Tips for Dealing with Seasonal Allergies

June 25, 2022 at 12:44 p.m.

Functional Medicine expert Bryce Wylde says there are steps you can take to minimize bothersome sneezing and watery eyes that come from seasonal allergies.

And believe it or not, all that hand sanitizing and social distancing during the pandemic may contribute to more severe allergy symptoms this allergy season.

“It’s called the hygiene hypothesis,” explains Wylde. “Most of us haven’t been exposed to the typical amounts of viruses or bacteria over the last year or two.” When that happens, he adds, your immune system can become “dysregulated.” Then, when you are re-exposed to seasonal allergens, it is possible your immune system will react more strongly than it did in seasons past. “Your symptoms will be a whole lot worse than usual,” says Wylde. “That’s simply how the immune system works.”

Prepare as much as possible
Pollen and other airborne allergens cause cells in the immune system to release histamines. It’s the histamines that trigger everything from itchy eyes and throat to a runny nose.

If you’ve tested for allergies, you may know what the causes are for your seasonal allergies, but complete avoidance is usually not possible. “Instead,” advises Wylde, “there are safe, natural solutions to reduce your exposure to allergens. The trick is catching them early.”

“By the time most people seek help, they’re miserable from a full-blown allergy attack, and vasoconstrictor eye drops and antihistamines (that come with many side effects) may be their only options. “Eye drops can over dry your eyes, so you’re exchanging one uncomfortable symptom with another.”

Wylde recommends some other strategies to minimize exposure before a full-blown attack:

  1. Minimize your exposure to inflammatory agents. “Allergic reactions can contribute to inflammation which can lead to a whole host of other issues including speeding the aging process. This isn’t to say that inhaling tree pollen will cause premature aging, but it makes sense to avoid bombarding your immune system with other inflammatory agents such as sugar and white flour which promote inflammatory cytokines. Also steer clear of excessive alcohol and smoke.”

    2.  Start eating more brightly colored fruits and vegetables. “The mast cells (part of the body’s immune system) react to allergies by releasing histamines, which cause itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, etc. There’s a ton of research showing that the quercetin in some foods helps stabilize the mast cells before they start releasing histamines. Common quercetin-rich foods include apples and onions.”

    3. But avoid foods that may cause allergy cross reactivity: “This occurs when proteins in pollen are similar to the proteins found in a particular food. Tree nuts also demonstrate cross-reactivity. This causes tingling and unpleasant itching in the mouth, throat and lips, as well as an irritated GI. Although not life threatening, it’s actually more common than peanut, milk, egg, and fish allergy occurring in about 10% of the population.

    “If you have an allergy to tree pollen (especially Birch) then you likely have a cross reactivity to: apples, plums, kiwis, carrots, celery, potatoes, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and even spices such as oregano, basil and dill. These may need to be avoided. If your allergy stems from grass pollen you may want to avoid melons, oranges, kiwi, tomatoes and peanuts, among others.”

    4. Be aware that some health products may be bad for allergy sufferers. “For those reactive to ragweed, serious cross-reactions are possible from consuming chamomile, honey and echinacea. This is not oral allergy syndrome, however. In this case, it’s because they belong to the same botanical family.”

    5. Remove outdoor allergens once you come home. “Change your clothes. Wash your hair. Put your pillow and pillow case in the dryer to remove dust and pollen. And use a saline flush to safely remove allergens from your nasal passages.”

    6. Understand that allergens are everywhere! “It’s a common misconception that allergens are seasonal and only encountered outdoors,” says Wylde. “Your indoor air (home, car and office) is often more polluted. Plus, even if you don’t see yellow dust, microscopic outdoor allergens can cling to your hair and clothing. You may be carrying them with you throughout your day.”

    7. Wear sunglasses and a hat. “These will help keep allergens from getting into your eyes and clinging to your hair.”

    8. Replace your home filters and vehicle’s interior cabin air filter. “If you can afford to, install a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter on your furnaceThis type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns When it comes to your car, Most people are unaware they even have these filters, which trap pollen, dust and other airborne particles. They typically need to be replaced every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. And if you drive on dirt roads, you may want to replace yours more frequently.”

9. Consider homeopathic solutions. Some homeopathic products, such as non-drying eye drops, activate your body’s own defense mechanisms to address the underlying problem and can be used as often as needed.

Allergies don’t have to be a no-win battle. “The key is to change your behavior before symptoms become severe,” concludes Wylde. “That way, you can help your body respond more effectively when it is exposed to allergens and finally enjoy all the good things that the season has to offer.”

Bryce Wylde is the author of Power Plants.

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