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.
• 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.
• Bromelain (pineapple enzyme)
• Digestive Enzymes
• Omega-3 Fatty Acids
• Quercetin (bioflavinoid from buckwheat and citrus fruits)
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin C
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.
Here is a collection of strategies and tips for cutting your grocery bill. Start with strategies that you can implement gradually. Remember your goal: A lower food bill AND a healthy, wholesome diet.
The following tips have been arranged in descending order from most difficult to least difficult. Therefore, you can see the changes along the way and be willing to make more frugal choices as you get more comfortable with this way of eating and shopping. Start with a few things and keep adding. Soon you will see a HUGE difference in your food budget (and possibly your waistline!).
TIP #10: Use Everything- When you are cooking, think about how you can get every last food mile out of what you are making. Meat bones and vegetable trimmings can be made into wonderful stocks. Leftover vegetables and meats can be thrown into the same stock for soups and stews, or put into pot pies, casseroles, you name it. Try to get everything you can out of your food dollar.
TIP #9: Cut down/Out on the Junk Food- If you can completely give up the soda, chips, cookies, candy, etc., good for you! Most fail at doing this “cold turkey”, so I suggest you gradually cut down on these items. If you just have to have a baked good, make it yourself from scratch. Homemade cookies, cakes, and pies are much tastier than store bought and they don’t have the additives and preservatives either.
TIP #8: Make It Yourself- Ban those convenience foods! If you can’t totally cut out the junk foods, make them yourself. A large, homemade pizza costs about $3 – $5 to make, compared to frozen pizzas which are typically $3 – $5 for the small size. And delivery pizzas can cost $8 – $20 each. Bulk buy the ingredients and make the dough from scratch. Pressed for time? Buy the pizza dough pre-made and just add the toppings!
TIP #7: Eat Less Meat- Does spaghetti really have to have all those meatballs? Does pizza really have to have all of that meat on it? Try to think of meat as an accent to the meal rather than the main course. If this is too difficult, try cutting portion sizes of meats and adding more side dishes to compensate.
TIP #6: Stretch Meats- You may be able to get away with extending your meat by mixing in extra veggies, grains, or even TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). TVP is made from soybeans and there are quite a few restaurants that use it, so it may be more familiar than you think (it’s also very healthy). You can hide it best in ground beef dishes, like chili, meatloaf, and tacos.
TIP #5: Fill Up On Healthier Foods- Try fruits and popcorn as snacks, rather than junk convenience foods. Drink sparkling water, with a splash of lemon or splash of 100% fruit juice between meals, instead of soda or Kool-aid. Buy whole grains, like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta, instead of their refined counterparts. Munch on fresh veggies w/dip between meals. Whole grains and healthier foods fill you up and nourish you. You will eat less and crave less because your body is nourished more. Think of wholesome foods as an investment in your health.
TIP #4: Buy and Use In-Season Veggies and Fruit- They are fresher and cheaper. When tomatoes are in season, make tomato sauce and can it. Make strawberry shortcake when strawberries are at their best and cheapest, usually in June and July. Cook with more root vegetables in the winter, when thy are at their best.
TIP #3: Learn the Sales Pattern- Not only are there better seasons to buy some veggies than others, but meats and other food staples tend to go on sale according to season, holiday, and what store you are shopping at. Learn the sales patterns of your favorite stores and stock up.
TIP #2: Try Store Brands and Generics- Keep going down in price until you notice a difference in the quality. You may discover that most brands are created equal and some generics are pretty good too. Some basics, like flour & sugar, really don’t change from brand to brand, so go with the lowest price and /or what’s on sale.
TIP #1: Make a Grocery List, And Stick To It- Plan your meals for the week and shop only for the foods that you need to complete your meals. Be sure to check your kitchen for foods that you may already have that are needed for your meals. This will prevent you from buying certain foods unnecessarily.
As most of you already know, I am a firm believer in the health benefits organic foods. But if you must buy conventional produce, there are ways to reduce your exposure to the harmful chemicals they contain. Thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables will help, although all pesticide residues cannot be removed by washing. You can also remove the outer layer of leaves or peel vegetables if possible. Another alternative is to grow your own vegetables, although this takes space, time and climate considerations.
Another option is to buy organic produce selectively, as certain foods tend to have higher or lower amounts of pesticides.
The following foods tend to have the highest levels of pesticides:
Vegetables: Spinach, Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Celery
Fruits: Peaches, Apples, Strawberries, Nectarines, Pears, Cherries, Raspberries, Grapes
The list below includes foods that tend to be lower in pesticides:
Vegetables: Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Radishes, Broccoli, Onions, Okra, Cabbage, Eggplant
Fruits: Pineapples, Plantains, Mangos, Bananas, Watermelon, Plums, Kiwi, Blueberries, Papaya, Grapefruit, Avocado
Unfortunately, there are still many people that do not have access to organic foods, whether it is for demographic reasons or economic reasons. If either of these reasons pertain to you, please, please, please do not make this an excuse to avoid fruits and vegetables altogether. Non-organic fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. It is my hope and intention to get each and every one of you to venture outside of your box to try something new, whether it is eating an organic apple for the first time, or incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. So, remember your ultimate goal: Eating Healthy without Breaking the Bank!
Most authorities, and many dietitians/nutritionists, recommend people not use salt at the table or the stove. I have found that this is precisely the wrong approach. Most of the sodium we eat (77%) is in the food as we buy it—mostly processed/packaged and restaurant foods. The remaining 23% is about evenly split between naturally occurring sodium and that which we add at the stove/table.
So when it is recommended that people stop using salt at the stove/table, how much does that affect your sodium intake? Very little (about 10%). All the while, you as the consumer, are left believing that you’re doing something good for yourself and that you have complete control over your sodium intake, when actually you do not. If you’re buying mostly processed/packaged foods (out of convenience and ease) from food industry giants like Campbells, Kraft, Prego, Stouffers (this includes LEAN CUISINE) to control your sodium intake, you’re not doing much at all. Even if you don’t salt your food at the table, you’re getting more salt in your diet than you should.
Let’s return the control back to YOU, the consumer. I recommend that you buy as much unprocessed, whole, and/or reduced sodium foods as possible and salt those foods YOURSELF. Even if you buy a bland, low-sodium soup or pasta sauce, you can add your own salt (along with other herbs and spices to further cut back on the use of salt). Then, over time, slowly reduce the salt you add to those unprocessed, whole foods, allowing time for the tastebuds to adjust. Who’s in control now? That’s right it’s YOU, not the food industry giants that have absolutely no concern about your health and welfare.
And as for the GREEN and COMPASSIONATE living moral to this story: Buying unprocessed, whole foods will, in turn, mean that you’re buying foods with less packaging (good for the environment), and you’re most likely buying more fruits and vegetables and eating a more plant-based diet (good for you AND the environment).