Happy Spring Equinox! As the days start to become longer and warmer and the flowers begin to reveal themselves, spring is often a time of the year that many of us associate with sunlight, growth and new beginnings. For others, this awakening of mother nature can be the onset of runny noses, congestion, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and/or a sore throat. Hello seasonal allergies!
Seasonal allergies, also referred to as hay-fever or allergic rhinitis, is inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose, throat and eyes. It is mostly commonly triggered by tree pollen, grass and weed pollen and molds. Identifying which allergens are causing your symptoms is often the first step for managing your allergies. Allergen testing is typically done through an allergist, who may recommend either a scratch test, intradermal testing and/or blood testing. Knowing what allergens you are reacting to will help you to know which pollen counts to watch out for and when treatment should begin to help minimize symptoms.
Here are my Top 5 Dietary and Lifestyle Tips for Helping Patients Manage Seasonal Allergies:
1. Minimize exposure to common allergy triggers
Monitor the pollen and mold counts and minimize outdoor exposure during times when they are high
Keep your windows shut
Change the air filters in your home
Wash yourself off and change your clothes after you’ve been outside
Wash your hands after you’ve pet an animal and keep the pets off of the furniture, especially beds
Change your linens often. Allergy friendly- pillow cases and mattress covers can help to reduce your exposure to dust mites that can trigger allergies
Limit items in the home that collect dust (pillows, stuffed animals, curtains etc.)
Avoid inhaling second hand smoke, perfume and car exhaust
Limit mold exposure in the home by controlling the humidity. The humidity should be set between 30-50%
2. Eliminate Dairy and Refined Sugars
Eliminate dairy and refined/processed foods from your diet. This means no milk, cheese, sour cream, yoghurt, butter or any processed foods, especially those that contain white sugar or white flour. Dairy can thicken mucus and increase mucus production, which can often worsen symptoms. Dairy is a common food sensitivity, and in addition to other food sensitivities can often exacerbate symptoms of seasonal allergies.
3. Eat More Flavonoid-Rich Foods
Flavonoids are an overarching group of plant constituents that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, enhance tissue integrity and help to increase the absorption of vitamin C within the cells. These are all helpful qualities for allergies. Foods that contain high levels of flavonoids include berries, bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli and red wine.
One particular flavonoid, quercitin, helps to stabilize mast cells which are reasonable for the release of histamine. Quercitin-rich foods include apples, onions, garlic, pears, cabbage, black tea, fennel, and kale.
4. Stay Hydrated
Make sure your body is getting plenty of fluids. This can in the form of water, herbal teas, coconut water, broths or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages. Maintaining adequate hydrations helps to thin secretions and ease congestion. Herbal teas, such as stinging nettle, with some local, unpasteurized honey can be particularly beneficial for allergies.
5. Nasal Irrigation or Steam Inhalation
Nasal irrigation with a neti pot can help to remove some of the allergens stuck in the nasal cavity and help symptomatically with congestion.
Steam inhalation can also help to relieve symptoms of congestion. This can be done at home by pouring boiling water into a bowl, draping a towel over your head and the bowl and slowly inhaling for a few minutes. Be very cautious not to put your face too close to the steam or it can burn your skin and/or eyes. Eucalyptus essential oil can be added to the boiling water to help support the mucus membranes or a branch of fresh eucalyptus can be brought into the shower with you.
Many of the aforementioned therapies are used in combination with nutraceutical and botanical support as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergy management is often most effective if started before allergy season begins. Always talk to your primary health care provider before beginning any new therapies, as they may not be safe for everyone. For an individualized treatment plan to help manage your seasonal allergies, click the contact link above.