A Naturopathic Approach to Seasonal Allergies
Are seasonal allergies hampering your outdoor fun? Naturopathic experts at National University of Health Sciences have a few tips for dealing with this recurring health issue.
Spring allergies can be a result of pollination from trees, which can begin any time from January to April, depending on the climate and location. Trees that are known to cause severe allergies include oak, elm, birch, poplar, sycamore, maple, and walnut, among others. In the summer, grass pollens and mold can trigger allergy symptoms, and in fall, weeds and debris from falling leaves and drying foliage can wreak allergy havoc.
Pollens and molds can cause a person to experience sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, itching and tearing eyes, and possibly even difficulty breathing. Pollen may also set off numerous asthma-like symptoms in sensitive people.
“An allergy is the result of your immune system’s over-reaction to these potential allergens. When an allergen is introduced, the body fights back by producing an excess of inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, from immune cells,” says Kelly Baltazar, DC, ND, a clinician at the NUHS Whole Health Center in Lombard. “Commonly, allergy sufferers resort to prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines. Although these can provide symptomatic relief, they may produce undesirable side effects. More importantly, these products do not treat the underlying cause of the allergy, which is often a stressed and sensitized immune system.”
Dr. Baltazar explains that physicians at the NUHS Whole Health Center take a different approach. “We do a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s health history and their diet. Often allergy sufferers benefit when they avoid foods that can provoke sensitivities, such as dairy products, gluten and refined sugars. In addition, we often recommend specific supplements to help the immune system.”
Flavonoids are a group of compounds that give many fruits and vegetables their color. Of these, quercetin is the most widely distributed among the plant kingdom and is believed to inhibit the allergic reaction. So in addition to making sure patients are getting enough raw fruits and vegetables in their diet, a whole health physician might recommend quercetin in supplemental form.
There are also various botanical medicines used in treating seasonal allergies. For example, a preparation of nettles (flowering plants of the genus Urtica in the family Urticaceae), acts as a natural antihistamine.
Allergy sufferers can also support their body’s self-healing mechanism by using a ‘neti pot.’ You can find them in most any conventional drug store. These special nasal irrigation pots enable you to rinse your nasal and sinus passages with a saline solution (salt water) to wash out pollen and reduce or thin mucus discharge.
While any of the above natural treatments might benefit a person with allergy symptoms, what appear to be allergy symptoms may be due to other conditions as well. Dr. Baltazar recommends that those who think they have allergies should see their health practitioner for a check-up to assess their complete health picture and establish an individual treatment plan.