(NaturalHealth365) Sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, congestion, itching – the list of uncomfortable symptoms is drearily familiar to anyone suffering from seasonal allergies. And sufferers have plenty of company – according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million Americans are affected by seasonal allergies each year, with an annual price tag of $18 billion.
But, now, for the good news: when allergies strike – you can fight back with natural foods, supplements and techniques that can help ease the misery. Keep reading to ‘dive deep’ into solutions …
What causes allergic reactions?
An allergy is the reaction – or, in some cases, the overreaction – of the immune system to an allergen or “trigger” – any foreign substance that the immune system perceives as a threat. The trigger can be environmental – such as pollen or mold – or can be dietary, such as peanuts. Insect stings and various prescribed and over-the-counter drugs can also cause allergic reactions.
During an allergic reaction, special white blood cells known as mast cells release histamines and other inflammatory chemicals in response to allergens – causing symptoms such as watery eyes, congestion, itching, sneezing, coughing, sore throat and stuffy or runny nose.
Allergic reactions can range in severity from a mild annoyance to a life-threatening emergency – as in the case of an anaphylactic reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include flushing, tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips, light-headedness and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
If not treated, these ‘milder’ symptoms can progress to seizures, cardiac arrthymia, respiratory distress and even premature death. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction, call 911.
To treat routine allergies, many people turn to pharmaceutical antihistamines – which block the release of histamine and stabilize mast cells. However, these drugs can cause troublesome and dangerous side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, blurred vision, and sedation. And by interfering with natural sleep – during which memories are stored and learning is processed and retained – they can cause cognitive and memory problems.
The following natural remedies, however, can bring significant allergy relief – without unwanted side effects.
Unleash the power of quercetin against seasonal allergies
Quercetin – a plant pigment found in many fruits, vegetables and herbs – is a time-honored natural allergy treatment that is backed by modern scientific studies. In fact, researchers say that quercetin can regulate the immune system’s response to outside stressors through cell signaling pathways called kinases and phosphatases.
Both anti-inflammatory and strongly antioxidant, quercetin is particularly effective at relieving inflammation in the airways, thereby easing respiratory allergic symptoms such as coughing.
You can increase your levels of quercetin by eating fruits and vegetables – particularly red grapes, apples, grapefruit and onions. Red wine and green tea are also great sources. And capers – which can impart richness to gourmet recipes with their intriguing, complex flavors – are also miniature storehouses of quercetin and vitamin C.
Quercetin is also available as a supplement, with many natural healers advising dosages of 500 mg up to three times a day to treat allergies.
For even greater effect, look for a quercetin supplement that also contains bromelain – an enzyme found in pineapples that is thought to help reduce allergic sensitivities. Studies have shown that doses of 400 to 500 mg of bromelain three times a day can help relieve mucous, and researchers have found that quercetin and bromelain can enhance each other’s beneficial properties.
If you are allergic to pineapples, of course, you shouldn’t take bromelain.
Brew up some ginger-lemon-honey tea for allergy relief
Ginger root is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and natural antihistamine, which also happens to be high in allergy-soothing quercetin. And – with mild stimulant and pain-killing properties – ginger is particularly helpful in banishing the muscle aches and fatigue triggered by allergies.
To make a refreshing, allergy-fighting tea, natural healers advise shaving off a piece of ginger root, steeping it in hot water for three to five minutes, then adding a shot of lemon juice and a spoonful of honey – as long as the honey is locally produced without processing techniques that destroy the nutrient value.
Many experts maintain that consuming “local” honey can help you develop immunity to local pollen. However, use caution – if you are severely allergic to local pollen, you may be allergic to local honey as well.
In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities, honey can help soothe a cough – and has been shown in studies to outperform a pharmaceutical cough syrup.
Discover the natural antihistamine properties of vitamin C
Vitamin C excels at helping to balance immune system response, thereby reducing inflammation and eliminating symptoms. Unlike pharmaceutical antihistamines – which stop histamine from binding to the receptor site – vitamin C prevents the chemical from forming in the first place.
Natural healers often recommend starting with a gram of vitamin C three to five times a day to alleviate symptoms – and increasing the dosage frequency if you don’t get relief. (until symptoms fade away)
You can also increase dietary vitamin C with organic produce such as berries, lemons, grapefruits, red bell peppers, kiwi fruit and strawberries. And don’t forget leafy greens such as watercress, arugula and kale. These are rich not only in vitamin C but in chlorophyll, an immune-boosting natural pigment that can help the body process allergens and toxins.
Foil allergies with maneuvers of avoidance
In avoiding allergies, what you don’t consume – or inhale – can be just as important as what you do.
If allergies are troublesome, experts advise foregoing all conventionally-produced dairy products, wheat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and refined sugars.
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit group specializing in environmental research and advocacy, reports that PBDEs – flame retardant chemicals found in carpeting, sofas, electronics and toys – are common culprits when it comes to triggering allergies. According to the EWG, many corporations, including Acer, Apple, Microsoft, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Toshiba and Nokia, have recently pledged to go PBDE-free.
Other techniques include showering after being outside in order to rinse away toxins, irritants and allergens, using HEPA filters in your vacuum, and substituting a wet mop and microfiber cloth for synthetic cleaning products.
Finally, irrigating the sinuses with saline solution and a Neti-pot may help forestall allergic reactions by removing irritating pollen from nasal passages.
For maximum benefit, you should start using your natural antihistamines a month or two before the advent of allergy season. Here’s to a symptom-free season for you!
Sources for this article include: