Natural seasonal helpers for allergies

Allergies are initiated when the immune system attacks substances such as mold, pollen, dust or dander, causing nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and/or a sore throat.

by Shalon Utah — 

The runny nose … the itchy, watery eyes … when they hit, you know it is here — allergy season. And because of the diverse plant life across the country, it seems almost no one can escape these annoying symptoms.

Allergies are initiated when the immune system attacks substances such as mold, pollen, dust or dander, causing nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and/or a sore throat. Allergies are aggravated by mucus-forming foods such as dairy, fried or overly processed foods. Boosting the immune system with whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, is a great way to begin reducing allergy symptoms.

Natural remedies have frequently been studied for their uses in treating allergy problems. In a large double-blind study with people suffering from hay fever, the herb stinging nettle was found to reduce sneezing and itching by more than 50 percent. Nettle has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response and reduce mucus production in the body.

Probiotics are another wise addition to the diet to decrease the occurrence of allergy problems. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria found in the intestinal tract which boost the body’s immunity to help fight off allergies. Probiotics work by reducing serum IgE levels that increase allergic reactions in the body. The studies on probiotics and allergies have been done with two major strains: lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. It is best when these probiotics are taken in doses of at least four billion organisms.

Other supplements have been shown to have natural antihistamine effects. One of these supplements is quercetin, a natural chemical found in plants. When quercetin is ingested, it blocks enzymes that release histamine. It is commonly taken with the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain for enhanced allergy-reducing effects. Quercetin should be taken in doses of 1,000 mg, three times per day.

Another supplement heavily studied for allergies is MSM, a naturally occurring organic sulfur that is easily lost in food processing. Doses of 3,000 mg of MSM per day have been shown to have antihistamine properties.

While these natural supplements are helpful for reducing allergy symptoms from the inside out, other remedies are helpful for more immediate relief. Eye drops made from the herb eyebright help with red, itchy and watery eyes.

Saline-based nasal sprays with the natural substance xylitol help reduce stuffiness. Another nasal helper is the neti pot, an odd-shaped “pot” used to wash out the sinuses.

Using these natural remedies for allergies cannot only help reduce the irritating symptoms, but can also reduce the need for daily prescriptions with harmful side-effects.

 

Shalon Utah, C.H., C.N.C., is a certified herbalist and nutrition counselor with Mind, Body & Soul wellness center in Surprise, Ariz. shalon.utah@gmail.com or 623-876-BODY.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 4, August/September 2007.

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