Does it sometimes seem like everyone you know suffers from allergies – and not just in spring but all year long? It may not be that much of an exaggeration. As many as 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some kind of allergy, whether it’s food, grass, pollen, animal dander, or chemicals in body care or home-cleaning products.
What’s more, some families do seem to corner the market on allergies. When one parent has allergies, a child has a 50% chance of having the same allergy. If both parents have allergies, their child’s chance of suffering from allergies goes up to 75%.
An allergy is the body’s abnormal response of its immune system to an irritant. The response signals the body to make a specific type of antibody called an IGE to bind up the allergen. Long story made short, when this process is complete, histamine, one of the many chemicals made by the body, is released into the bloodstream.
And that’s what causes most of the symptoms of an allergic reaction, most notably itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, skin rashes or hives, and a general feeling of tiredness. (An allergic reaction to food can create a whole host of other symptoms, including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.)
For many grass, pollen, dander or chemical allergies, you may have found an over-the-counter or prescription medication that knocks out the worst or most common symptoms of nasal congestion and drainage. But if you prefer a more natural treatment, there are a number of herbs and products that may offer relief.
Spicy foods: Just eating spicy foods can help to clear the nasal passages by thinning the mucus secretions. Among the spices especially helpful are cayenne pepper, hot ginger, fenugreek, garlic and onions.
Herbs: The herbs turmeric and elderberry, or using MSM (organic sulfur, not to be mistaken for the sulfa drugs) can help dry up the sinus drainage as well as reduce inflammation in the nasal tissue. These come in powdered, liquid or capsule form, so use whatever form is most convenient for you.
Bromelain: An enzyme from pineapple, bromelain is well-tolerated by most people. It is taken on an empty stomach to help “eat away” or reduce inflammation not only in the sinus cavity but throughout the entire body. Do not take with food; if you do, the enzymatic activity will just digest the food rather than attack inflammation!
NAC, n-acteylcysteine: A derivative of the amino acid cysteine, this functions as a precursor of l-glutathione, which is an antioxidant. WHEW! It has been proven to thin mucus secretions in the nasal cavity as well as the lungs.
Homeopathic formulas: One of my favorites this year is Hyland’s Homeopathic Seasonal Allergy Relief formula. It comes in both adult and children’s versions, and addresses both outdoor and indoor allergies. Another great product is by the Redd Remedies Company; it’s called Sinus Support, and also comes in both adult and children’s formulas. This product contains almost everything I have talked about so far, making it a multi-faceted approach to allergies.
Dietary changes: According to Clifford Bassett M.D., New York University allergist, if you are allergic to ragweed and pollen, you should avoid the following foods: melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, chamomile and any supplement that includes the herb Echinacea. All those substances may intensify allergic symptoms.