Getting outside is the first thing on our minds when the temperature warms up, flowers bloom, and trees bud.  For many of us, the enthusiasm ends when the nice weather triggers the itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing associated with seasonal allergies.

Why do we get allergies in the first place?  The nasal and bronchial passageways in the body are lined with mucous membranes and contain a type of immune cell called mast cells.  When an airborne allergen such as pollen encounters these cells, they respond by releasing the chemical histamine.  Histamine plays an important role in the immune system and is part of the body’s protective mechanism against foreign invaders.  It initiates a series of hypersensitivity reactions, your dreadful allergy symptoms, which are designed to help the body get rid of the intruder.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you don’t have to lock yourself inside all spring or rely on medications to control your symptoms.  There are various natural remedies that have been shown to effectively manage allergies and improve overall well-being.

1. Eat anti-inflammatory foods 

Supporting your body and decreasing inflammation can be accomplished in part by the food you eat.  Eating a more nutrient-dense diet can help reduce any underlying inflammation and bring your immune system back into balance.  Steer clear of processed items, grains, sugar and any foods you may be sensitive to.  Incorporate more healing foods like green leafy vegetables, wild-caught fish, lemons, garlic, ginger, and turmeric.  If you like some spice, using hot peppers or horseradish in your cooking can help keep airways open and make breathing easier by thinning mucous secretions.

2. Local raw honey

Sound too good to be true?  There is actually a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this ancient remedy.  Taking a tablespoon of local honey every day will help to boost your immunity and build a tolerance to the pollen inflicting havoc on your sinuses.  A local farmers market is a great place to pick up some raw honey and support your community!

3. Quercetin

Quercetin is a bioflavanoid with potent antioxidant activity that is found naturally in plant foods such as broccoli, onions, citrus fruits and green tea.  It helps stabilize mast cells, diminishing the release of histamine.  Allergy sufferers will likely need a more therapeutic dose to prevent attacks, which can be acquired through supplementation.  One of our favorite recommendations for allergies here in the Functional Medicine department at DMC Primary Care is a supplement called D-Hist by Ortho Molecular Products.  It contains a targeted blend of flavonoids and antioxidants including quercetin and stinging nettle, which also inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine.

4. Neti pot

Neti pots originated in Ayurvedic medicine and have been used for centuries in India to help clear the nasal passages of allergens and irritants.  To use the neti pot, dissolve pink Himalayan or plain sea salt in distilled water and pour through one nostril and let it drain out the other.  (Some brands of Neti Pot come with packets of pre-formulated, powdered saline solution to mix with the distilled water.) Do this several times and then repeat on the other side.  It can be helpful to do this in the morning and after spending time outdoors.  If the neti pot sounds too intimidating, use a saline spray instead to open the airways and soothe inflammation.

5. Improve gut function

Did you know more than 70 percent of your immune system is stored in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract?  This means that your gut has a huge influence on the balance and performance of your immune function and so when your gut suffers, so does the rest of your body.  Having sufficient amounts of good bacteria (probiotics) in your GI tract can help defend against infections, viruses, and even allergies.  Eating probiotic-rich fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso, as well as consuming prebiotic foods like garlic, leeks, and onions support immune health and can ward off seasonal allergies.  Taking a high-quality effective probiotic supplement can also be beneficial in restoring a healthy gut and rebuilding your natural defense system.

Thanks for reading our post! What are your favorite ways to counteract allergies in the spring?

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