Seasonal Sniffles by Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc

Natural allergy fighters can clear your head without the side effects.

Q: Every year around this time, I start sniffling and sneezing. I’ve tried over-the-counter allergy medicines, but they always leave me feeling groggy—and with my busy schedule, I need my energy! What can you suggest? —Carol M., Pacifica, Calif.

Your story is a familiar one. Americans make more than 12 million doctor visits each year for this common concern. Multiple factors conspire to create the dreaded days of runny noses, itchy and watery eyes, and relentless sneezing. But even though you really can’t control the amount of pollen or smoke in the air, there are some sensible ways to reduce the impact of environmental allergens—plus herbs and nutrients that can provide natural relief.

  • Shower in the evening to lessen the likelihood of pollen and other airborne irritants accumulating in your bed.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly and sweep under the furniture. Use a HEPA filter in your home, particularly in your bedroom at night.
  • Wash sheets and other bed covers in hot water every two weeks, and use hypoallergenic zipped covers on pillows, duvets, and mattresses.
  • Don’t spend extra time outside on windy days or when the pollen count is high.
  • Eat well: fresh vegetables, whole fruits, and lean protein. Avoid refined carbs and white sugar—sugar can reduce white blood cell function by 50 percent for 2 hours after you consume ½ tsp.
  • Reduce mold growth by running a dehumidifier in moist rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry area.
  • Start a regimen of natural antihistamines, especially vitamin C (about 2 grams daily) and potent bioflavonoids (quercetin, turmeric, rutin, hesperidin).
  • Take fish oil (at least 1,000 mg of mixed EPA and DHA) every day.
  • Try nasal irrigation. I like the “neck neutral” Nasopure, but Neti pots also work well, as do bulb syringes.
  • Allium cepa is a helpful homeopathic remedy for watery eyes and itchy nose. For itchy eyes and runny nose, try homeopathic Euphrasia.
  • The herb butterbur has been documented to relieve allergy symptoms as well as—or better than—Allegra and Zyrtec in European studies.
  • Also, don’t compound your problem with food stressors. Be aware of wheat, dairy, soy, tomatoes, coffee, peanuts, shellfish, eggs, and corn. If you’re an “allergic” person, try giving up these foods for two weeks, and then reintroduce one into your diet every three days. Look for changes in mood, skin, or bowel function to determine if you may be sensitive to any of these foods.
  • Control your histamine levels naturally. Eat food that’s high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Drink lots of water (64 ounces daily) to dilute any pollutants you’re exposed to, and avoid caffeine, which is dehydrating.
  • Also try fermented foods, which have been shown to increase the immune competence of mucous membranes. Pickles, plain yogurt (if you’re not sensitive to dairy), fermented breads (if you’re not sensitive to wheat), miso (if you’re not sensitive to soy), and kombucha drinks are good options.

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