It’s Spring! Hooray!
Ah-ah-ahhhhchoooo! Oh yeah, it’s Spring alright! While each season has some common allergens to contend with, Spring takes it to a new level. Tree pollen, grass pollen and molds are all dancing happily through the air, just waiting for the opportunity to hitch a ride to their next encounter. Unfortunately, one of the places they end up is in our noses. But, there are ways to minimize prolonged exposure as well as build up your defenses before they get a foot hold.
Pollen is actually harmless, but the body doesn’t think so. It thinks the pollen is a foreign invader, like a bacteria or fungus, which triggers the release of histamine, a natural chemical produced by your immune system. Histamine causes inflammation and irritation of soft tissue. Anti-histamines can diminish this response. Vitamin C is believed to do the same.
Here are some helpful natural remedies that are gaining in popularity. One of the most basic is a simple saline rinse. You can opt for saline nose sprays – which are more portable and less messy – or get right to the heart of the matter with a Neti pot. Many people are discovering that daily use of a Neti pot reduces the amount of irritants that are trying to take up residence in their sinuses.
Speaking of rinsing off pollen, are you one of those people who prefer to take a shower in the morning rather than at night? If you’re fighting seasonal allergies, you might consider taking one at night before bed, instead. Pollen loves to cling to us. It’s on our clothes and in our hair, especially if you use hairspray, gel or things like that. Taking it to bed with you only increases your exposure to the irritants. The last thing you want is a pillow full of pollen.
Some folks, especially those who might prefer a treatment that doesn’t interfere with other medications, opt for homeopathic remedies which can range from very general, i.e. “Allergy Sinus,” to the specific, like “Tree Pollen.” They are blends of single homeopathic remedies which, when put together, address multiple symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and sinus pressure. Homeopathic remedies are available as dissolvable tablets, sublingual spray, eye drops or nasal spray.
Herbal and food based remedies are very popular. The two most commonly paired are Stinging Nettles and Quercetin. Stinging Nettles, oddly enough, contain histamine, yet helps the body react positively against the histamine response brought on by pollen. They are very popular for their inflammation balancing properties, too, and can be taken in capsule form or as a tea or even cooked, like spinach. Combined with the flavonoid, Quercetin, which also helps to balance inflammation and histamine response, they deliver a nice one-two punch to help your body fend off the symptoms.
Speaking of flavonoids, most of us still have some Elderberry syrup or other concoctions around from the cold and flu season and there’s no reason not to continue taking it well into allergy season. Elderberries are high in flavonoids and this can come in handy for battling the stuffy noses and puffy eyes. Other flavonoid food sources are apples, broccoli, capers, citrus fruits, olive oil, onions, parsley, raspberries, red wine, sage, as well as green tea which contains Theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to reduce histamine release.
Another herb which is gaining in popularity for seasonal allergies is Butterbur. Originally, it was promising support for asthma sufferers because it helps slow the production of leukotrienes —the inflammatory molecules which act as a bronchoconstrictor. It turns out that these leukotrienes, along with histamines, also play a part in allergic rhinitis. Since an allergic reaction is the result of a release of both leukotrienes and histamines, Butterbur can be a helpful friend to assist your body in dealing with the reaction. Since it’s a member of the daisy family, using Butterbur wouldn’t be your best choice if you’re allergic to daisies or ragweed.
There are other allergy season allies to choose from as well, especially if you get really stuffed up and drippy. Bromelain is a protein digesting enzyme derived from pineapple. It can be helpful in thinning out mucus and reducing nasal swelling. Also beneficial for thinning out the gunk up your nose is N-Acetylcysteine (NAC.) NAC is a natural amino acid derivative of L-Cysteine and helps break down mucus. It also boosts the levels of the antioxidant glutathione.
And, finally, where would an allergy discussion be without honey? Spring wouldn’t be the same without it, both from a culinary perspective as well as an allergy one. Although it is widely believed that eating local, raw honey has beneficial allergy fighting potential, there is still too little empirical evidence backing it up at this time. However, the most recent studies, as well as mountains of anecdotal evidence are keeping allergy sufferers’ interest. The theory behind it is simple. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the idea is that locally produced raw, unfiltered honey contains pollen spores picked up by bees from local plants. By introducing a small amount of allergen into your system, over a period of time, your immune system is “activated.”
Different regions have different combinations of plants and pollens that your body is reacting to, so it’s important to use honey that is the most local for you. Since it’s a slow build up of defenses over time, a small amount consumed daily, starting a few months prior to the pollen season, is what honey fans will do to give themselves a little extra love during this challenging season. A little tea with some honey and lemon every day is not a bad way to usher in the new season.