Your allergy symptoms can be downright annoying—but they’re part of your body’s natural reaction to foreign objects (like pollen), which your body has identified as potentially harmful to your health and safety. During allergy seasons, your body misidentifies pollens from surrounding plants as potentially dangerous substances and does the best it can to get rid of them. Some of the following reactions may sound familiar to you.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies and what the body is intending
- Increased mucus production (your body intends to wash pollen from the surface of the nose, mouth and sinuses)
- Itchy, watery eyes (your body intends to increase blinking and help to rinse pollen from the eyes
- Sneezing (your body intends to force pollen out of your nose and lungs)
- Congestion (your body intends to bring circulation to the area to help bring in necessary white blood cells to fight pollen and nutrients and to help fuel the body’s ability to respond to invaders)
Having a strong immune system is great when it’s fighting off an actual infection. However, you probably want to know how you can reassure your body that the pollen serves no real danger. How can this be done? There are some general approaches that may help everyone while they have symptoms, but avoiding future allergy attacks can be complicated, because everyone’s body is different. To understand the allergic reaction, we have to understand the allergic person’s immune system and influencing factors. A strategy that works very well with one person may not help another.
Short term strategies to treat allergy symptoms
- Specific nutrition geared to stabilizing the allergic response and lowering inflammation.
- Hydrotherapy, such as warming socks, to draw congestion away from the head
- Homeopathic remedies to reduce symptoms, including homeopathic eye drops
- Herbal teas or supplements to decrease the inflammatory response. One common herb used is nettles.
One good rule of thumb is this: If you’re having seasonal allergies and don’t want to waste time and money on strategies that may not help you, see your naturopathic physician or classical Chinese medicine practitioner for an evaluation. They may address a list of things that can play a role in making you susceptible to seasonal allergies. Interested in scheduling an appointment with a doctor? Click for more information.
Long term strategies to avoid allergies
Specific nutrients will help influence your body to have a healthy, balanced response to allergens. Are you getting enough of these in your diet?
Stress management skills and current level of stress
Environmental allergens, such as pollens, are just another type of stress for your body to deal with. If you have a lot of other stress in your life—emotional stress, financial stress, work stress or even blood sugar control problems—your ability to deal with outside stress may be completely compromised, as your system may be overwhelmed. There are specific herbs and nutrients, and skills that your doctor will prescribe that will help you deal with stress in a more healthy way.
Overall physical health with regard to blood and nerve supply to the adrenal glands
The adrenal glands need to have optimal circulation and nerve supply because they’re the glands that deal the most with managing the stress response. For example, a chronic back problem (especially between the individual spinal vertebra and out to the adrenal glands) can result in the adrenal glands’ decreased ability to function optimally.
Intestinal health and bacterial flora composition
Bacterial flora can have a tremendous influence on how your immune system will respond to outside threats. How well does your body recognize something it has experienced before? How strongly does your body react to an allergen once it is identified as a threat? These are things that have a complicated, but significant, relationship with the types of microflora in your intestines.
Your diet and antibiotic history can have a major impact on the types of bacteria you have in your intestines. Correcting for an unhealthy balance of intestinal bacteria can be important in preventing future asthma attacks as well as eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and kidney stones.
Exposure history to allergens in the Northwest
If you are new to the region, it may help you to have exposure to allergens during the months when they aren’t overwhelming your system. By doing this, they will be put on the “not an invader” list and your body should have a much lower reaction to them.
Presence of other allergies
You body may get regular exposure to other things that cause allergies, like foods, for example. If so, this can create a chronic state of inflammatory response. Food allergies are often slow to initiate and last for a while after each exposure, so they may be harder to identify by simple observation than other types of allergies that have a more rapid onset. There are many types of tests that your naturopathic physician can order that detect the presence of food allergies.
A simple way to improve your allergic response is to keep your body away from the allergens. Keep your house and body clean, especially after you have been exposed. Move your bed away from the window so that allergens don’t blow in on you while you sleep. Wash your hands before touching your face. You can even rinse the membranes of the nose and sinus with saline sprays or neti pots that are designed to deliver a small stream of water into the sinuses, washing the allergens clear of your sensitive areas.
KATU interview: Dr. Marnie Loomis, NCNM’s director of Professional Development, represented NCNM on two segments shown the week of June 29 on KATU Channel 2 News about allergies and naturopathic alternatives. View these three-minute videos. Part one. Part two.
Allergy Free, by Kail et.al
Complete Allergy Book, by Kwong, Cook
Allergy Self-Help Cookbook, by Jones, Marjorie Hurt
Over 350 Natural Food Recipes, Free of All Common Food Allergens