Spring is in full swing here in the northwest. As the weather turns warmer, plants everywhere are in bloom. If you are one of the many people who suffer from seasonal allergies, this time of year you may find yourself hiding indoors despite the beautiful weather.
Seasonal Allergies: Symptoms and Causes
Itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, a runny nose, sinus congestion—all are symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Allergies arise due to excess inflammation, poor gut health, and immune dysfunction. In order to treat allergies holistically, we need to address the underlying causes with some key steps.
Step 1: Correct Any Gut Imbalances
Hippocrates is famous for stating “all illness begins in the gut” and allergies are no exception! Gut imbalances, chronic infections, and poor digestion can all contribute to allergies. For many people, simply decreasing inflammatory processed foods and emphasizing whole foods is enough to correct gut issues. For others, a full gut healing protocol is key in correcting gut health. Work with a functional practitioner to implement a gut healing protocol.
Step 2: Decrease Inflammation
Allergies create an inflammatory state. Lower your inflammation with the following:
- Avoid dairy products during the peak of allergy season. Dairy tends to increase mucus production in most people and is naturally high in histamine.
- Follow a whole foods diet. Eat organic and local produce, high quality animal protein if you eat animals, and legumes, tubers, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. Think fresh and light: salads with fresh herbs, light spring soups, stir fries, wild caught fish. Avoid processed foods—they feed “bad” bacteria in the gut and generally raise inflammation.
- Eat more fish. Including low-mercury, wild caught fish in your diet twice per week, such as salmon, cod, and sardines gives you a boost in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarian? No problem. Take an algae-based omega-3 supplement.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C and quercetin such as broccoli, kiwifruit, citrus, onions, parsley, berries, and rose hip tea.
Use spices and fresh herbs. Herbs are full of healthy benefits and are naturally anti-inflammatory. Spices like turmeric and ginger help cool inflammation so eat them liberally.
- Take out the sugar. Sugar, in any form, raises inflammation and lowers immunity. This step alone can dramatically improve allergy symptoms within just a couple days.
Step 3: Support Your Immune System
Allergies are a sign that your immune system is overreacting. Calming your immune system can greatly improve allergies, especially over time. Here are some simple tips to do this:
- Lower your stress, get extra rest, and include self-care daily. Stress increases inflammation, taxes the liver, and increases the overall load on your body, including your immune system. Lowering your stress is the most important tool to creating a healthy, allergy free body.
- Consider eating small amounts of local honey or bee pollen.*
- Heal your gut—70% of your immune system is housed in the gut.
Step 4: Create An Allergy Free Environment
Try to create an allergy free space, ideally your bedroom, to give your body some time to recover between exposures. Minimize pollen and other allergens with these steps.
- Wash your hair and change your pillowcases frequently.
- Use anti-allergy mattress and pillowcase covers.
- Use air purifiers, especially in the bedroom.
- Keep pets out of your bedroom.
- Diffuse eucalyptus and lavender essential oil at night. Try 3 drops of each in your favorite diffuser.
- Consider using a neti pot or other saline rinse system.
Additional Support for Seasonal Allergies
If you’ve tried all the above and are still suffering, consider adding some supportive supplements.
Please note, the following are for non-pregnant and non-lactating adults. Please consult with your medical practitioner before trying supplements.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
NAC is a precursor to one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, glutathione. NAC supports liver detoxification and decreases phlegm associated with allergic rhinitis. A typical dose is 500-900mg three times per day.
Found in many fruits and vegetables, quercetin is a powerful anti-inflammatory with a host of protective functions. It balances the immune system and it lowers histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic reactions. Dose: 500mg daily. Please note, pregnant women should not consume quercetin due to possible side effects on the growing fetus.
Probiotics are a safe, easy addition to most diets. They add beneficial bacteria into the gut microbiome, improve immune function, and aid in gut healing. All probiotics are not created equal—be sure to look for one that has a variety of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species.
Again, allergies are a sign of gut and immune dysfunction. If you regularly suffer from seasonal allergies, work with a functional nutritionist or other functional practitioner to find and heal your root cause.
*Honey should not be consumed by children younger than 1 year.
The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a qualified health care practitioner. Please consult with a health care practitioner before making any lifestyle or dietary changes.
References for Seasonal Allergies
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Fassio, F., Guagnini, F. House dust mite-related respiratory allergies and probiotics: a narrative review. Clin Mol Allergy 16, 15 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12948-018-0092-9
Jennifer C Dennis-Wall, Tyler Culpepper, Carmelo Nieves, Jr., Cassie C Rowe, Alyssa M Burns, Carley T Rusch, Ashton Federico, Maria Ukhanova, Sheldon Waugh, Volker Mai, Mary C Christman, Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 105, Issue 3, March 2017, Pages 758–767, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.140012
Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016; 21(5):623. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules21050623
Zajac AE, Adams AS, , Turner JH. A systematic review and meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2015 Jun;5(6):524-32. doi: 10.1002/alr.21492.