Staying Healthy During Allergy Season

Spring is here and with flowers and plants on the verge of full-bloom, hay fever, hives, and other allergic reactions will soon follow. If you are like me, you try to avoid prescribed and over-the-counter medications as much as possible. Although there are times when we must utilize certain medications to treat health conditions, there are several herbal remedies that can help prevent or lessen te effects of allergies. Supplements and herbs can help reduce the inflammatory response and act as natural antihistamines.

Allergies are the result of an acquired oversensitivity to specific drugs, foods, or environmental substances. They can begin at any time and are most commonly brought on by stress and repeated exposure to a toxin. In addition, there is a proven genetic link: Children may inherit a tendency to develop specific allergies. The increased occurrence of allergies has been associated with polluted air, water, and food; decreased incidence of breastfeeding and earlier introduction of solid foods to infants; genetically engineered plants; and eating the same foods every day. When you eat the same food day in and day out, your body may build up an intolerance.

Environmental or seasonal allergies can be caused by molds, yeast, dust and the pollen of ragweed, trees, and other plants. They are also commonly triggered by animal hair and dander, dust mites, wood- and coal-burning stoves, and cigarette smoke. If you’re affected, avoid these sources as much as possible. Below is a compiled list of supplements and herbs that can be helpful in treating your allergies this season. I have listed a precautionary note with each herb/supplement, when applicable. Please consult a qualified health professional for exact dosages of these herbal remedies and DO NOT self-medicate.

Herbs:

Rose Hips:  Generally regarded as safe.

Stinging Nettle:  Stinging Nettle can produce allergic reactions in some people.

Fennel:  Fennel may cause allergic reactions in some people.

Garlic:  Placing garlic directly on the skin may cause
blisters and a burning sensation. Large doses may interact with the blood-thinner Coumadin.

Tumeric: Tumeric root should not be used by individuals with gallstones or bile flow obstruction.

Valerian: Although it generally has a sedative effect, valerian may act as a stimulant for some individuals. Long-term use should be avoided because of alkaloid content, which may cause liver damage.

Supplements:

• Bromelain (pineapple enzyme)

• Digestive Enzymes

• Omega-3 Fatty Acids

• Quercetin (bioflavinoid from buckwheat and citrus fruits)

• Vitamin A

• Vitamin C

• Zinc

How To Tell If You Have Food Allergies

Food allergies are on the rise and in the U.S., about 6 million people suffer from them. Many suffer in silence because they don’t realize they’re allergic. The biggest contributors to food allergies are refined flour, white sugar, and processed foods that have little nutritional value. Yet, Americans are eating these foods more than ever.

To complicate matters, people are eating fewer different types of foods. Too many people don’t vary their diets, which tend to consist mostly of wheat, corn, dairy products, sugar, caffeine, meat, eggs, and citrus fruits. Eating the same foods every day can cause the immune system to respond improperly, leading to allergic reactions. Other common causes of allergies include artificial preservatives, additives, colorings, monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, saccharin, pesticides, and other chemicals added to foods.

Inflammation, the symptom most commonly associated with allergies, can occur almost anywhere in the body. If inflammation occurs in the joints, it may cause rheumatoid arthritis; if it occurs in the head, it may lead to chronic sinusitis or migraines. The symptoms associated with food allergies are myriad and may include, among others: acne, asthma, depression, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, eczema, hives, anxiety, canker sores, teeth-grinding, diarrhea, gas, colic, constipation, arthritis, headaches, sinusitis, rashes, chronic bladder infections, failure to thrive, and bed-wetting.

If you suspect that you have food allergies, you can test yourself through an elimination diet. But DO NOT attempt this diet if you have violent reactions to foods, such as trouble breathing or severe asthma, because reintroducing the offending food can cause anaphylactic shock in some individuals. The following information will guide you on how to implement the elimination diet.

First, identify the foods to which you may be allergic. Most common are wheat, dairy, corn, citrus, and peanuts. If you don’t know, eliminate all of them, along with processed foods, artificial food colorings, preservatives, additives, coffee, sugar, and alcohol. Check the ingredients listed on supplements and packaged foods. Drink filtered water and eat organic produce, when possible. Follow the diet for 2-3 weeks. After 3 weeks, your allergic symptoms should be gone. Otherwise, ou may be allergic to something you didn’t eliminate; you didn’t stay on the diet; or you may have another health condition.

If your symptoms are gone, reintroduce on food at a time and watch for reactions. Eat a big portion of the suspect food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Record symptoms in a journal. If you do not have symptoms within 3 days, you probably are not allergic to the food. After the 3 days, reintroduce another food. If you have symptoms, stop eating the suspect food, as you probably are allergic to it. Wait until the symptoms subside before testing another food.

After determining which foods you are allergic to, cut them out of your diet entirely for 3-6 months and then gradually reintroduce them. You may find that your allergic response is gone. At the same time, be sure to eat whole, unprocessed foods and rotate your selections so you are not eating the same foods more than two or three times a week. Also, consult a qualified health professional, such as a physician that specializes in treating allergies, if and when your allergies are severe.

One Response to Staying Healthy During Allergy Season

  • Lauren Swann says:

    Christine,

    Many years ago while on media tour in the spring — my worst allergy season — I discovered that by eating lots of strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and pineapple (along with drinking lots of water), especially first thing in the morning, I could control the stuffy nose, sneezing and red eyes that wouldn’t go over well in front of the camera, and I could do it all without pharmaceuticals because even the anti-drowsy formulas can have odd side-affects I wanted to avoid. You never know what kind of humidity and pollen count a different city will bring and that was my motivation which I happened upon accidentally at the hotel breakfast buffets. What a pleasant surprise to discover how well it worked and I’ve continued with it ever since.

    Lauren Swann, MS, RD, LDN

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