There’s a lot to look forward to during spring, but along with cherry blossoms, magnolias, and morning glories, molds, as well as tree, grass, and ragweed pollen, are also blooming. These less-than-favorable plants are the most common triggers of seasonal allergies symptoms; additionally, spring causes many people to have more pronounced reactions to other allergy triggers, including campfire smoke, ingredients in sunscreens or bug repellents, insect bites, and chemicals used in swimming pools.
In the U.S, spring allergies are usually at their worst from about late February through June, and in warmer climates where plants are almost always blooming, allergies can occur throughout the year.
Allergic rhinitis is the medical term for these reactions, with symptoms being triggered by the body’s release of histamines in response to an allergen. Essentially, the body overreacts to (relatively harmless) substances in our environment and produces antibodies in an effort to attack these substances.
Certainly, there are many prescription and over-the-counter meds that can help to mitigate these reactions, but many people find that the use of allergy medications is not the best long-term solution, as many of those drugs can cause a number of adverse reactions like fatigue, brain fog, nausea, and dry mouth. (1)
So what can you do to help prevent and treat allergy symptoms this spring, without making yourself feel even worse? Here are five natural remedies and supplements to try:
1. Lower Exposure to Triggers
The number one way to reduce allergy symptoms is to totally avoid contact with any known allergen. This is obviously very difficult for individuals with seasonal allergies, but there are still some steps you can take to at least reduce allergen exposure:
- Monitor the weather and daily allergy report so you can limit the time you spend outdoors on high-risk days
- Bathe and comb any pets that spend time outside, so they don’t bring allergens into your home
- Shower after spending time outside, especially if laying in the grass, gardening, etc.
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes, face, etc., and don’t use any makeup or skin products that make itching and watery eyes worse
- Wash any clothes you regularly wear when outdoors
- De-clutter your home to remove dust and allergens
- Clean fabrics in your home regularly, including towels and bed sheets
- Keep pollen from entering your home by keeping the windows open
- Consider using a humidifier to help moisturize your nasal passageways
- Limit or avoid processed foods that can worsen inflammation and histamine responses, as well as any foods you might be allergic to. I recommend avoiding (especially during allergy season) processed grains, refined oils, added sugar, processed meats, and, for most people, conventional dairy products.
- Note that if you suffer from ragweed allergies, you might also react poorly to cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, bananas and/or chamomile tea.
2. Strengthen Your Immune System
A number of factors can take a toll on your immune system and make you more susceptible to allergic reactions, some of which include recovering from an illness, surgery or other physical trauma, suffering from chronic conditions, nutritional deficiencies, sleep deprivation, pregnancy, taking immune-suppressing drugs, or being under a lot of emotional stress.
To boost your immune system, do your best to manage stress and get about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. You should also avoid smoking, taking unnecessary antibiotics or medications, and excessive alcohol consumption, and be sure to eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of high-antioxidant foods like beets, carrots, yams, pineapple and berries. Other beneficial foods that can help fight allergies include:
- Raw, local honey, which contains local pollen that help your body build up a tolerance
- Bitter and spicy foods, like dark leafy greens and pepper
- Bone broth
- Probiotic-rich foods, including fermented dairy (yogurt and kefir), kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi
- Apple cider vinegar, which helps to break up mucus and supports lymphatic drainage
- Grass-fed meats, free-range poultry, and wild-caught fish—all of which supply B vitamins, iron, and protein to fight fatigue
- Spices like turmeric and ginger
Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water, herbal tea, or fresh green juice.
3. Try Herbal Treatments
Following are some herbal compounds that can also help to reduce allergic reactions:
- Echinacea, a natural herb for strengthening the immune system, reducing sinus/respiratory symptoms, decreasing inflammation, and fighting infections
- Spirulina, which helps stop the release of histamines and provides antioxidants
- Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory compound derived from pineapple cores that reduces swelling in the nose and sinuses
- Stinging Nettles, which contains antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties
- Butterbur, which can help to treat respiratory symptoms like bronchitis, excess mucus and asthma
4. Supplement with Essential Nutrients
Prescription immunotherapy shots that are used to treat allergies work by building up your immune system’s defenses against allergens over time. So it makes sense, then, that using certain natural supplements that have the same immune-booting effects would also help defend against allergy symptoms. The supplements below have been shown to help fight allergies—and many other illnesses too:
- Quercetin, an antioxidant that fights inflammation and histamine responses
- Probiotics, which help to replenish beneficial gut bacteria and support the immune system
- Vitamins C, E, and A—all antioxidants that can protect against illness and reduce allergy symptoms
- Zinc, which helps to reduce fatigue and the effects of chronic stress
5. Use Essential Oils and a Neti Pot
Essential oils, including peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender, can help open up the nasal passages and lungs, improve circulation, and relieve stress. You can inhale these directly, add some to your shower or bath, diffuse them in your home, or apply them topically to your skin when mixed with a carrier oil, like coconut.
To clear your sinuses and relieve nasal congestion by flushing out mucus, I also recommend using a neti pot at home once or twice daily (use warm filtered water or distilled water with a touch of salt).
Spring allergies can be frustrating, but the good news is that you don’t have to suffer indefinitely—nor do you have to rely on pharmaceuticals that may cause side effects, and may or may not actually improve symptoms. Try a few of these natural remedies, and you can begin to strengthen your immune system as it helps your body fight allergic reactions all on its own.
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