I love the changing of seasons. Each seasonal onset symbolizes a new theme, such as renewal or growth, that inspires me to prioritize my health. But despite my excitement for the seasonal changes, one pesky element routinely disrupts my invigoration: seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, seasonal allergies are extremely common, affecting approximately 81 million Americans. However, allergy presentation differs for everyone: Some people are more affected in the spring, while others experience more symptoms in the fall. Regardless, the most typical allergy remedy is none other than over-the-counter antihistamines.
Antihistamines, like Benadryl or Zyrtec, can be useful tools to quickly lessen the severity of itchy eyes or a runny nose. Still, they shouldn’t be our long-term preference for remedying allergy symptoms. OTC antihistamines can produce unsafe interactions when taken with other medications, make you feel drowsy or fatigued, and simply do not address the root cause of the symptoms. So, why do we even experience seasonal allergies in the first place, and what holistic actions can we take to help naturally remedy them?
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, describe the body’s immune-mediated response to foreign bodily invaders–typically grasses and pollens, etc. While immune proteins and cells are essential for fighting pathogens and other harmful toxins, sometimes they mistake harmless substances, like pollen, for something destructive. So, when someone is particularly sensitive to these allergens, the immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE), which signals the body to rid itself of the trigger. IgE stimulates mast cells to produce histamines, so we see sneezing, runny noses, itchy or watery eyes, and inflamed skin.
Who is most affected by seasonal allergies?
While it seems somewhat arbitrary as to who does and doesn’t experience seasonal allergies, some populations are likelier to experience them than others. For one, pregnant women have a weaker immune system to compensate for their baby’s development in the womb. In turn, they have a higher chance of producing more IgE in response to outdoor triggers. However, this physiological adaptation is normal and will pass with time post-birth. On the other hand, poor gut health is a less natural state of health that heightens the impact of allergens on the immune response.
Our gut is lined with gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). GALT harnesses 70% of our immune cells, meaning that the quality of our gut health is critical regarding our immune response. A healthy immune system has a higher likelihood of appropriately adjusting our body’s tolerance or elimination of harmless or harmful “invaders.” But unfortunately, our gut health can easily be thrown out of balance due to certain medications and antibiotics, stress, inadequate sleep, or insufficient consumption of food diversity. This imbalance lessens the effectiveness of our immune system and increases our susceptibility to seasonal allergies.
Thankfully, there are many ways to improve our gut and overall health, which aids our immune system and allergy symptoms.
Holistic remedies for seasonal allergies
Unfortunately, yet arguably unsurprisingly, dehydration is almost always at the root of our problems. When we’re dehydrated, we suppress our immune system. A weakened immune system does not function properly, which could heighten the detriments of seasonal allergies. I recommend women drink around 9 to 10 cups of water and men drink around 12 to 13 cups daily to stay adequately hydrated.
Walnuts, flax seeds, microalgae, and organic salmon are well-known anti-inflammatory foods that can boost immune health. They’re all rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for producing anti-inflammatory signaling molecules throughout the body. Further, chronic inflammation can dysregulate our immune systems, so incorporating more omega-3-rich foods into our diets can combat inflammation and support our immune systems.
Because poor gut health can worsen the body’s immune system response to allergens, strengthening the gut with probiotics is important for treating seasonal allergies. Probiotic-rich foods like coconut kefir, kimchi, and kombucha are excellent choices to help improve and protect the quality of our guts.
Who doesn’t love honey? Aside from being sweet and delicious, honey also has many therapeutic properties. Honey is regarded as antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It has also been shown to be useful for wound healing and cancer. Specifically relating to allergies, honey has been linked to a reduction in IgE, which can potentially lower allergic symptoms.
Whether in a smoothie, as salsa, or simply sliced plain, pineapple is amazing for your health. It contains a significant amount of bromelain, a naturally occurring enzyme well-recognized for its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Bromelain consumption has been known to activate a healthy immune system best equipped to handle seasonal allergies. It also decreases swelling and inflammation, particularly in the nose, and can decrease the number of inflammatory signaling molecules produced in response to allergens.
Stinging nettle is an herbal remedy that has been used for thousands of years for various ailments. It’s particularly beneficial in treating seasonal allergy symptoms. It is an anti-inflammatory that can help relieve sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny noses.
Butterbur is another plant that has been long used for its medicinal properties. It has been shown to reduce nasal allergy symptoms by inhibiting the inflammatory signaling molecules released by the body when it comes into contact with allergens.
Quercetin is an antioxidant plant pigment recognized for its anti-allergic properties. Quercetin stimulates the immune system, inhibits histamine release, decreases inflammation, and restrains IgE formation, all of which play a role in managing the severity of allergic reactions.
Seasonal allergies can be challenging and a bother. Although OTC antihistamines may be a quick fix to relieve symptoms, there are more holistic approaches to managing seasonal allergies that go beyond masking the symptoms. If you struggle with seasonal allergies and want to address them head-on, book a one-on-one session with me today! Together, we can find personalized ways for you to crush your allergies so you can continue to be your best self in every season.