During spring or fall, some of us suffer from several seasonal allergies. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the US, with the CDC reporting that over 50 million Americans experience allergies annually. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that 8 percent of Americans suffer from hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Pollen is the commonly identified cause of hay fever; as various grasses, trees, and weeds can produce this. The allergy symptoms you experience will depend on what your body is allergic to and the season in which the plant blooms or produces more pollen. Seasonal allergies are normally experienced during spring and fall, but can also occur for some time during the summer.
Allergies are actually our immune system’s over reaction to outside elements such as pollen. Our immune system thinks it is an invader or allergen, so we end up producing more immunoglobulins (IgE) or antibodies that release chemicals in our cells, which initiates an allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, we cannot prevent allergies themselves. But we can manage our body’s allergic reactions by getting to know ourselves more and managing the symptoms accordingly. There are many natural treatments to allergy symptoms that are safer and easier to integrate into our lifestyles. These treatments and methods do not just help alleviate symptoms, but can also strengthen your immune system, while encouraging a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
What Symptoms to Look Out For
If you are susceptible to seasonal allergies or hay fever, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:
– Itchy and watery eyes
– Ear congestion
– Itchy sinuses, ear canals, and/or throat
– Runny or stuffy nose
– Postnasal drip or drainage
– Shortness of breath
For those who suffer from asthma, it is very common to be more vulnerable to seasonal allergies and vice-versa. Be sure to watch out for any asthma attacks and take the necessary precautions during spring or fall.
Causes of Allergy Symptoms
The severity of your symptoms will depend on several factors within your surrounding environment. If you have been experiencing symptoms like extreme sinusitis or the more painful ones, such as: headache or difficulty breathing, it could be due to the following conditions occurring simultaneously or regularly in your vicinity:
– High peak pollen levels in the morning
– Ragweed, grass, and tree pollen thriving on warm days and cool nights
– Pollen counts increasing dramatically during warm and windy days
– Molds growing at higher rates in places of high heat and humidity
– Pollen levels increasing after rainfall
Ragweed is the most common cause of fall allergies, and it is known to grow in most areas in the Midwest to the East Coast. Ragweed pollen peaks particularly in mid-September. Those who have seasonal allergies in the fall, should watch out for pollen and ragweed blooms in August to November.
Apart from plants and other environmental factors, allergy symptoms can also arise from other lifestyle conditions. Stress and lack of sleep can actually trigger or worsen your allergy, so it is important to manage these during spring and fall. The director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Diwakar Balachandran, confirms that sleeping less or not well enough can make you feel more ill. So if you are sneezing and have a runny nose from all the pollen or ragweed, not getting a restful sleep will just make things worse. Since the allergens have weakened our immune system, we become more susceptible to colds and other allergy symptoms related to this condition.
Stress also plays a big role in increasing and worsening our allergy symptoms. Our adrenals end up increasing the amount of IgE or immunoglobuline in our bodies, which is already present from the immune system’s reaction to allergens. It is important to manage your stress throughout the hay fever seasons. Yoga and meditation are effective in helping the mind and body deal better with regular stress. Both practices train the body and mind to deal better with stress, as we become more conscious of our reactions and how our thoughts flow in different situations.
Natural Treatments for Allergy Symptoms
- A Healthy Diet
While we cannot prevent allergies from happening, we can start leading a healthy lifestyle that will manage and even lessen the symptoms over time. Doctors usually prescribe allergy medications, that unfortunately also carry a lot of side-effects, such as: drowsiness, dryness of the mouth, insomnia, and abdominal distress. These side effects can affect our daily activities, so it is better to eat well and avoid food that can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of allergy symptoms. The best foods to eat during this season (and throughout your life as well) are the following:
- Probiotic-rich food contains lactobacillus, a bacteria that is close to the ones found in our digestive tract. Yogurt, dietary supplements, and miso are some of foods that contain a healthy amount of probiotics.
- Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods, such as: flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and seaweed for vegans and vegetarians. A study proved that an omega-3 supplement can lower the airway inflammation markers found in asthma patients. Omega-3 fatty acid also provides other benefits, such as: treating depression, anxiety, and improving our brain’s health.
- Honey, which is known to strengthen the body’s tolerance against pollen.
- Fruits such as: pineapple and kiwi. Kiwi, is rich in vitamin C, and pineapple contains the bromelain enzyme. Vitamin C can reduce the histamines our body produces during allergies. Bromelain is known to reduce irritation in asthma and other allergic diseases.
Foods to Avoid
It is also important to avoid certain types of food that are known to worsen allergy symptoms:
- Fast food
- Cucumber and zucchini
- Sunflower seed
- Chamomile tea
- Processed food
- Artificial sweeteners
A study done at the University Medical Center in Berlin, showed how effective acupuncture is in treating allergy symptoms. The research had one group receive only acupuncture treatment, while the two groups took antihistamines and agreed to have fake acupuncture treatments. The group that underwent acupuncture therapy experienced better symptoms relief compared to the other placebo groups. You can complement the allergy season diet, with regular acupuncture treatment, in order to lessen your allergy symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes
While a diet and therapies like acupuncture can help in alleviating your allergy symptoms, it is also important to take certain precautions during the peak of the allergy seasons. Some of the lifestyle practices you should follow are:
- Close all doors and windows in your car and home during the season.
- Check pollen and mold counts in weather reports.
- Avoid going outside during the evening in spring and summer.
- Avoid going outside in the morning during early fall and later summer, as these times are normally the peak of ragweed pollen.
- Take a shower daily and change your clothes upon getting home.
Allergy season does not have to be spent indoors. If you are able to sleep well, manage stress, practice a healthy diet, and control your time outside, you will be able to enjoy the coolness of spring and the colors in the fall. At the same time, you will be building habits that strengthen your immune system and prevent other illnesses from occurring in your body.