Like many of my patients, you probably have questions. Must I suffer every year? What causes my allergies? Can I feel better? Must I take handfuls of pills? Is there another way? Can I prevent allergies from returning? Let’s find out.
What Causes Allergies?
It’s not the allergen (tree, grass, pollen, dust, pollutant) itself that cause allergic symptoms that cause us so much grief. It’s our body’s response. The body perceives the allergen as a threat and the immune system cries, “I’m being attacked! Invasion! Call in the army.”
The “army” is the immune system cells which try to eradicate the threat. Mast cells are summoned to release chemicals called histamine. This causes many of the allergic symptoms.
Our body is just trying to protect us and doing its job overly well. This is what causes us so much suffering! So the question is how do we teach our bodies to make peace rather than war with the environment around us?
Treating Allergies – Addressing the Cause
Conventional treatment involves antihistamines which shut down those mast cells. These medications offer relief but they don’t address the cause of why we have allergies in the first place and they don’t prevent allergies from coming back the next year.
In my practice, we take a look at a person’s complete health history to address the cause of allergies which is different depending on their constitution. From there we create an individualized plan. However, there are a few key tips that I have for everyone that suffers from allergies:
Whole Food Nutrition – Unprocessed, whole foods such as whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), vegetables, fruit, lean proteins (fish and chicken), nuts, seeds and healthy unrefined oils (extra virgin olive oil) support a healthy immune system. Limit your intake of dairy which increases mucous production. Avoid processed foods, junk food and refined sugar and flour.
Food as Medicine - Choose foods rich in Vitamin C which help to stabilize mast cells. Eat lots of peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, kale and berries. Quercetin is a bioflavanoid that also stabilizes mast cells and reduces inflammation. Good sources include red onions, the white pith of citrus fruits, apples and lovage. Choose organic foods or go to the farmers’ market and ask them if they spray their fruits and veggies. Many of them do not. Pesticides may exacerbate your allergies. Aim for half of your plate at each meal full of delicious veggies rich in many colors.
Sleep & Exercise – Rest and movement are essential for a healthy immune system and our overall wellness.
Healthy Oils Daily - Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that help to stabilize the membranes of mast cells over time and help to lessen the symptoms of allergies. Good sources are deep sea fish (ex salmon), flaxseeds and walnuts. For a therapeutic dose, I recommend supplementing with fish oils or flaxseed oil. Quality is important. I like Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil with Vit D or Udo’s Choice Oil (vegetarian blend).
Nasal Lavage (Neti Pot) – This involves cleansing the nasal passages with a saline solution. This helps to gently wash away dust, pollen and environmental irritants while reducing excess mucous. You can find neti pots at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre or at your local health food or drug store.
Stress Management & Emotional Wellness - Allergies tell us that our bodies find the environment around us threatening. Sometimes this is also true on an emotional level. Perhaps we find our environment stressful or we live with fear and uncertainty. Louise Hay offers this affirmation, “The world is safe and friendly. I am safe. I am at peace with life.”
Herbal Support – My favorite herbs for allergy support are chamomile and nettles. They tell those mast cells to relax. To extract the healing constituents, steep a tablespoon or more of the herb for at least 1-2 hours (or overnight) and drink 1-3 times daily. Adding 1-2 teaspoons of local unpasteurized honey throughout the year can help to prevent allergies. Personally, I like to add honey and almond milk to my nettle tea.
In a world of sneezes, sniffles and watery eyes, I offer you a glimmer of hope. There is a way to reduce symptoms, address the cause and even prevent future allergy outbreaks. This is a journey to which there are no quick fixes and the only side effect is better health and wellbeing.