It’s Spring again!—and we all know what that means. Grass, tree and weed pollens, sniffles and sneezing, itchy watery eyes and longing to be outside but feeling trapped indoors by seasonal symptoms. Seasonal allergies affect adults and children across the globe. If you are a sufferer of seasonal allergies, I have good news for you! Naturopathic medicine offers a unique approach to allergies that can help you get a handle on your symptoms. Here are a few options commonly used to help reduce allergy symptoms.
- Probiotics and prebiotics
The human body is colonized by anywhere from 10 to 100 trillion microbes that are collectively known as the human microbiota. This includes microbes living on the skin, mucous membranes and within the gut. An imbalance in the microbiome has been linked to a number of chronic conditions including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, eczema, and allergies. Supplementing the diet with a high quality probiotic (and prebiotics from your food—fiber!) can help to ensure a healthy balance of gut bacteria which in turn supports immune regulation and allergies. Keep in mind, a huge proportion of your immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract, so any imbalance in the GI tract can result in immune dysregulation. A healthy body and mind requires a healthy gut.
- Identify and eliminate food sensitivities
Unidentified food sensitivities can lead to inflammation in the GI tract and exacerbation of seasonal allergies. In some cases, food sensitivities are mistaken for seasonal allergies! In these cases, while conventional treatment may temporarily improve symptoms, their resolution won’t occur until food triggers are identified and removed from the diet.
- Quercetin and Vitamin C
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in a number of foods including onions, broccoli, fruits and some herbs. And WINE, we can’t forget wine. Quercetin can help manage allergies by stabilizing mast cells. Mast cells are immune cells that contain histamine. When they break apart they release their histamine leading to allergy symptoms! By stabilizing these cells, we limit the amount of histamine released. Quercetin is also best taken with Vitamin C to enhance these effects. Vitamin C—commonly known for supporting the immune system and reducing duration of illness—is also quite helpful for managing seasonal allergies as it works to prevent the formation of histamine.
- Fish oils
Fish oils contain essential fatty acids that are crucial for forming every cell membrane in our body. Additionally, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fish oil are especially beneficial for their natural anti-inflammatory effects. Research supports the addition of omega 3 fish oils for cardiovascular support, asthma, skin health, mental health and cognitive function. The research on omega 3 fatty acids in managing seasonal allergies is conflicting. Due to a strong safety profile, additional health benefits and anecdotal evidence, it is frequently added in to allergy protocols for certain individuals. When it comes to prevention of allergies however, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed increased maternal intake of omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy decreases incidence of childhood allergies!
Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Over more recent decades, it has become a more popular option in our western culture as well. Acupuncture works by clearing blockages in channels (or meridians) that carry energy called qi throughout the body. Each channel is associated with an organ in the body that has a specific set of functions. If qi is not flowing smoothly throughout the meridian, an imbalance is created and that organ will be unable to function effectively. Smooth flow of qi is crucial for health and balance of body systems. When it comes to allergies, an imbalance in the lung, large intestine, spleen and/or stomach is typically at the root. Occasionally, the liver is also implicated. Acupuncture can be used to effectively restore balance in these organ systems and resolve symptoms. In many cases, traditional Chinese herbs and herbal formulas, dietary recommendation and lifestyle counselling are used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the healing process.
- Spirulina/green drinks
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that can be found in supplement or powdered form. It’s a common ingredient in the powdered “green drinks” that are often found in health food stores. Spirulina helps to modulate the immune system and is clinically effective in managing allergic rhinitis compared to placebo.
- Herbal medicine
A number of different herbs may be beneficial in managing seasonal allergies. Possibly the best supported by evidence is Petasites hybridus (butterbur) which has both anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Other herbs including Euphrasia officinalis (eyebright), Rehmannia glutinosa (Chinese foxglove) and Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) may provide additional support for some cases.
If you suffer from allergies and would like some help, please contact us to make an appointment.
Best KP, Gold M, Kennedy D, Martin J, and Makrides M. Omega-3 long-chain PUFA intake during pregnancy and allergic disease outcomes in the offspring: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan; 103(1):128-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.111104.
Hagel AF, Layritz CM, Hagel WH, Hagel HJ, Hagel E, Dauth W, Kressel J, Regnet T, Rosenberg A, Neurath MF, Molderings GJ, and Raithel M. Intravenous infusion of ascorbic acid decreases serum histamine concentrations in patients with allergic and non-allergic diseases. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2013 Sep; 386(9):789-93. doi: 10.1007/s00210-013-0880-1.
Lee KP, Kang S, Park SJ, Choi YW, Lee YG, and Im DS. Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects of bakkenolide B isolated from Petasites japonicus leaves. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 30; 148(3):890-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.037.
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