Many of us don’t think about allergies for most of the year, but comes Spring—they’re impossible to ignore. But what are our allergies really telling us? According to our integrative health experts they’re hinting at problems with our stress levels, inflammation, and gut health. This week, we’ll share our best advice on how to treat allergies from the inside out—by addressing what’s going on in our bodies and what in our environment is triggering them in the first place.
April showers may bring May flowers, but with warmer temperatures across the country this year, spring has sprung earlier than expected. Sheets of yellow cover cars, driveways, and our clothes—a guarantee for a longer, more troubling allergy season. So before you knock yourself out with an over-the-counter medication, here are a few ways to beat your allergies this season and enjoy the warmer weather ahead.
1. Try a saline or Neti pot.
Tried and true, using saline nasal sprays and irrigating your nasal passages with a Neti pot can decrease allergy symptoms. A Neti pot serves two purposes: It irrigates the sinuses and nasal cavities (removing allergens like pollen) and it thins down congestion, making it easier to remove. The chronic runny nose and sniffling with allergies can lead to an allergic sinusitis, which a Neti pot can prevent. Just remember to wash your Neti pot regularly with a bit of water and vinegar—to avoid additional bacteria or mold from entering your nose.
2. Use peppermint oil, lavender oil, and lemon oil.
I love essential oils because they are easy to carry around and they can help your allergy symptoms. The combination of these three essential oils (peppermint, lavender, and lemon) acts as a natural antihistamine and stops the inflammatory response associated with allergies. Mix the three together and diffuse in your bedroom or workspace. Place a few drops under your nose or on your temples to keep the allergy response minimized.
3. Whip up an apple-pineapple mocktail.
Can you drink your way out of allergies? Yes—as long as you're drinking one of my favorite mocktails. Blend an apple with ¼ cup of pineapple, add 6 ounces of water and 1 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite honey. This mocktail is delicious, but more importantly, apples contain quercetin (a natural anti-inflammatory) while pineapples contain bromeliad (a naturally occurring antihistamine). Try drinking this concoction a few days per week to support your immune system and keep allergies at bay.
4. Don't forget your probiotics.
Gut health is the key to health, and this holds true for allergies as well. Almost 75 percent of your immune system is in your gut. If your digestive health isn't functioning optimally, your microbiome becomes unbalanced, and you will have a high histamine load that has nothing to do with allergies but is actually tied to your digestive health. Adding in probiotics through food or supplements can help balance your digestive health, lowering your histamine response and making you less vulnerable to allergies and allergy symptoms.
5. Experiment with local honey.
Honey, when locally produced, seems to also assist in managing allergy symptoms. Locally produced honey is thought to contain local pollens, sensitizing you to these pollens so you have fewer allergy symptoms. The thought is similar to the concept of immunization or homeopathy, where a little exposure stimulates the immune system to produce a protective response.
6. Try acupuncture or acupressure.
Acupuncture and acupressure are additional modalities to diminish allergies. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that allergy sufferers did better with acupuncture compared to their non-acupuncture counterparts. If you don't have the time to visit an acupuncturist, try acupressure by holding pressure to the points between your thumb and finger, the points between your eyebrows, and the points at the sides of your nose. (Li4, Li20, Bladder 2) and additional points on your feet (liver 3).
7. Make some eyebright tea.
If your allergy symptoms skew more to burning, itching eyes with some nasal drainage, then eyebright, the herb in the homeopathic preparation euphrasia, may be the right solution for you. Many antihistamines stop nasal drainage but dry the eyes, making allergy symptoms more painful. Use a few pellets of euphrasia twice per day or an eyebright tea to ease your eye allergy symptoms.
8. Use Allium cepa.
Allium cepa is another homeopathic preparation, using allium (derived from onions) that diminishes the allergy response. While onions can typically cause a runny nose or watery eyes, taken in microdoses, allium acts as an antihistamine, blocking allergy symptoms.
9. Pull out the apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar has many uses but it's not as well-known for its allergy-fighting properties. Take 1 ounce daily to help maintain an alkaline pH, balance your digestive health, and improve inflammation.
10. Go dairy-free.
In almost every system of medicine, dairy is thought to be a culprit in worsening inflammation and the immune response. Limit dairy to under one serving per day, or if you have severe allergy symptoms, try eliminating it totally. Your allergy response is a complex interaction between histamine production and inflammation, and going dairy-free may be one way to break the cycle of inflammation.
11. Learn to love stinging nettle.
Stinging nettle has been used for many years to treat allergies. Often taken as a tea or now in capsule form, stinging nettle reduces allergy symptoms and inflammation. This plant also contains vitamin C and chlorophyll, which support the immune system for an allergy-free spring.
Use any of these allergy remedies to fight your way through pollen season and enjoy the warmer weather ahead.