When the temperatures warm up, and the birds start getting active, the trees and their pollens are not far behind. Yes, spring and late summer are prime times for plant pollens to be airborne, as well as dust and mold spores. Unfortunately, for seasonal allergy sufferers – or what is medically called "allergic rhinitis" – they get itchy and watery eyes and noses and sneeze it seems, without end. Their immune system has perceived these pollens as foreign threatening invaders, and is reacting against the harmless pollen particles.
As a naturopathic doctor, I see people who are searching for natural options. Improving allergies means needing to improve the function of the immune system, as well as other aspects of your health. Below are my ten tips for naturopathic seasonal allergy prevention and treatment.
1. Any nutrient deficiency can lead to an imbalanced immune system.
For example, a 2012 study found that people who had allergic rhinitis had six times less vitamin D in their blood compared to people without allergic rhinitis. Make sure you get tested for vitamin D and other nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin C, to make sure your immune system is nutritionally supported.
2. Reduce sugar intake.
Sweet snacks can weaken your immune system and make it hyper-reactive to allergens including pollens.
3. Pass the carotenoids, please.
Carotenoids are a large group of plant pigments found in dark-colored fruit and vegetables. Studies have found that those who have the highest levels of carotenoids in their blood have the least chance of having seasonal allergies. Eating enough carotenoid-containing foods may be protective against a variety of allergic symptoms. Foods high in carotenoids include carrots, spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, cantaloupe, and apricots. As a naturopathic doctor, testing the carotenoid level is another prevention-minded test that I order for my patients.
4. Improve Your Digestion
If you have bad digestion, like bloating and heartburn, or are quite constipated, then your body is not handling its nutrients and wastes properly. This can lead to a 'congested' body, and a congested immune system. Ensure better digestion by chewing your food well, avoid over-eating, get regular exercise, ensure you have 25-35 grams of fiber each day in your diet, and drink 6-10 glasses of water each day. Doing these steps should get your bowel movements easy and regular, and can often improve heartburn symptoms. An intestinal cleanse may also be really helpful.
5. Eat local honey.
Eating honey that was collected in your region is one way to teach your immune system how to prepare for what it will face when the actual pollens are in the air. A Finnish study found that people with birch pollen allergy who ate birch pollen-containing honey (compared to a different group of people with birch pollen allergy who ate regular honey) had 60% fewer allergy symptoms, more allergy-free days, 70% less severe allergy days, and used 50% less anti-histamine medications.
6. Flush your nasal passageways.
A saline water solution can be used to flush any dust and pollen off of your nasal mucus-membrane linings. Traditionally, a 'neti-pot' is used for this purpose, though many nasal irrigation devices are available and are also effective. Rinse one to two times each day. Usually, your breathing will improve and your allergy symptoms will reduce.
7. Butterbur plant extract.
A Swiss study found that a special extract from the Butterbur plant can significantly control up to 90% of seasonal allergy symptoms.
8. Herbal tea help.
9. Clean up to reduce allergens.
Change your clothes and shower when you get home from being outdoors. The allergens can be on your clothing and hair. Also, wash your bed sheets and pillowcases more regularly.
I have found that acupuncture can help reduce allergy symptoms. After a course of acupuncture, the benefit can last for a few months.
Rahim Habib is a Naturopathic Doctor and a writer for Bell Lifestyle Products.
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