4 Steps to Prevent Fall Allergies
For some people, the fall season means football, cooler weather, changing leaves and landscapes, and pumpkin-spiced lattes. For others, it means fall allergies: itchy and watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and runny nose. Such is the life of a seasonal allergy sufferer.
If you don’t have to put up with allergies every spring or autumn, consider yourself lucky. But an estimated 50 million Americans fall into the “unlucky” category.
Allergies are the result of your body’s overreaction to a normally innocuous substance. In the case of seasonal allergies, symptoms develop when a susceptible person comes in contact with an allergen (which in the fall is usually ragweed)—through the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, or mouth and throat. The allergen gets absorbed into your blood, causing white blood cells to produce billions of antibodies (IgE).
The IgE antibodies travel through the bloodstream and combine with mast cells—the storage sites for histamine and other chemicals involved in the inflammatory process. The antibodies cause mast cells to release their stores of histamine into the blood…and thus, allergy symptoms begin.
Most Americans rely on over-the-counter corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants to find relief. While many of these drugs work, a fair share of people experience side effects like dizziness, a dry nose or mouth, and extreme drowsiness.
The good news is that there are plenty of effective alternatives to traditional allergy medications. These natural options not only ease symptoms, they’re safe and free of side effects. Here’s my four-step approach for relieving allergies:
Step 1: Minimize Exposure to Allergens
The first step is to avoid exposure as much as possible. I know this can be difficult. You can’t lock yourself in your house until the wintertime. But there are a few steps you can take to make sure you don’t track pollens and other irritants into your home.
- Consider removing rugs and carpets, which trap debris and allergens.
- Use a HEPA air purifier on every floor of your home.
- Wash your clothes, including outerwear, every day (or at least as often as possible). They can carry microscopic allergens into your home.
- Get a few houseplants. They’re Mother Nature’s air filters, absorbing impurities in the air and breaking them down in the soil.
Step 2: Nasal Irrigation
You’ve probably heard of neti pots, but if you haven’t tried using one, you’re missing out on one of the best sinus-clearing techniques around.
To use a neti pot, fill it with 1 cup of warm (not hot) distilled water (do NOT use tap water!) mixed with ¼ teaspoon of table salt. Stand over a sink, tilt your head to one side, and insert the spout into your upper nostril. Pour the solution into your nostril and allow it to drain out of your lower nostril. Repeat on the other side, then blow your nose to fully clear your nostrils.
Understandably, many people cringe at the idea of pouring salt water into their nose, but studies show using a neti pot can effectively manage the symptoms of sinus infections, mild to moderate allergic rhinitis, and acute upper respiratory infections.
Step 3: Supplements
A few supplements have a great track record for alleviating allergy symptoms. It’s important to note that for maximum effect, you should start taking them at least two weeks or more before the start of allergy season, straight through until the end of it.
- Quail Egg Powder has also been shown to reduce allergy symptoms. It was first discovered in the 1970s, when a French doctor noticed that farmers who raised quails had fewer allergy symptoms than others in the area. Later research revealed that a concentrated, standardized quail egg powder alleviated symptoms in as fast as 15 minutes. Even better, after 90 days of use, 70-80 percent of patients no longer experienced any unpleasant symptoms. I recommend 80 mg once a day.
- Quercetin is a bioflavonoid naturally found in the skins of grapes, apples, and onions. It is known as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, but it also has the ability to prevent mast cells from releasing histamine. Even though quercetin is in these foods, if you really want to fight your allergies you’ll need to take a supplement. To improve quercetin’s absorption, take it with a digestive enzyme like bromelain. I recommend 400 mg twice daily on an empty stomache.
- Stinging Nettles is a medicinal herb that works by putting a stop to several inflammatory events that contribute to the start of allergy symptoms. One study showed that 57 percent of allergy sufferers rated stinging nettles as an effective allergy remedy, and 48% stated the supplement was more effective than medications they had used in the past. There are many different preparations of different parts of the plant. I recommend following the directions for capsules of freeze dried leaf.
- Essential Oils. There are many essential oils that help lessen allergy symptoms, but eucalyptus is one of the best. Breathing it in helps to open up the sinuses and lungs. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties and works as an expectorant, clearing irritants and other “gunk” out of the lungs.
Step 4: Adrenal Support
An often overlooked cause of allergies is adrenal fatigue. The adrenals sit just above the kidneys, and their job is to produce hormones—one of which is cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
So what does this have to do with allergies? Well, during periods of prolonged stress, the adrenals become overtaxed and fatigued, eventually unable to function effectively. This ultimately disrupts the proper production of hormones, which leads to a multitude of symptoms such as insomnia, lack of energy, depression, blood sugar swings, and…increased risk of allergies.
Furthermore, inadequate amounts of cortisol can result in a hyperactive immune response. This happens a lot when the body doesn’t get what it needs—it reacts the opposite of how you would expect it to. As such, without proper hormone release, the body produces inflammatory reactions even if there’s no immediate threat or infection. In this state, you are much more prone to become allergic to pollen, grasses, ragweed, dust, dander, or any number of other irritants.
There’s no real test to check for adrenal fatigue per se, but a knowledgeable holistic doctor should be able to determine if you have this based on symptoms and other indicators.
There are many adrenal support supplements available, containing ingredients such as licorice root, rhodiola, ashwaghanda, magnesium, and B vitamins. Improving your diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your stress load are also extremely helpful.
I encourage you to try these natural remedies as we approach allergy season. Start now, before the peak!
- Rabago D and Zgirska A. Am Fam Physician. Saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory infections. 2009 Nov 15;80(10):1117-9. Accessed Sept. 1, 2017.
- Micek J, et al. Quercentin and its anti-allergic immune response. Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5). Accessed Sept. 1, 2017.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed Sept. 1, 2017.
- Feeney RE, Means GE, Bigler JC. Inhibition of human trypsin, plasmin, and thrombin by naturally occurring inhibitors of proteolytic enzymes. J Biol Chem. 1969;244(8):1957-60. Accessed Sept. 1, 2017.