Nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, post nasal drip… it’s allergy season again! Naturopathic medicine has lots to offer those who suffer this pesky condition. Here are my top five, go to suggestions for hay fever and inhaled allergies.
I have seen this over and over again for allergy sufferers. Even when our main goal has not been allergies; when we work to improve a patient’s digestive health, their allergic symptoms improve. This makes sense, our digestive tracts contain more immune tissue that anywhere else in our body. Imbalance here will impact our immune systems. We are learning more and more about the role that our microbiome (the huge number of helpful bacteria that live within each of us) plays with allergies. Scientists are finding a connection between the type and number of bacteria that live within us and allergies. When we work to create a healthy gut environment, our good bacteria thrive and our allergy symptoms improve.
What I mean when I say food sensitivities, is not true food allergy. Rather, for a variety of reasons, some people don’t work well with certain foods. There could be other immune reasons for this, or it could be that certain people don’t digest certain foods well based on their particular physiology.
There are two reasons why the presence of food sensitivities could make our allergies worse. First: food sensitivities can cause imbalance which can throw off the ecology of the digestive tract and affect those previously mentioned beneficial bacteria. Second: some foods seem to cause congestion for sensitive individuals, thus increasing these symptoms. Examples of foods that I’ve seen contributing to congestion include dairy products and sulfites such as found in packaged foods and wine.
Sublingual Immunotherapy is a treatment we use in our office to help increase tolerance to particular antigens (the substance the person is allergic to). Very small doses of an allergen are given under the tongue daily. Over time this small, daily exposure increases tolerance to that substance and decreases symptoms. This is similar to allergy shots (injections) but many of our patients find it more convenient as it does not require office visits once treatment is established.
This involves rinsing the nasal cavities with a salt and water solution. This can help sooth irritation, clear out mucous and as well as dust, pollen and other particles that could cause allergy. There are a number of devices on the market for doing this, from the traditional “neti pot” to newer devices. My preference is a squeeze bottle that allows the user to control the pressure of the water. This is a great strategy for short term symptom control. Please always follow the instructions of your particular device closely.
Natural medicine has a wealth of herbs and nutrients that can help to manage allergic symptoms. One product that we use in our clinic has been particularly successful. It contains vitamin C (a natural antihistamine!), citrus bioflavenoids, quercetin and bromelain. Stinging nettle is a herb that is well known for it’s ability to act as an antihistamine. Depending on the person, some of these things may need to be taken more frequently than conventional antihistamines. However, they will usually produce few (if any) side effects and what I love most is that beyond their ability to decrease allergic symptoms they are also nourishing and supportive of our overall health. As always, please do consult a qualified health care provider to find the right product for your specific circumstance.