Beautiful spring is in bloom! Unfortunately for some, that means allergy symptoms, including runny nose, congestion, itchy-watery eyes, brain-fog and fatigue. Many also suffer in the fall, winter or year-round and it can greatly decrease the enjoyment of the seasons. One of the most helpful elements in addressing allergies is a concept called “total load”. Simply put; the amount of irritants coming in is greater than the amount the body can handle at a given time. For allergic individuals, irritants include allergens, but also include toxins, food allergens, chemicals, etc. So, by removing any contributor to the total load, allergy symptoms may be reduced.
- First and foremost, try to avoid the offending allergen. Since we can’t get rid of spring, here are some ways to reduce exposure:
- Use a HEPA quality home air filter and close the doors and windows in allergy seasons.
- Vacuum rugs using a HEPA filter bag twice a week and wash small rugs, curtains or other decorative fabrics monthly.
- Try to eliminate mold and mildew from the home, basement, walls and bathrooms.
- Many allergic individuals also have an allergy to dust mites. Dust mite dander can be minimized by using dust mite covers on bed pillows and mattress.
- Decrease exposure from pets by washing them frequently and keeping them out of the bedroom.
Monitor news and websites for alerts of “high pollen counts” and avoid exercising outdoors on those days.
- Remove shoes before entering the home. Remove outer clothes as quickly as possible if gardening or mowing lawn. Shower immediately after yard work.
The second element is to avoid exposure to other irritants and toxins that are contributing to the “total load”. This is a short list of items that may make a big impact.
- Avoid fabric softeners, perfume, scented candles and chemical air fresheners.
- Use natural and hypo-allergenic cleaners for your home, clothes and body.
- Paint with water-based, low-fume paints and avoid purchasing new carpets.
- Never smoke inside.Â Quit smoking if possible.
- Replace non-stick and aluminum cookware with stainless steel.
- Air out dry cleaning prior to bringing it inside.
- Use a chlorine filter for drinking water and, ideally, for bath/shower water too.
There are also natural methods for reducing allergy symptoms as well because, clearly, complete avoidance of allergens in the air is simply not possible. Vitamin C is of huge benefit in reducing allergy symptoms due to its’ proven ability to bolster the immune system. Quercetin is a potent anti-oxidant which is known to strengthen the walls of Mast Cells, which contain the particles which activate 50% of the allergic response, diminishing their release into the body. The herb Stinging Nettle is a traditional remedy that is extremely helpful. Its’ believed that the aerial parts of Stinging Nettle contain a natural anti-histamine which has shown to be significantly more effective then their pharmaceutical counterparts. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as feverfew, turmeric, ginger, and other natural bio-flavonoids decrease the inflammation from allergic responses that are already underway. Plant Enzymes, taken between meals, are also effective at reducing systemic inflammation.
As with all health concerns, the most profound way to address allergies is to identify and remove the cause. This is done by asking the question “why?”. Why do I have allergies? What factor(s) plays the most significant role in affecting my immune system and increasing my personal “total load”? Working with a naturopath to uncover and treat the root cause is the ideal long term approach for elimination of symptoms and finding lasting relief.
Sharon Griffin, ND
“the physician heals, nature makes well”