It’s that time of year again, the days are getting longer and warmer and you are venturing outdoors with increased excitement. If you’re an allergy sufferer, this time of year may also present some apprehension. Will this year be as bad as the last? Could it be worse? Will it be obvious it’s “just allergies”? The good news is that an integrative approach to seasonal environmental allergies can help you stave off or at the very least minimize your symptoms, as well as helping you to manage them should they arrive. An added bonus is that many of the lifestyle habits that mitigate allergies also contribute to your daily good health.
What are Seasonal or Environmental Allergies?
Allergies are your body’s natural response to a substance or substances deemed threatening to your immune system. It reacts and attacks the invading substance in an effort to eliminate it. Upon repeated exposure, your body’s natural response may increase in severity, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms sometimes labeled as “allergic rhinitis”. Environmental allergies to irritants other than pollen, such as dust or pollution, can lead to similar symptoms.
Common Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Year-Round or Seasonal
Environmental allergies generally occur during the spring and fall, but can trigger your immune system all year long. Tree, shrub and grass pollens and molds are the main seasonal culprits. If you suffer from indoor allergies like dust mites and dander as well, the mix of indoor and outdoor allergens can create the perfect environment for an aggravated immune system that reacts.
Different for Everyone
It’s important to note that everyone’s immune system is different and allergies can develop over time. If you haven’t experienced allergies in the past and are experiencing symptoms, or, if you have experienced them, but are perplexed at symptoms showing up at a time of year you didn’t expect, an appointment with your healthcare practitioner can help you pinpoint the cause.
Managing Allergy Symptoms Naturally
Antihistamines may be the medication your MD prescribes for severe symptoms, however there are many natural steps you can take to support your body, prevent and ease symptoms.
Controlling Indoor Allergens
Minimizing indoor allergens can help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Aside from the regular offenders of dust mites and dander, outdoor allergens travel indoors through open windows. Keeping your windows closed during the spring and fall will help cut down on indoor irritants that pose a threat to your immune system. That being said, outdoor allergens will still make their way into your home, via doors being open and individuals, including yourself, transporting them inside on your clothes, hair and shoes. If your allergies are severe, consider showering and changing your clothes once you’re home for the evening and launder your clothes and bedding regularly. If that wasn’t enough, allergens can still move throughout your home aggravating your sinuses, so keeping your home especially clean during the spring and fall by vacuuming and dusting regularly can help. Investing in a HEPA filter air purifier is a fantastic way to keep your indoor air clean year round8.
Acupuncture works on the premise of supporting the body through balancing energy pathways and improving circulation. Originating in what is now China, acupuncture has been used to promote general good health for thousands of years. Studies have found that regular acupuncture sessions may help relieve runny nose, watering eyes, inflammation, scratchy throat, eczema and other symptom associated with seasonal allergies2,9.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)is an antioxidant that supports the immune system when taken regularly1*. Unlike chemical antihistamine medications, vitamin C reduces the amount of histamine you produce, rather than blocking histamine receptors10. Quercetin is one of several flavonoids that have effects on mast cells and basophils. Vitamin C helps regulate histamine levels and supports a healthy inflammatory response.
Long Term Strategies to Support Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Support the Immune System
Reducing and managing stress, practicing good sleep hygiene, eating whole, nutrient dense foods and getting 30 minutes of regular, moderate physical activity daily all contribute to a healthy immune system. Nutritional supplements such as Quercetin*, Vitamin D*, olive leaf*, and stinging nettle* may offer additional support6. Talk to a Functional Medicine/Integrative medical practitioner to discuss a comprehensive look at what’s going on and supporting your immune system from the inside out.
Support Gut Health
The immune system and intestinal flora are intricately interconnected. A healthy intestinal system helps ward off allergens5, while a poorly functioning intestinal system can lead to increased chances of experiencing allergy symptoms. Support your gut microbiome by reducing stress, removing irritating foods, addressing infections and parasites, decreasing sugar and caffeine and increasing foods that promote healthy gut microbiome such as sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Digestive enzymes and probiotics offer additional support*.