A Holistic Approach to Treat Seasonal Allergies
If you’ve ever struggled with severe allergies you know that they can be a royal pain in the ass, turning springtime into a frustrating experience of sniffles, sneezing, and stuffiness.
Most approaches to treating allergies do not address them at their root. We address the symptoms superficially, oftentimes creating unforeseen problems in the meantime. Common over-the-counter remedies for hayfever cause drowsiness, jitteriness and anxiety, and even weight gain. They further depress immune defenses and have been linked to liver tumors and even dementia. Yikes. No thank you, sir.
Today, we’ll take a look at the various factors that contribute to seasonal allergies, and consider an integrated healing approach that addresses the very roots of this oftentimes complex and multidimensional condition. As always, we’ll weave modern science, ancient health traditions, and underlying soul factors that have a powerful impact on health.
Seasonal allergies or hay fever can present with various symptoms including the well-known ones:
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose and throat
- Puffy and itchy eyes
As well as some other sneaky conditions that arise depending on your physical constitution:
- Functional hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
- Menstrual disorders (increased menstrual pain or congestion)
- Dark under-eye circles
- Bloating of the stomach
- Digestive Distress
- Skin rashes
Allergies can even stir up an inflammatory response leading to more serious autoimmune issues down the road.
Some Root Causes of Allergies:
- Stress and Adrenal Dysfunction- Stress depresses immunity through many different mechanisms in the body. Cortisol, our primary stress hormone, has strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body and is critical in mediating the release of histamine and other pro-inflammatory substances. When the adrenals, the glands most responsible for our stress response, are fatigued from chronic stress, they eventually can’t keep up with cortisol production or they secrete cortisol in dysfunctional rhythms. So, we don’t have enough circulating cortisol to counteract inflammation in the body. Allergies also act as a stressor, demanding that the adrenal glands secrete even more cortisol. When the body is in a weakened state because of chronic stress it is less capable of handling allergens and when we encounter allergens, our adrenals are taxed even further, contributing to adrenal fatigue.
- Digestive Weakness is another root cause of seasonal allergies. Stress, medications, an imbalance in bacteria and yeast in the gut, poor eating habits, and a poor diet all create inflammation in the intestinal lining and increased intestinal permeability. The immune system becomes hypersensitive launching an attack against normally harmless substances like pollen. The yeast candida also causes allergies and thrives in individuals with digestive weakness. The overgrowth of candida then further weakens immunity.
- Food Allergies- With leaky gut syndrome, harmless foods begin to wreak havoc in the body. We develop sensitivities to foods like gluten, dairy, corn, and soy because the cells in the walls of our intestines no longer create tight junctions, and larger food molecules get into the bloodstream. Because we are eating the same foods day in and day out the body creates antibodies to these foods. The immune system says, “Hey, this guy doesn’t belong here,” and launches an attack against the food. As above, the immune system then becomes overreactive to substances it encounters with an increased number of circulating antibodies causing the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
- Inflammation- inflammation triggers the onset of allergies. Chronic inflammation in the body has many causes but one of the most prevalent is an imbalance in the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. This is because most omega 6 fatty acids are converted into inflammatory chemicals while omega 3 fatty acids are converted into anti-inflammatory chemicals. A high sugar diet is another major cause of chronic inflammation since increased insulin levels increases the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.
- Psychological factors – As woo woo as it may sound, certain mindsets may also contribute to an allergic response include a lack of surrender and trust in the unfolding, and feelings of separation and isolation.
- Stagnancy and dampness in the liver, lymph, and digestive tract - During the winter, we may create an imbalance in the body by overeating, not exercising enough, and by eating a diet that is too heavy in dietary fats and dampening foods like wheat and dairy. This creates a heavy, congested condition. When we go into spring with this excess of dampness, seasonal allergies may result. Therefore, our approach centers around this energy of seasonally clearing and cleansing while nourishing and strengthening the adrenals, immunity, and digestion.
Obviously, each of these factors are incredibly complex in and of themselves and deserve blog posts of their own, but I wanted to introduce them briefly before giving some healing recommendations.
A Mind-Body Healing Approach
Below are important components of a holistic healing protocol for seasonal allergies:
- Try local honey therapy – You may also supplement with bee pollen. This can improve and even eliminate seasonal allergies altogether. Local, raw honey contains the very same pollen spores that are triggering your seasonal allergies. When you eat honey, you introducing these spores into the body in small enough amounts that will not trigger an allergic reaction. The body gets used to the presence of these pollen spores and is less likely to release histamine when it encounters them in the environment.
- Boost immunity with a mushroom formula like Host Defense MyCommunity or Reishi. While pricey, Host Defense’s Mycommunity has been an absolute savior for me in my fight against allergies. If I start it along with adrenal support one month prior to the onset of allergy symptoms, they only last for about a week or so and then they are gone. It’s a miracle!
- Support the liver and the detoxification mechanisms within the body with nettle and dandelion root teas
- Provide acute support with side effect free natural remedies: My all time favorite allergy remedy is Bio-allers Pollen Hayfever Blend. I combine that with some aromatherapy for congestion, and I’m good to go!
- Fill up on Quercetin-rich foods. Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Great sources include apples, green tea, citrus fruits, onions, parsley, sage, and even red wine. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries are also high in Quercetin.
A word of caution about Quercetin supplements:
Quercetin is one of the most common natural allergy remedies out there. However, Quercetin has been shown to cause damage to the kidneys in dosages above 1,000 mg and the typical dosage for allergy relief is between 1,000-2,000mg. Also studies are showing that Quercetin can disrupt thyroid function, so I would avoid taking Quercetin supplements especially if you have Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. I’ll link to the study at the bottom of this post. I recommend saving Quercetin supplements for times when you need acute relief and the other remedies just aren’t cutting it.
- Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
- Healing the New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock, M.D.
- Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson
- The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S, M.A.Sc.
- Healthy Healing by Linda Page, Ph.D.