Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking Control of Fall Allergies

It’s not a condition that often comes to mind as a major public health problem, but seasonal allergies have a greater impact on our public health than most would think. Consider this: people who suffer from allergic rhinitis miss an average of 3.8 million days of work and school every year, and over a third of allergy sufferers say that their allergic rhinitis decreases their work effectiveness. Eighty percent of people with seasonal allergies say they have sleep problems, which can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration and poor performance at work and school, and over 16.7 million visits to office-based physicians each year are due to allergies (source: And if those numbers are not bad enough, brace yourself--it’s allergy season again.

To get a better grasp on this health concern, let’s first review what an allergy is. Allergy is actually a symptom of a malfunction of the immune system which causes a person to respond to a certain substance in a hypersensitive way, and have an allergic reaction. Allergies are the result of an immune response to a normally harmless substance, like pollen or dust and when substances these enter the presence of our mast cells, an immune response is triggered and histamine is released, causing the annoying sneezes and sniffles we call bad allergies.

The common solution to this “malfunction” offered by physicians is most often a prescription for antihistamines, which don't actually change the allergic process, but block the histamine and therefore the allergy, from being released. The other option, steroid nasal inhalers which treat hay fever and other seasonal allergies, can be very effective but when steroids enter the rest of the body they can actually weaken the immune system over time.

Fortunately, there are some effective natural ways to deal with seasonal allergies. To begin with, buying a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air filter can help removes allergens and particles from the air by forcing it through screens that have microscopic pores so you can reduce your exposure to allergens in the first place. In addition, regular use of a Neti Pot, a great tool for performing a saline nasal rinse, helps keep the nasal passages clear of particles that ultimately contribute to sinus congestion.
There are also a number of amazing herbs which can help tremendously in keeping allergies at bay. Quercetin a bioflavonoid compound which offers antioxidant protection to plants against environmental stresses does wonders for allergy prevention, by preventing the release of histamine from mast cells. It is not very water soluble, so poor dietary absorption may reduce its efficacy, but when taken with bromelain, a natural, protein-digesting enzyme from pineapples, its absorption is greatly improved. Bromelain also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that work well with quercetin.

Another key player when it comes to fighting allergies is Stinging Nettles, a common plant which grows in damp waste areas in the United States and Europe. While touching the stingers on the nettle plant, causes an allergic reaction, due an acid in the stingers which spurs a local release of histamine, herbalists actually recommend nettle juice as an antidote to the rash caused by the stinger, and suggest drinking its tea for allergies. The herb, Red Clover is another great herbal remedy for asthma and allergies, having antispasmodic and expectorant qualities and like stinging nettles, and can be drunk as a tea.

Allergy Bonus Tip: Reducing intake of dairy products around allergy season often helps the body to responds more appropriately to environmental allergens and reduce excess mucus production.

1 comment:

  1. Avoiding dairy during allergy season makes sense since it can reduce mucus production. Here is another article about holistic approaches to fall allergies. It also describes stress reduction therapy and how it can contribute to relief of symptoms. Food for thought...