As the sun has been increasingly shining its bright face out from behind the clouds of winter, we’ve seen over the last week or so, an explosion of spring right before us. I can actually look out my window right now and see trees, that just last week were bare and cold, now filled with soft pink petals and chirping birds. But as the earth sleepily stretches and shakes the winter off its bare bones, it also brings with it a beautiful mess, pollen. If you’re like me, with my fickle sinuses, this time of year is like a double-edged sword. While I’m so excited to feel the warm sun on my face again, I usually head outdoors with caution and my list of necessary objects grows longer: allergy medicine, spare contacts, eye drops, tissues, and throat lozenges. I know, I’m a real party. While I do love to be the ultimate prepared girl scout for any occasion, I don’t bring this arsenal with me for the obvious bragging rights. I have, for as long as I can remember, had terrible seasonal allergies. I would love to take advantage of the warm days and cool evenings with the short-lived low humidity, but unless I want to struggle for quality air, I have always tended to limit my outside exposure during this time of year.
However, while I was in grad school for holistic nutrition, I began to look into more holistic seasonal allergy treatments. Additionally, this is around the time I had a professor explain to me that allergies and intolerances (whether food or pollen) are like a bucket. If you keep loading your bucket up with whatever you’re allergic to, it will continue to overflow and cause a reaction. However, if you limit your exposure to these allergens to a few drops here and there, you’ll be able to enjoy these items without having your bucket overflow, avoiding inflammatory reactions.
In addition to avoiding your allergen triggers, there are a few treatments you can try at home that don’t involve conventional pharmaceuticals. Since allergy symptoms are due to our bodies releasing histamine in response to an allergen, supporting your immune system and helping it limit histamine release is key. The following are a few easy ways you can do just that:
Limit Inflammatory Foods:
Common foods that are pro-inflammatory include alcohol, caffeine, conventional dairy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and soy. Limiting these foods in your diet help lessen your overall allergen load and help keep your inflammation bucket from overflowing.
Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
This list of foods includes local raw honey, apple cider vinegar, alliums (like garlic and onions), and probiotic-rich foods (like kimchi). By now, most of us know that raw local honey is helpful for people with difficult seasonal allergies. Local honey works because it’s made with local pollen. The pollen particles in the honey basically help train your immune system to deal with the allergens better. Probiotic foods help improve the gut, which in turn keeps your immune system strong and helps you better absorb the nutrients found in your food. Additionally, eating spicier foods will help keep mucus thin and easier to expel. Kimchi is the perfect early spring addition to your diet to help with both of these things.
My go-to hay fever season supplements include
- Quercetin (1000 mg/day)
- Bromelain (1000 mg/day)
- Spirulina (1 teaspoon/day), and stinging nettle (300-500 mg/twice a day).
Quercetin and spirulina help stop the production and release of histamines, bromelain helps reduce nasal swelling and congestion, and stinging nettle contains antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the body’s production of histamine. I usually drink stinging nettle tea with a teaspoon of local honey.
- Astragalus – I love astragalus for so many other reasons, so to be able to also use it as part of my anti-allergy arsenal is just a cherry on top. I get astragalus root from Mountain Rose Herbs and make it into a tea with other Woodside Farms-grown herbs.
- Eucalyptus – I add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oils to my wool dryer ball I got from Wandering Cow Farms in Mechanicsville. It not only makes my laundry smell fresh and clean without the use of toxic dryer sheets but it also helps with dust mites!
- Essential Oil Diffusers – spearmint, peppermint, lavender, and rosemary are just a few of the more common essential oil scents we know and love to use in our homes. They not only smell clean and calming but they also help prevent and relieve symptoms of nasal congestion.