*Image from Science Daily.
As the days become shorter, cardigans and scarves begin returning to wardrobes, seasonal apples make their welcome reappearance (we stopped at an orchard and picked up a bushel of Cortlands yesterday, along with apple cider donuts-the best!!!), and leaves begin to color, crinkle, and fall. Parallel with all this crispness and beauty and splendor, however, is the reemergence of a not-so-welcome feature of autumn-seasonal allergies.
When I was younger, as everyone around me succumbed to sneezes and runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, I was thrilled beyond measure that such a state never seemed to be my lot. And then I moved to western North Carolina, whose mountains possess one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, and the tables were turned. Along with so much biological diversity (the area is part of a temperate rain forest, one of only a handful in North America) came plenty of organisms to have allergic reactions to. Suddenly I was part of the stuffed-up, wheezy, sneezy herd, feeling miserable for a few weeks every spring and autumn.
To combat my condition, I opened up my DIY arsenal. For today’s “Small Measure”, I’d like to share with you what I learned. I found several things to do, sip, eat, and take for seasonal allergies that have helped beyond compare. As I write this, I’m in my forest-situated house, with the windows open, positively surrounded by allergens in every imaginable form, from goldenrod to ragweed, mullein to innumerable pollens (not to mention oodles of pet hair and dander from my 2 dogs and 5 cats). Owing to my allergy-combating efforts, however, I’ve got nary a sneeze, wheeze, sniffle, or itchy eye to attend to.
CLICK HERE for ashley’s DIY allergy tips after the jump!
*Image from The Chopra Center.
If you, too, suffer from the ravages of seasonal allergies, perhaps these simple, do-it-yourself tips might assist you, as they did me.
-Neti Pot=If you’ve never experienced use of a neti pot before, you might think at first read that it sounds like a form of torture best avoided by anyone with a mind to think. I’d urge you to reconsider, however. A neti pot is a ceramic pot with a spout used for nasal irrigation. That’s right-you put the spout into one of your nostrils (stick with me!), tilt your head to the side, pour a blend of salt water (1/4 tsp. salt to 1 c. warm water) into that nostril, and watch it pour out the other side. This is best done over a sink, in the shower, or over a large basin or bowl. While this might, at first, feel a bit like getting water up your nose when swimming, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The warm water, if the neti pot is correctly positioned, will trickle easily out your other nostril. It’s really rather straightforward when you think about it-you’re having allergic reactions based on allergens that enter via your nostrils. When we keep our nostrils flushed and clear, pollen and other allergens don’t stand a chance.
-Nettles Tea=Nettles are natural antihistamines, making them nature’s version of Benadryl. Sipped regularly (I sip a large infusion most mornings), and especially in advance of allergy season (although it works well once the allergens are here, too), nettles can bring easy, affordable, lasting relief. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make nettle tea (which can be done with either fresh or dried herb; I use dried), or just don’t like the taste, capsules and tincture form are also available.
-Chamomile Tea= Long touted for its sedative properties, chamomile is also a known anti-inflammatory. If you’re having difficulty breathing or have chest tightness, sipping chamomile tea may bring relief. It can also be used in inhalation form, via essential oil (around 5-10 drops) placed into a bowl filled with warm water. Those with known ragweed allergies, however, should avoid chamomile, as the plants come from the same family.
-Ginger, Honey, & Cayenne Tea=Heat producing foods like ginger and cayenne can help in breaking up mucus congestion, as they clear mucus membranes. Whenever I feel the first hint of congestion or a pending allergy attack, I make a big pot of fresh ginger tea, to which I add loads of local honey (more about honeybee products ahead), a generous amount of fresh lemon, and a hearty pinch of cayenne. Does the trick, every time.
*Image from Women’s Day.
-Local Honey & Bee Pollen=As honey bees fly about during these final days of summer, they’re gathering up good quantities of pollen and the last available sources of nectar to store as food for the coming seasons ahead. The pollen, along with the honey they make inside the hive, contains a fair quantity of the exact same allergens causing reactions in seasonal allergy suffers. So why would taking honey or bee pollen bring relief then? That’s on account of a theory that ingesting these allergens in minute doses over time makes our bodies acclimated to their presence and less likely to cause an allergic response (in which chemicals called “histamines” are released to ward off what are deemed foreign interlopers, hence the use of substances deemed “antihistamines”, which deactivate the histamine response). Eating locally sourced honey and bee pollen is key, though, as what might trigger an allergic reaction in my area won’t necessarily be what does it for someone in, say, Oregon. Begin with small quantities, around 1/2-1 tsp. and gauge your body’s reaction. As the dose will be small, and the concentration of the allergen so minute, there shouldn’t be any negative reaction. That said, everyone is different, so go easy and increase as you see fit.
*Image from Burleson’s.
-Quercetin-containing foods: Quercetin is a substance found in a number of foods that is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help prevent the release of the aforementioned histamine. Onions, green/black tea, berries, cranberries, citrus, and apples are all great sources of querctin. It can also be purchased in supplement form.
-Omega 3-containing foods: Omega 3′s are one type of Essential Fatty Acid (EFA). These fats, in addition to a wide range of additional benefits, offer anti-inflammatory protection. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines, eaten in their whole form or as capsules, are rich in Omega 3′s. Vegetarians can take a veggie EFA blend, eat nuts and seeds (which also contain magnesium, another natural antihistamine), and add ground-up flaxseeds to their diets (flax seeds must be ground to access their beneficial properties, otherwise they pass through the body whole).
-Homeopathic Remedies=I’m a huge proponent of the use of homeopathic remedies. In its most basic explanation, homeopathy uses small doses of specific substances to treat conditions that, in larger quantities, would produce symptoms similar to what patients are being treated for. It’s like taking honey, mentioned above, in small quantities to stave off histamine reactions in the long run. I’ve had remarkable success using homeopathic treatments in a wide range of applications, including seasonal allergies. Typically, I take bioAllers products in spring and autumn, but as they’re based in alcohol and I’m prego, I’ve instead been using King Bio products, which, in addition to being alcohol-free, are genius in that they are regionally formulated.
I would like to mention that I’m no health professional, simply a nutrition consultant with a penchant for “Homemade Living” and DIY solutions, working hard to find natural relief to life’s challenges by any and every means possible. Those with severe allergies should be under the care of a physician or other health professional (I know of many who have found relief for their allergies through acupuncture, sublingual allergy immunotherapy, and other healing modalities). If you’ve got a go-to remedy for putting the kibosh on all things inflammatory, I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise, may your sinuses be clear and your eyes remain ‘a shining! -ashley