It’s that time of the year again when spring brings forth all her colorful glory — including a host of allergens that can make hay fever sufferers miserable.
“It’s definitely pollen season,” Dr. Andy Nish,an allergy and asthma specialist from Gainesville, Ga., tells Newsmax Health. “And while we can help control our immediate environment, pollens can blow in from miles away to make our lives miserable.”
Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.
Allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever, is a common condition that causes symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, watery eyes, and itching of the eyes, nose or the roof of the mouth.
“It’s estimated that between 10 and 30 percent of adults have allergic rhinitis and that in any given year, approximately 20 million adults are diagnosed with hay fever. It appears that hay fever, along with other allergic diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies are increasing over time,” says Nish.
You can try using antihistamines when the pollen spikes and a nasal steroid prior to the onset of your seasonal woes, says Nish. But some holistic experts say that natural remedies may be just as effective without the potential side effects of decongestant medications.
Dr. Natasha Turner, New York Times bestselling author of “The Supercharged Hormone Diet” and founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto, says allergies are on the up rise because of stress, digestive issues, and immune system imbalances.
“It’s important to eliminate dairy and gluten products from your diet to reduce allergic tendency and burden on the immune system,” she tells Newsmax Health. “Also remove all sources of sugar and increase protein to support healthy immune system function.”
Allergies can be nasty — even deadly — say experts.
“When a person with an allergy encounters the offending substance, the immune system interprets it as the enemy,” Dr. Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., tells Newsmax Health. “To help ward off the intruder, the human body activates antibodies and releases a substance called ‘histamine.’ Allergy medications are called antihistamines because they attempt to turn off this natural, albeit overzealous body reaction.
“The result is that other body tissues get into the battle and impose a number of unpleasant side effects for the allergy sufferer. These can include annoying reactions such as rashes and scratchy throat but may become frightening, such as a closed throat and difficulty breathing.”
Kamhi says it’s important to identify the triggers for allergies and try to eliminate them from your environment.
“Interestingly, you may be eating honey made from the exact flower pollen that you are sensitive to,” she says. “The use of natural, nutritional herbs and supplements may be an extremely useful therapy to beat allergies along with changes in diet and lifestyle.”
But choosing the right supplement isn’t an easy task.
“Finding a good supplement for allergies can be challenging,” says Dr. David Rakel, chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the University of New Mexico and editor of Integrative Medicine.
“Often, the pharmaceuticals work a little better, but if you are partial to taking the natural route, there is good science behind some of the historically used supplements,” tells Newsmax Health.
Here are six natural remedies expert say are worth trying:
Butterbur. Rakel calls this the Singulair of the herbal world. It works not only as an antihistamine, but as an anti-inflammatory as well. “Plus you have the healing benefits of the whole plant versus a high dose of the pharmaceutical product,” he says. The herb appears to be a leukotriene inhibitor, which blocks some chemical that trigger swelling in the nasal passages. Butterbur will also not cause drowsiness, a common side effect of over-the-counter antihistamines. “For someone who is driving a car or flying a plane and really needs to avoid the sedative effects of an allergy medication, butterbur is a good alternative.”
Quercetin. This compound is a bioflavonoid found in wine, fruits, and vegetables, and appears to be a mast cell stabilizer, says Rakel. “It helps block the release of histamine that causes inflammation,” he notes. “Quercetin is the herbal equivalent of cromolyn sodium found in some over-the-counter nasal sprays such as NasalCrom, and the evidence not strong but promising.”
Stinging nettle. This botanical contains carotene, vitamin K, and quercetin, and is often used as an allergy treatment. There is some evidence that using stinging nettle after the first sign of allergic symptoms can help. Experts warn that is important to choose the leaf, not the root which is used to treat prostate problems.
Bromelain. Studies have shown that bromelain, a digestive enzyme extracted from the stems of pineapples, is helpful in reducing nasal swelling and thinning mucus making is easier for people to breathe.
Milk thistle. This botanical acts as a protector and regenerator of the liver and helps repair damaged tissue caused by allergens while supporting the actions necessary to deal with the accompanying symptoms, says Kamhi.
Green tea. Widely recognized as one of the best super foods for many conditions, green tea has been shown to be beneficial for allergies. It contains a potent antioxidant called epigallocatechin or EGCG that impacts allergies at a cellular level by reducing inflammation
Nish says that you can also reduce allergens by keeping windows in your home and car closed during the pollen season.
“Stay indoors during high pollen days and don’t dry laundry outdoors. Avoid bathing or brushing your pets outside as they can carry pollen into the home,” he adds. “Buy a humidity gauge and try to aim for between 40 and 50 percent humidity in the home to deter unwanted houseguests like dust mites and mold. If the percentage is higher, you may want to invest in a good dehumidifier.”
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