Spring has sprung and it seems to me there is no lack of people with allergies, and even those of us who never had them before are starting to get them! Don’t run to buy pharmaceuticals – in this article I outline some natural allergy home remedies that you can use to help yourself. Diet and other lifestyle modifications can go a long way towards easing your symptoms and should be your first course of action. By the way, this advice can also help asthmatics.
The best case scenario for comprehensive treatment of allergies is going to see a good acupuncturist in the winter season, before the onslaught of all your symptoms. I know most people don’t know about this, and its already too late! Luckily you can still get huge allergy relief with the dietary suggestions and other lifestyle changes listed here.
Allergies and allergy symptoms are a reflection of your immune system misinterpreting a normally nontoxic substance for a pathogen. What causes this? Generally speaking, compromised immune system, excess mucus (almost always from a poor diet), and stress (emotional and otherwise). All these are inter-related. All by itself, correcting some big diet issues will go a long way towards natural allergy treatment.
Grass, pollen, detergent and other environmental toxins, certain foods, or pathogenic invaders themselves trigger allergic response. Your immune system then releases histamines to fight the allergen. This leads to nasal and respiratory congestion, mucus production, skin rashes, headache, etc… By the way, all these are appropriate responses if there is an actual pathogenic invader, so remember that when you take pharmaceuticals for easing symptoms, what they also do is squash your natural immune response while never addressing the cause of the problem.
While most of us will never find the real cause of the problem, we can however make ourselves stronger through natural means. What does natural mean? Here, it means methods and practices that work with your body to make you stronger – or at least keep it from getting weaker. This includes diet modifications (what to eat and not eat), as well as lifestyle changes (situations to avoid).
Dietary Modifications for Natural Allergy Relief:
Avoid mucus (a.k.a dampness) forming foods
- Dairy is often the biggest culprit
- (vegetable oil) Fried and processed foods
- refined flours(white bread, …) & simple sugars(cookies, …)
- Bad fats and oils (hydrogenated and trans-fatty) – read my Oil & Fat Primer
- cold and raw foods also exacerbate mucus production
- corn and corn syrup should be avoided, now more than ever since more than 95% of corn is genetically modified at this point. Same with soy.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking, especially during a sinus flare-up
- they irritate the respiratory tract and worsen nasal inflammation.
- alcohol is very damp and mucus forming
- Choose whole grains like quinoa, amaranth and brown rice instead of wheat, rye and barley, which are typically high allergy grains. Try to cut out especially wheat.
- Eat more cooked green vegetables such as artichoke, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and spinach.
- Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins
- Flaxseeds and their oil reduce inflammation; try 2 tablespoons of the oil per day, plus you should make sure there is plenty of saturated fat in your diet.
- Flaxseeds are high in Omega 3 oils and in fact studies have shown that all sources of Omega 3’s are beneficial to allergy sufferers.
- The lungs cannot function without saturated fats. The lungs secrete a fluid called surfactant that enables them to function properly. This fluid is made of two fatty acids, both of which are saturated.
- Juice of a combination of some leafy greens plus celery can help with giving you much needed nutrients; a glass a day is good. Avoid fruit juices (too much sugar).
- Raw fruits, fruit juices and especially citrus seem to exacerbate allergies – maybe because their nature is cold and damp.
- Probiotic supplements replace the good bacteria in our tummy that is destroyed by modern life (antibiotic prescriptions and antibiotics in food and water)
- Add herbs and spices like ginger, scallion, basil, garlic, oregano, cayenne peppers, white pepper, horseradish and turmeric into your diet to help clear your sinus passageways.
- The supplement Bromelain – a papaya and pineapple-based enzyme, helps reduce histamine release.
- The supplement Quercetin – a natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid which helps control histamine release. Broccoli, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, lettuce and broccoli are naturally high in quercetin. If your allergies are bad, try supplementing with about 1 gm a day, taken between meals.
Other Lifestyle modifications for Allergy Relief
Sinus congestion is often worse with lack of quality rest so be sure to get plenty of sleep and keep your stress level low.
Try this exercise to help clear your sinuses: warm your hands then cross your middle and index fingers by placing the tips of your middle fingers on top of the fingernails on your index fingers. Rub the sides of your nose 36 times in a circular motion.
More natural allergy home remedies
To clear your sinuses also try:
- Add a few drops of either wintergreen or oregano oils to a pot of boiling water, and a pinch of salt, and inhale the steam.
- You can also fill a small squeeze bottle with the above warm solution. Squirt the mixture into one nostril at a time and blow out, then alternate nostrils.
- The Neti Pot!– This is a teapot thats used to flush the sinuses and comes from traditional Indian health practices. It can be invaluable! You can also simply use your cupped hand instead of the pot but they’re usually pretty inexpensive and available at health food stores or online.
Mix 1/4th to a 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized table salt into a cup of lukewarm water and pour it into the pot. Adjust the amount of salt, depending on what feels most comfortable for you.
- Lean over a sink or tub with your head slightly cocked to one side, then put the spout of the neti into one nostril and allow the water to drain out the other nostril.
- Use about half of the solution, then repeat on the other side, tilting your head the opposite way. Blow out each nostril gently to clear them.
- Use your pot about twice a day during allergy season, especially after spending time outdoors and in the morning. You also can use a neti pot before bed to help prevent snoring!
- If you get a lot of clear mucus, try a combo of black pepper, ginger and honey made into a paste and eaten, or add boiling water to it and drink as tea.
Cleaning up the home and office for natural allergy relief
- The most common allergens indoors are animals (pet skin flakes), mold spores (outdoor or indoor mold growth), dust mites and vermin droppings! Depending on your lifestyle, it could really pay to clean up your interior environment.
- Start by weekly vacuuming and dusting if you don’t already.
- Carpets and upholstered furniture can host dust mites. Try treating them with steam vapor. Alternatively, sprinkle baking soda on carpets, let sit for 15 minutes and then vacuum.
- Get allergen-proof bedding to lessen exposure to dust mites.
- Wash your bedding weekly in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. If you sheets are satin, put them in the freezer overnight to kill dust mites.
- Leave shoes worn outside, outside! They can bring in pollen. Also, you might want to leave doors and windows closed on high pollen count days – there are websites that will show you the pollen count in your area.
These tips can go a long way towards helping to ease your allergies. Most of diet related advice, including the supplements, really take some number of weeks to effect a change but some people get results much quicker.
I do not recommend allergy shots. Though its still popular in the U.S., the use of these shots has been looked down on and restricted since the ’80s in England because of the severe adverse reactions that some people have. Most people do not get (or immediately notice?) the severe side-effects, but it can still take 3 to 5 years to get any good results from the shots! And of course, just getting the shots is still not addressing the nutritional deficiencies and environmental factors that are a big part of the problem.
By the way there are quite a few other natural herbs and other substances that have helped allergy sufferers. These include but are not limited to Astragulus, Butterbur, Nettles, and much more. Its best to not casually take herbs unless someone who knows about them recommends them for your particular case. Licensed acupuncturists in California are also trained herbalists that know how to diagnose your health problems so that the herbs they recommend address YOUR particular reasons for allergies.