What causes seasonal allergies?
Hay Fever/Seasonal allergies are caused when the body makes allergic antibodies (IgE) to a substance such that occurs at specific times of year such as tree pollen, grasses and weeds (these are known as allergens). Symptoms of allergy that continue all year long are called perennial allergic rhinitis and commonly relate to indoor allergens, such as house dust mites, pets and indoor moulds.
In people sensitive to these allergens, exposure causes the release of chemicals (such as histamine) from special cells (called Mast cells) in the nasal passages, eyes or airways. Chemicals such as histamine released from these mast cells then trigger inflammation and irritation to the lining of the eyes, nose and throat.
Hay fever or seasonal allergies is actually an immune disorder characterized by an inappropriate allergic response to pollen and these other allergenic substances mentioned above. Inflammation is normally a beneficial and essential event in the body. It is the immune system's response to tissue injury and infection, and ensures that the body recovers from damage and continues to function properly. However, this response is meant to be short lived but for people with seasonal allergies it can go on for months on end.
The Best Defense - Avoid the Triggers
The best way to combat an allergen assault is to avoid coming in contact with the allergens. Symptoms can be often be prevented if you can directly control your environment and avoid the allergen “triggers.” Here are a few helpful tips on how to do this:
1) Close your windows and doors; use your air conditioning.
2) Pollen levels are highest in the morning, so schedule your outdoor activities for afternoons or evenings.
3) Change your clothes after you come in from outside.
4) Bathe before bed to keep pollen off pillows and sheets.
5) Wash your hands if you pet an animal that’s been outside.
What if I do not know what I am allergic to?
Allergy testing is not usually required in simple hay fever because the trigger substances can be easily identified from the history of when and where symptoms occur. However, in certain cases a doctor or allergist might use a skin prick test or blood test to find out exactly what you allergic to. This is especially important in certain desensitization treatments that allergists use. If you want to find out what you might be allergic to ask your doctor for a test or a referral to an allergist.
What can be done about Hayfever naturally?
Naturopathic medicine has many tools to help you with your Seasonal Allergies. The following are some of the natural treatments options available:
Supplementation Therapy: Various nutritional supplements have shown to greatly reduce seasonal allergies. At my clinic in Jerusalem we use supplement protocols that have shown to be effective in reducing allergic symptoms. Our supplement therapy often includes a few supplements. I will speak hear of two notable superstars to be aware of:
Quercetin an antioxidant derived from apples and onions and it has been shown to prevent the release of histamine, which is responsible for many allergic symptoms. It also decreases the number of cells in the blood that contribute to allergic responses. In animal models, Quercetin has been shown to inhibit elevated levels of IgE, the antibody responsible for allergic reactions, and to inhibit bronchial obstruction in a model of allergic asthma.
Another important supplement to be aware of for people with hayfever is vitamin D. If you suffer from Hay fever it is crucial to investigate your Vitamin D status. Researchers out of Korea found that adults with low levels of vitamin D are at greater risk of hay fever. Ask you doctor for a vitamin D blood test and if low make sure to take Vitamin D.
Homeopathic medicine can be taken as a preventive medicine before allergy season to avoid the onset of allergies. As well, they can be used when a person is already suffering from allergies. Going to a trained homeopath for allergy treatment can often help reduce hay fever greatly.
Special Anti-Allergy Diet:
As a general rule adding Omega 3 oils to the diet can be very helpful in lessening seasonal allergy symptoms. Excellent omega-3 fatty acid sources include flaxseeds, cabbage, cauliflower, walnuts. brussels sprouts, French beans, broccoli, turnip, collard greens, and of course fish and their oils.
Refined sugars should be avoided as they are mucus forming. As well, Dairy products are also mucus forming and they contain omega-6 fatty acids, which are believed to worsen allergy symptoms. Cutting out dairy altogether would probably significantly benefit your hay fever, but it is not recommended unless you are familiar with ways to get calcium outside of dairy and willing to do so. Calcium rich foods include nuts, vegetables and fish (such as collard greens, bok choy, spinach, almonds and Salmon to name a few) as the calcium in dairy foods is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis need substantial amounts of calcium and in our communities often dairy is the best option. If you do choose to avoid dairy you can also use almond milk and rice milk, which if fortified with calcium, can be used as a replacement. Unless you belong to one of the groups mentioned above, try to limit your consumption of animal milk products or cut them out altogether.
Desensitization therapies – Some allergists can identify your allergen and help you desensitize to it through various modern techniques. There are a few different kinds of desensitization therapies. Ask your allergist what test might be right for you.
Hay fever is growing problem for people in westernized countries and the number of sufferers is getting worse each and every year. There are however many ways to deal with hay fever naturally. It is my sincerest hope that by heeding some of the advice given here in this article that this year and years to come will be ones free of the frustration of seasonal allergies for you or someone you know. Refuah Shelaima!
Dr. Anders Nerman, ND
Dr. Anders Nerman, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor with an Integrative Family Medical practice in Wolfson Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel. For more visit www.drnerman.com or call 972-54-427-8667.
Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.