If spring has got your nose running more than you lately, it’s time to take some steps to get those allergies under control.
It’s that time of year when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the weather is gorgeous, and we are excited to get back outside.
Thanks to an exceptional amount of rainfall in the past few months, Californians are enjoying shades of green throughout the state that haven’t been seen in years and even flocking to the mountains and hills to witness the “superbloom” of wildflowers this year.
However, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who experience spring allergies, right now is also about the time you’re noticing itchy throats and watery eyes, constant sneezing and runny noses, as well as a host of other symptoms.
What are seasonal allergies anyway?
Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when your body encounters specific allergens or substances like pollen, grass, dust, pet dander, or mold that your body recognizes as a foreign invader .
To defend itself, the body initiates an aggressive immune reaction where immune cells called mast cells releases chemicals including histamines to usher foreign substances out of your body. This is what causes allergy symptoms you experience like sneezing, coughing, or watering eyes — all the ways your body is working to expel those allergens. Individuals might notice symptoms are more prevalent during certain times of year when specific plants pollinate.
The best thing you can do is reduce exposure to allergens in the first place.
I don’t expect you to lock yourself indoors for the duration of spring but if your allergies are really bad right now, take some precautions when heading outdoors:
When working in the garden or yard, wear long sleeves and gloves, pull your hair back and cover it with a hat or bandana, wear a face mask or handkerchief over your nose and mouth, as well as glasses to protect your eyes.
Thoroughly wash your hands and face or shower immediately and change clothes after spending time outdoors. Place outdoor clothing in the washer or launder immediately so they don’t bring pollen and other allergens back into the home.
If you have pets that roam outside, make sure to bathe them regularly as they will also track allergens back into the home!
Keep a weekly cleaning ritual to reduce allergens in the home.
- Declutter and clean house! Especially during the spring when the pollen count is high, it’s important to keep a weekly cleaning routine by mopping floors, vacuuming carpet, wiping down surfaces and furniture.
- Keep your windows and doors closed to keep those allergens and pollutants where they belong, outside! You should, however, open your bathroom window especially if your bathroom is not equipped with a vent. This will help reduce moisture after showers and prevent mold growth.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter which can trap allergens or pollutants and improve the air your breathe in your home. This is the one I use in my bedroom.
- Encase your mattresses and pillows in hypoallergenic covers like these and wash blankets, pillowcases, and sheets weekly in hot water.
- Check out this article by Mayo Clinic for some room-by-room suggestions for allergy proofing your home.
Why not just take allergy medication?
Sure, over the counter meds can help but some of the short and long-term side effects of these include drowsiness and sleep issues, memory loss, high blood pressure, mood disorders, and usually they cause weight-loss stalls or for clients on The Plan.
Furthermore, if you live someplace where potential allergens seem to be growing year-round (hello Southern California!), you should be wary about having to take these meds on a continuous basis especially since most of the antihistamines on the market these days need to be taken daily for some time before noticing their effects.
I prefer a few natural antihistamines and supplements used short-term instead.
Methylsulfonylmethane (or MSM)
MSM is a form of sulfur that binds to the mucosa and provides a natural barrier or blocking agent between hosts and allergens.
It also reduces the production of cell signaling proteins associated with the inflammatory response and increases levels of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. It has been used to treat a number of ailments including arthritis and joint pain as well as gastrointestinal disorders, and is a known immune-booster because of its ability to support the body’s natural detoxification abilities. Check out 8 Science-backed benefits of MSM by Healthline.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and well-known immune enhancer known to prevent illness and shorten the duration of a cold. Vitamin C reduces the body’s histamine production, and thus the symptoms you experience during allergy season.
Dose: This water-soluble vitamin is safe to take in high doses but can create a laxative effect in some individuals so best to increase dose gradually and/or spread your dosage throughout the day. Start with 1,000 mg.
Make sure to include foods high in vitamin C in your daily diet.
Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and its effects are augmented when taken in conjunction with vitamin C . Much like Vitamin C, it stabilizes immune cells and prevents them from releasing histamine.
Dose: 400mg – 1,000mg
Make sure to include foods high in quercetin in your daily diet.
Irrigating the sinuses with a neti pot or nasal rinse bottle like this removes allergens and other irritants as well as histamine-producing immune cells residing within the sinus mucosa to reduce swelling and other symptoms. Use once a day when symptomatic.
Start with the appropriate dose of MSM for 1 week, if symptoms are still unchanged, try adding Vitamin C and Quercitin as well as a daily saline nasal rinse. Adding some MSM to your nasal rinse can also be effective.
Diet & Nutrition
Stick to your “friendly foods” list and make sure to rotate!
Because of the heightened state of inflammation you are experiencing when seasonal allergies hit, any negative reaction you experience from a reactive food will be exacerbated and this can interfere with your testing data. This might mean you limit testing new foods to every 4-5 days instead of every other day. That being said, remember that overdoing any food will make you more susceptible to developing an intolerance so make sure to rotate your friendly foods as much as possible.
Besides immune cells, a growing body of research is finding that bacteria in your gut can also regulate and produce histamines. Beware of fermented or high-histamine foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha, alcohol, aged cheeses, yogurt, and kefir that can create problems for individuals that are susceptible. If you notice a flare up of symptoms after eating specific foods, take a high quality probiotic, avoid the food, and make sure to address any gut dysbiosis if you suspect it.
Pollen & Cross Reactions
If you have allergies to pollen, you MAY notice a heightened sensitivity or problem with certain foods like carrots, apples, and almonds. Check out a more extensive list of foods from the Food Allergy Information website.
This doesn’t mean that if you have an allergy to certain pollens that you will be allergic to these foods, but for a few months out of the year you might notice a heightened sensitivity and may need to avoid for a while. Try cooking the food and see if you notice a difference.
As always, eat antioxidant-rich vegetables, and a variety of whole, real foods as much as possible to support your body so it works at its best throughout this wicked allergy season. Need more help or want my take on specific brands of supplements? I’m here for you! Email me to get started.