from the Alliance for Natural Health comes this excellent article on seasonal allergies, which appear to be getting worse:
Here are some natural ways to stop your body’s reaction and relieve your suffering!
According to the Harvard Health Letter, seasonal allergies are starting earlier every year, and pollen counts are rising. At least 36 million people are affected by seasonal allergies each year in the US.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis occurs when one’s immune system overreacts to foreign materials and produces an inflammatory response. Grass, weeds, and trees release tiny pollens into the air, and inhaling them triggers a reaction of your immune system. Floating pollutants such as mold spores and dust mite droppings also contribute (though in warmer climates, this can happen year round).
Uncovering what makes the immune system respond the way it does is important. One theory is that an excessive antigenic stimulus overwhelms the immune system, and this is what leads to an inflammatory response. In other words, a small amount of allergen may not be enough to cause symptoms, but continued exposure—or the exposure of number of antigens—can lead to an overload of the system. This is magnified when one’s immune system is weak (which happens easily when one is tired or stressed or has recently been ill).
There are natural approaches to seasonal allergies that work well:
Calm the allergic response. According to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, subjects who took 2600 mg of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) found their upper and total respiratory symptoms significantly reduced within seven days, and improvement continued for all thirty days of the study. Also, as Dr. Mercola notes, MSM is 34% sulfur, which can help maintain optimal health. Sulfur helps the body detoxify itself, and helps produce glutathione, an important antioxidant. MSM is extremely safe and can be taken at high doses, even if one’s diet is full of raw vegetables and MSM-rich foods. Some of our staff have found complete relief from allergies with this product, but required higher daily doses than 2600 mg.
- Another substance that helps calm down the immune system under a pollen attack is the Alpine herb butterbur. In Scotland, researchers found that butterbur is effective. It can also be used in conjunction with MSM—the sulfur to condition the body, and the herb for acute attacks. Petadolex, a butterbur extract supplement, reduces inflammation so well that it can be used for migraines and other headaches too—it was endorsed as an OTC remedy for migraines by the Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society after their review of 284 scholarly articles on the subject. Butterbur in the wild contains a potentially toxic substance, but Petadolex has removed it.
- Freeze-dried nettles and quercetin are also used to reduce allergic response. They both work—the former sooner, and the latter over time—but they typically reduce rather than eliminate symptoms. Antihistamine drugs were initially developed from quercetin. As is often the case, the drugs had serious side effects (such as drowsiness) while the natural product from which it is derived did not. Another natural product that shows promise is Carnivora, derived from the plant of the same name, although more research needs to be done.
- Remove food allergens (which lightens the antigenic load). As the Townsend Letter points out, allergic/inflammatory processes may first become active in the gut. Then transportation of food proteins across the intestinal wall becomes altered, resulting in increased permeability and motility of the intestine—Leaky Gut Syndrome. Coupled with other conditions, such as intestinal infections, flora imbalance, and decreased immunoglobulin A antibodies, this may lead to further intestinal compromise and increased antigen-immune interaction.
- Get acupuncture. Researchers had 442 people with seasonal allergies receive acupuncture treatments. After eight weeks of acupuncture, a 71% patients reported an improvement in their symptoms (according to a scale used to measure allergy symptoms, the severity of these patients’ symptoms decreased by an impressive 37%).
Reduce general inflammation in the body. Eating lots of veggies with deep-water fish will decrease inflammation levels. Omega-3s from all sources can reduce inflammation as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, licorice, skullcap, cordyceps, and perilla have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (though consult a TCM practitioner for guidance).
- Strengthen the immune system. At the head of our list is vitamin D3, which reduces the incidence of respiratory infections. Also get plenty of vitamin E and magnesium, and knock off the sugar, which greatly weakens the immune system. And don’t forget vitamin C: studies indicate it’s a natural antihistamine.
- Relieve congestion gently. Don’t forget neti pots—saline nasal irrigation—which may provide sinus pain relief for allergy sufferers. But you probably won’t need them if you have enough sulfur in your system.