9 Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Part 1
9 Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Part 1
What makes spring so beautiful for many people leads to misery for those who suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms. Natural allergy treatments can be as effective and, in many cases, more effective than allergy medications.
Fresh cut grass, blooming trees and flowers, and weeds release pollen, causing seasonal allergies in an estimated 40 million to 60 million people each year. (1) Allergic rhinitis is the medical term for hay fever and seasonal allergies that occur not just in the spring, but throughout the summer and into the fall.
While hay fever frequently begins at a young age, it can strike anyone, at any time. Sometimes seasonal allergy symptoms fade over the years, only to reoccur later in life. If you experience seasonal allergy symptoms in one location and move to a new area with different types of flora, your allergies may go away.
Every tree, flower, and weed release pollen, but not all individuals have heightened sensitivity or allergic reactions to all pollens. It’s important to pay attention and recognize what triggers your allergy symptoms. For some people, cottonwood trees and ragweed are the problems, while for others it’s grass or ragweed.
Research indicates nearly 75 percent of people in the United States that suffer from seasonal allergies are allergic to ragweed. Unlike grass, trees, and flower that produce pollen in the spring and summer, pollen due to ragweed is often highest during the fall. (2)
Nearly a third of ragweed allergy sufferers also experience an allergic response to certain foods. These include cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, bananas and chamomile tea. (3) If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid these foods and others listed below under “Foods to Avoid.”
Left untreated, seasonal allergy symptoms cause miserable symptoms, affect day-to-day activities and can spur asthma attacks. Approximately 80 percent of people with asthma suffer from seasonal allergies. Treating hay fever symptoms can reduce asthma–related hospitalizations and emergencies. (4)
The same pollen and allergens that trigger seasonal allergy symptoms can cause asthma attacks, resulting in wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. This condition is referred to as allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma. (5)
People with compromised immune systems, COPD and other respiratory conditions need to manage their seasonal allergy symptoms to prevent further complications. Changes in diet, natural supplements, essential oils and lifestyle changes can help.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Allergy symptoms make you feel simply awful. Congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy eyes and sneezing wear your body down. While the severity of symptoms varies widely from season to season, chances are if you have seasonal allergies, the symptoms impact your day-to-day life.
Researchers are at odds as to why seasonal allergy symptoms have worsened over the past 30 years but agree that allergies to pollen, mold and some foods are growing exponentially. According to the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Allergy Report, overall rates of allergy sensitivities have increased nearly 6 percent in just four years, and ragweed allergies have grown 15 percent. (6)
Many hay fever symptoms are similar to those of a common cold or sinus infection, but colds and sinus infections come and go much more quickly than seasonal allergies. Allergy symptoms don’t go away until the pollen is dormant.
Someone suffering from seasonal allergies faces the same challenges, season after season. When the allergen is pollen, mold or another airborne substance, the symptoms typically manifest in the lungs, nose, and eyes. Food allergies, on the other hand, most commonly affect the mouth, stomach and may cause skin rashes.
Common seasonal allergy symptoms include:
- Post-nasal drip
- Excess mucus production
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Tickle/irritation in the ears
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Decreased decision-making
- Exhaustion and sleep disorders
- Mood swings
- Low blood pressure
- Middle ear infections
Limiting the time you spend outdoors can help relieve these symptoms of hay fever. But this isn’t the best solution. Who wants to spend their spring, summer and fall stuck indoors?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, allergies can’t generally be prevented, but allergic reactions can be. (7) The treatment goal is to avoid contact with the allergen — however, this is extremely difficult for individuals with seasonal allergies.
Treating your seasonal allergy symptoms requires a multi-pronged attack, one that addresses your diet, lifestyle and natural treatments.
Underlying Causes of Allergy Symptoms
Did you know that your risk of suffering from seasonal allergy symptoms increases dramatically if you have certain underlying medical conditions? Asthma, unmanaged stress, deviated septum, nasal polyps, recent trauma or illness, pregnancy, and even food allergies can put you at heightened risk.
These conditions and others can adversely affect your immune system functioning. Allergy symptoms are caused when our bodies release histamine in response to an allergen. (8) A strong immune system is key to fighting seasonal allergies.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, allergies are actually disorders of the immune system. The body over-reacts to harmless substances and produces antibodies to attack the substance. This is what causes the symptoms. (9)
You’re particularly susceptible to a weakened immune system after a physical trauma or surgery, underlying illnesses, or during times of emotional and physical stress. A lack of sleep can even make you more prone to allergies; not getting enough sleep weakens your immune system. (10)
Stress plays a big part in the immune system, and unmanaged stress can lead to allergy symptoms. According to the British Institute for Allergy & Environmental Therapy, stress makes allergies worse, and once the stress is properly managed and relieved, the symptoms of hay fever improve. (11)
Women who are pregnant, even those who’ve never suffered from allergies before, are more prone to seasonal allergy symptoms. In fact, one in 100 pregnant women suffer from asthma during pregnancy, and many more suffer from seasonal allergies. (12)
Safely treating the symptoms during pregnancy can be difficult — most over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications aren’t considered safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Fortunately, there are numerous effective natural remedies that are safe, including for children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Treating Allergy Symptoms Naturally
Antihistamines, corticosteroids, and decongestants, as well as other over-the-counter allergy medications, counteract the effect of the histamine produced by the body. However, they do have side effects. The most common are drowsiness; impaired performance; dryness of the eyes, nose, and mouth; restlessness; abdominal distress, unusual bleeding and bruising; heart palpitations; and insomnia.
In children, side effects include nightmares, overexcitability, upset stomach and impaired cognitive function. Pharmaceutical allergy medicines simply aren’t for everyone. Remember, they don’t cure the allergies — they just treat the symptoms. (13) In fact, many aren’t recommended for women who ‘re pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, glaucoma, or with thyroid problems.
Foods to Avoid During Allergy Season:
- Conventional dairy
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed foods
- Sunflower seeds
- Bottled citrus juice
There are foods that you should avoid during allergy season. Any foods that you are allergic to, or have a sensitivity to, should be avoided. If you’re not sure how far-reaching your food sensitivities are, an elimination diet can help identify foods that can make your allergies worse.
Foods that commonly make hay fever symptoms worse include alcohol, caffeine, dairy, chocolate, peanuts, sugar, wheat, citrus, and chocolate. In addition, many common food preservatives — including sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium sulfite and artificial sweeteners — can contribute to your seasonal allergy symptoms.
Avoid dried fruits, bottled citrus juice, shrimp and any highly processed foods. In addition, many people find relief when avoiding foods that cause mucus production — and it isn’t just dairy that contributes to mucus. Conventional dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeinated beverages, as well as any foods that you have sensitivity for can worsen your allergy symptoms. (14)
If you have a ragweed allergy, it’s important to avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, echinacea, and chamomile, as they can trigger an allergic response in your system. The overall goal of limiting foods that you have a sensitivity to is to lighten the overall burden on your immune system and allow it to function more optimally.
Foods to Enjoy During Allergy Season:
- Raw local honey
- Hot and spicy foods
- Bone broth
- Probiotic-rich foods
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fresh organic vegetables
- Grass-fed meats
- Free-range poultry
- Wild-caught fish
The foods to avoid list may feel overwhelming, but fortunately, there are great tasting foods that will help relieve your symptoms while strengthening your immune system.
Raw local honey is at the top of this list, for good reason. In a randomized controlled study conducted by the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, patients that consumed honey had significantly better control of their allergy symptoms than those on conventional allergy medications. (15) Local honey works to relieve symptoms because it contains local pollen that is causing your allergies. A couple of tablespoons each day can relieve your itchy, watery eyes, congestion and the general symptoms of hay fever.
If you are battling excessive mucus, heat things up by eating hot spicy foods. Hot spicy foods help to thin the mucus and allow it to be more easily expressed. Try adding garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to your recipes.
Bone broth, from chicken, beef or lamb, helps to ease respiratory problems, and help to expel excess nasal mucus. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body and boosts the immune system.
Probiotic-rich foods support a stronger immune system, improve digestion, increase energy levels, and so much more. Probiotic foods to eat during allergy season include kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, kombucha, natto, yogurt, and raw cheese. If you are experiencing excessive mucus production, consume raw organic dairy products, as the pasteurization process destroys the enzymes our bodies need.
The enzyme Bromelain found in pineapple in addition to high levels of vitamins B, C, and other essential nutrients can help to reduce your reaction to seasonal allergies. Be sure to eat the core of fresh ripe pineapples, as it has the highest concentration of the essential nutrients you need during allergy season.
Apple cider vinegar helps to boost the immune system, helps to break up mucus and supports lymphatic drainage. Three times per day, mix one tablespoon of ACV with one tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and a half-tablespoon of local raw honey and drink.
Fresh organic vegetables — including Swiss chard which is high in quercetin, cabbage, beets, carrots, and yams — can help you fight seasonal allergies. Choose vegetables that are dark green, yellow or orange for best nutrient density during allergy season.
Clean proteins including wild-caught salmon, free-range poultry and organic grass-fed beef and lamb are important, too. Wild salmon is rich in vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals and of course protein. If you haven’t yet made the switch to these types of clean proteins, allergy season is a perfect time.
Other foods to enjoy during hay fever season including ginger, garlic, horseradish, and onions. Ginger can be particularly helpful, as it helps to warm the body and break down toxins in your system. By Dr. Axe