Spring has arrived here in Athabasca, AB, Canada. The geese and ducks are patiently waiting for the ice to melt. The robins have returned and cheer up our mornings. The ski jackets and winter boots are put away. Even if it snows again, we will wear sandals and short sleeves! But today, allergies are keeping me indoors.
The onset of spring coincides with the onset of allergy season. Currently in Alberta, snow mould, which is allergenic to many, is covering the ground. The deciduous trees (aspen, poplar) and shrubs (willows) are releasing pollen now and the coniferous trees won’t be far behind. Next, the grass and weeds will be blooming and releasing pollen. In sensitive individuals, the pollen and mould spores create an inappropriate immune response, commonly known as hay-fever.
Your body thinks it is under attack by a foreign invader, so it triggers a defence response.
Certain cells start releasing histamine. Histamine can cause excess mucous, tearing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. With so much pollen in the air, those that suffer from seasonal allergies are often headed to the nearest pharmacy. But there are many natural alternatives to antihistamines that can help reduce and soothe allergy symptoms. Also, by getting to the root cause of what caused the allergy in the first place, often allergies will be greatly reduced or often eliminated.
I have suffered from environmental allergies since early childhood.
My “hay-fever” (allergenic rhinitis) was so severe I had to get weekly allergy shots (immunotherapy), building up to monthly shots over many years. And years. I had allergies year round. I was congested every night at bedtime and had difficulties sleeping. Even with the shots, I still had to take antihistamines or use a nasal spray. Antihistamines make me feel terrible: I am awake half the night, dehydrated, and feel light-headed and spacey all day long. It wasn’t until I began looking into holistic alternatives that my allergies started to improve. I wanted to get to the cause of why my body was reacting this way, rather than treat the symptom. After working with diet and natural remedies (homeopathics, supplementation, and qigong), I now only have mild allergies (depending on the year) in the springtime! Here are some alternative ideas that have worked for me and as well as many of my clients.
- Eliminate sugar. Sugar weakens your immune system and causes inflammation. Allergies are an overreaction of your immune system. Your body is trying to fend off what it sees as an invader. It over-reacts and goes all crazy. You don’t have to cut out sugar all year, but you may notice a difference if you try this when your allergies tend to flare up.
- Take antioxidants. Antioxidants in the form of fruits and vegetables, as well as supplements, work well at settling down your body’s defence mechanisms and reducing inflammation. Bioflavonoids, along with Vitamins C and E, are powerful antioxidants and may prove helpful. Grape-seed extract, a powerful bioflavonoid antioxidant, can work well at preventing allergy symptoms when formulated with, or taken with, Vitamin C. The doses should be slightly higher at this time than you would normally take. 100-200 mg grape seed extract, 1,000 mg of Vitamin C, and 400 IU of vitamin E taken two times a day with food should be suitable. Quercetin and Zinc are also beneficial. Please consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Take a Probiotic. Probiotics perform many beneficial activities in your body. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only take one supplement with me, it would be a probiotic! These friendly bacteria support the immune system but also get directly to the root cause of allergies, the gut. By supplementing with beneficial gut flora your internal environment is in better balance, making you better able to ward off illness and allergies (not to mention helping with IBS, eczema, yeast infections, food allergies, and more). Look for “human strain” probiotics as opposed to bovine sources. Fermented foods (and drinks) such as kimchee, kombucha, yoghurt, and kefir contain probiotics. But avoid pasteurized versions of these products as the pasteurization process destroys most of the naturally occurring probiotics. Most store-bought yoghurts are pasteurized and often contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners. These ingredients will burden your body further, weakening the immune system you are trying to support. That is why I recommend supplementing with a high-quality probiotic.
- Bring out the neti pot. Rinsing the sinuses with warm water and a pinch of sea salt cleans out any pollen and reduces inflammation of the sinuses. I do this every time I come in from outside, in the morning, and before bed. For me, the neti (Sanskrit for “nasal cleansing’) pot rinsing has been very supportive. If I don’t rinse, a few minutes after returning from outside I will start to get itchy eyes and a runny nose accompanied by sneezing.
- Take Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) in the form of fish oil (preferably) or flaxseed oil. Essential fats are just that, essential. Healthy oils are necessary in the formation of every cell in the body, but they can also boost immunity and reduce inflammation. They are also useful in treating and preventing heart disease and they have beneficial effects on cholesterol and boost immunity. Look for Omega-3’s. Eating fish such as salmon and ground flaxseed is also great for getting Omega-3’s in addition to supplementation.
- Detoxify. By cleaning up the liver along with your internal environment, your body works more efficiently. Receptor sites can be blocked by toxicity and this makes enzymatic reactions difficult. Detoxification cleans all this out, making everything run smoothly. In my practice, I use homoeopathic remedies for detoxification and the results are great. You can also detoxify by fasting or cleansing. Please consult a healthcare professional before starting a fast or cleanse.
- Drink Nettle tea (or make Nettle soup). Stinging nettle contains antioxidants but it seems there may be other factors at play. I have read many stories of Nettle being just as effective as antihistamines. This is the first year I have tried Nettle tea; I will keep you posted. Nettle has not started growing here yet, but when it does I will carefully (it stings!) harvest the mother load and get to work. If we turn to the plant kingdom, often there are antidotes for our ailments in our adjacent woods. If you are harvesting your own Nettle and happened to get stung, look around for Lamb’s quarters as the antidote. For now, I am getting my nettle tea from the health food store. I recently read evidence that butterbur (Petasites) extract (it must be purified of harmful substances) is even more effective than nettle at treating seasonal allergies. Try adding local honey to your nettle tea. Honey has many healing and immune-boosting properties and can also provide allergy support.
- Take a shower. By rinsing off after you have been outside you will clear any lingering pollen from your hair and skin (and clothes from outdoors go straight into the washing machine).
- Close the window. This is tough as the weather gets warm; but by keeping your home free from pollen, you will feel much better. Mountain Man has been very patient with this, as we usually sleep with the window open!
- Try essential oils. Try oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, or lemon. Put a few drops of oil on your hands, rub them together, then cup your hands over your nose and inhale. You can try putting the oils in a nebulizer or diluting them and rubbing them on the bottom of your feet. Personally, I breathe easier and feel better when I use eucalyptus.
- Eat clean. By eliminating additives, preservatives, and other chemicals from your diet, your body doesn’t have to work so hard, particularly your liver. This makes the digestion process easier. Eat whole foods and avoid things in boxes and packages. Also by adding more green foods, your liver will be even more supported. I have been on a green smoothy kick for a couple of weeks now, and it feels good. One benefit is no fruits or vegetables go to waste in my house!
- Practice Meditation and Qigong. We know that stress weakens the immune system; so if you are under stress, your allergies are going to be worse. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress. Put on some soft zen music, sit or lie down, close your eyes, and breathe deeply (if you can!). Smile. Focus only on your breath counting to five as you inhale, pause, and then count to seven as you exhale, pause and repeat. As you breathe, visualize a beautiful light shining inside you just behind your navel. Then repeat, repeat, and repeat some more. There, you are meditating. Even if it doesn’t help your allergies, you will feel better! Or you may want to try this free guided meditation.Qigong is a moving meditation practice that works on removing blockages to help your body become self-healing and vital. Many movements correspond to the lung and immune systems, which are the energetic systems related to allergies. Here is a movement you can try. It is my feeling that qigong, when practised consistently, can actually remove the blockages that cause the inappropriate immune response. I am dedicated to a daily one-hour long practice. I feel it’s helping! Yay!
I have also been trying a few mindful techniques such as breathing deeply and telling my body it is safe, there is no need to over-react, there is no imminent danger, we love trees…..don’t we? And honestly, the odd antihistamine on bad days is sometimes the best solution.
It may seem like a long list of things to incorporate, but when you start to feel that allergenic fog lifting, you’ll know it was worth the effort! I can help if you need assistance determining which vitamins are right for you, with a cleanse or detoxification protocol, or simply by supporting you through making changes. Please contact me and we can have a chat to chart out the best course for you.
I hope some of these ideas will help you breathe deeply soon. If all else fails, pray for rain! I would love to hear in the comments about how you handle seasonal allergies and any natural allergy solutions you have tried!
Love and light,
Sue Crites MSc, NCP
Energy Healing and Qigong
Live weekly Qigong classes from the comfort of your home.