response. This response can be experienced as runny nose, sinus congestion, headache, watery eyes, coughing, and sneezing to name a few. There are several things people can do to decrease their exposure as well as their reactivity to these environmental allergens.
Avoidance- decrease the allergens in the immediate environment:
1- Neti Pot: Nasal sinus irrigation when the allergies are coming on strong, is a great way to mechanically reduce the amount of allergens impacting the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract… but if you can start even before the allergies are in full swing, that’s even better.
2- Air Filter (Hepa): Placing one in the house (especially the bedroom where we each typically spend the longest stretch of time in the house) can be very helpful in maintaining a cleaner air environment as the pollen count increases outside.
3- Pillow cases: Being sure to change the pillow case much more frequently (even daily) can also help. This cuts down on the pollens that collect on all surfaces in the house as well as other common allergens such as dust. When these collect near the entry ways to the upper respiratory tract, they can greatly predispose to allergy symptoms.
Helping the body regulate its response to the environment:
1- Sleep: ‘Running on empty’ when we’re fatigued taxes the body even more, particularly the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing many of our regulatory hormones. If we don’t have our normal reserve to call on when our bodies are faced with additional burdens, the resulting symptom picture is often much worse.
2- Nutrition: Again, making sure we have the reserves to call on is very important.
3- Supplementation: When predisposed to allergies, using therapeutic doses of certain vitamins can be very helpful, such as Vitamin C and Quercetin. These act as mast cell stabilizers, which are the immune cells responsible for releasing the chemical triggers in the body producing our allergic response to the environment. Healthy oils like flax and fish oils (high in EPA), black currant or borage oils can also help to significantly modulate the inflammatory response. There are many other nutritional supplements (as well as botanicals) that can assist in decreasing the body’s response to allergen exposure, but recommendations are specific to the individual.
**Check out Monaco’s Allergy Questionnaire for natural allergy relief options just for you.
Decreasing the reactivity of the body in general:
1- Avoid food sensitivities: Be even more conscious to avoid eating those foods you know you don’t react well to. Common food sensitivities include wheat, dairy, corn, and soy. If you aren’t sure you have a food sensitivity, stop eating one of the potentially problematic foods for even a week and see if your symptoms improve.
2- Avoid inflammatory foods: Cut down on the baseline level of inflammation in the body by avoiding sugars, refined carbohydrates, meats (especially from non-grass fed/grass finished meat sources) and other animal fats, and eliminating processed foods, etc.
3- Homeopathy: While the remedy is always recommended based on the individual case, there are certain remedies that are commonly used in cases of environmental allergies including Nat mur, Euphrasia, Allium cepa, Dulcamara, and Arsenicum album.
While the effects of allergies can range from a minor nuisance to incapacitating, there are some steps that we can all take to decrease our responsiveness to environmental allergens. Most of these changes are more effective when made in anticipation of the allergy season, and carried on throughout the season itself. If you find additional symptoms that you may not have been paying attention to also decrease, you may find you want to adopt some of these changes long-term!