Spring is here, and for an estimated 50 million Americans that means a return of itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and a whole host of other allergy symptoms.
These symptoms make us run to our medicine cabinet to pull out our antihistamine pills and allergy nose sprays. But is there anything else that an allergy sufferer can do?
Besides treating allergy symptoms with medication, there are many lifestyle, nutritional and botanical therapies that can help decrease allergies.
Limiting exposure to pollens should always be a first-line approach to controlling allergies. Simple environmental modifications, such as avoiding early morning hours outside (which are associated with higher pollen counts), removing your clothing and showering after coming indoors, and getting a HEPA filter can significantly reduce symptoms.
Nutrition is also an important component of allergy control. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits and vegetables (especially the darkly pigmented ones) and low in processed foods and bad fats (like red meat and hydrogenated oils) can be beneficial. For many of my patients, I will also have them remove dairy from their diet for a few weeks to see whether it plays a role in their symptoms.
I generally advise my allergy patients to take additional supplementation with quercetin and omega 3 fatty acids. Quercetin is a plant pigment found in fruits and vegetables that can help prevent your body’s release of histamine in response to allergen exposure. As a supplement, I usually recommend around 600mg one to three times daily, taken with bromelain to help absorption. Omega 3 fatty acids are rich fats that can be found in cold-water fish, nuts, greens and ground flax. Two to 3 grams a day of EPA and DHA from omega 3 fatty acids can help decrease allergy responsiveness.
For a more natural approach, the botanicals butterbur and stinging nettle have been shown to be beneficial in treating allergy symptoms. And for many, alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy have provided relief for their allergy symptoms and may be worth exploring.
If you are one of those 50 million with allergies, think more holistically when those allergy symptoms start to flare.
• Heidi Rula is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or integrativecareforwomen.com.