Allergy season is upon us again – a time for itchy eyes, runny nose and headaches. The good news is that allergies can respond very well to natural therapies without leaving you drowsy or wired.
Before we start the discussion of natural remedies, let’s begin by looking at what happens to the body during an allergy attack.
Airborne allergens enter the sinuses, or come into contact with our eyes, where the local immune response in those areas is triggered. Mast cells are white blood cells that carry around histamine, which spills out of the cell when it is stimulated. Histamine causes the tissue to swell, a sort of local inflammation. Mucous is secreted to flush out the offending substance.
Natural substances like herbs, nutritional supplements and homeopathic medicines can target specific points in this cascade to prevent it from occurring.
To prevent the de-granulation of the mast cells, and therefore histamine release, we often prescribe vitamin C and nettles.
Bioflavonoids are also often used, and are the subject of many research studies for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as connective tissue strengthening effects. They are abundant in the white pulpy parts of vegetables like the insides of bell peppers and in fruit – orange and grapefruit.
In particular, quercetin is very helpful in decreasing inflammation, and tends to have an affinity for the upper respiratory tract and the digestive system.
Other bioflavonoids include rutin, herperidin, rosehips and hawthorne botanical. Euphrasia, or eyebright, can be used either homeopathically or herbally, and is wonderful for decreasing the symptoms of itchy and watery eyes. We often also utilize homeopathic desensitization drops. These are made using very diluted preparations of allergens, such as animal dander, pollens, grasses and weeds. They give the body a chance to slowly decrease the reaction, until the allergens no longer provoke the cycle of inflammation.
For those who suffer not only from seasonal allergies but tend to have some symptoms year round, I investigate other possible factors. Often we uncover chemical sensitivities, food allergies or digestive problems, all of which can contribute to the severity of an allergic reaction.
I liken it to the concept of a rain barrel. To simplify, let’s pretend that your immune system is a rain barrel that gets filled (stimulated) by food allergens, airborne allergens and chemical sensitivities. By the time that barrel is full, it’s not just one thing that made it overflow, but a combination of reactants.
By addressing other possible contributing factors we are able to decrease the level in the barrel and the occurrence of the allergic reaction. This overly simplified concept of “total load” is helpful in combating allergies.
After all, we have evolved in an environment of pollens and other airborne allergens, why would we be so reactive now?
Still not getting relief? Make an appointment and let me create an individualized plan for you.
(c) Nirala Jacobi 2007