Imagine running through a field of tall grass and wildflowers, arms spread wide, sunshine on your face and the breeze blowing in your hair. That may sound like an afternoon well spent! For many of us however… the scene I described just sounds like an allergy nightmare! What can one do to start enjoying the outdoors again?
Hay fever is very common among the general population. Most of us know the symptoms- stuffy or runny nose, itchy red eyes, brain fog, sneezing, headache and even sinus pressure. An underlying immune signal stimulates these processes. It involves an antibody named immunoglobin E (or IgE for short).
IgE travels through our body by circulating in our blood, and when it encounters an immune cell called a mast cell- it causes the mast cell to release histamine. It is this histamine release that triggers fluid buildup in our nose, makes our eyes itch and can even make our skin itch.
Conventional treatments work by suppressing histamine release- most of the allergy meds available over-the-counter at the pharmacy are called anti-histamines. They’re available as pills, liquid (usually for children) or nose sprays.
In naturopathic medicine, we offer similar quick-fixes but the foundational treatment is to find the root cause of your allergy symptoms and work from there. We often prescribe rapid-acting treatments specific to your symptoms, then make specific recommendations for long-term prevention of future allergies (and so much more!).
Naturopathic Approaches to Seasonal Allergies
If you find yourself immersed in a full-blown allergic state, our quickest-acting natural medicines use ingredients like freeze-dried nettle leaf, quercetin, vitamin C, bromelain and a unique strain of probiotic called lactobacillus L-92. These begin acting right away and are usually required at higher doses than average during an acute allergic flare.
Other natural approaches focused toward preventing future flares include supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, probiotic blends and various lifestyle modifications. More intensive strategies will be needed for some individuals that address some specifics of the immune system, and in particular the gastrointestinal tract and the lining of the small intestines where much of the status of our immune system is determined.
Lifestyle recommendations for preventing allergies may include:
- changing out of outdoor shoes and clothing upon entering your home
- keeping pets and outdoor gear off the bed
- keeping the bed covered during the day (with a thick blanket) and uncovering it for sleep
- running an air filter in the bedroom
- frequent washing, dusting and cleaning of the home to prevent dust buildup
Testing is also an option to identify which pollens or environmental exposures you may be allergic to. This usually involves a blood draw to analyze your immune system’s antibodies.
Lastly, a cornerstone to every naturopathic treatment plan is to address and optimize nutrition. The foods we eat and how we eat them have an immense impact on almost every aspect of our health, either positively or negatively.