Fight Fall Allergies from the Inside Out
Are you excited for fall? Many people love the vibrant colors of this beautiful season. It’s a time to get out our cozy sweaters, enjoy the crisp fall air, and for some people, sneeze a lot. Yes, unfortunately, many people experience watery eyes, sinus pain and other allergy symptoms when fall arrives. This annoying phenomenon can occur even if you made it through spring without sneezing.
That’s because even though the symptoms of fall and spring allergies are the same, the triggers are different. So it’s definitely possible to enjoy one season allergy-free but suffer through another. And because there are more culprits to blame for fall allergies, many people experience the adverse effects.
The good news is that fall allergies can be avoided, In fact, new research in immunotherapy and nutrition has made it easier than ever to get through autumn sneeze-free.
THE SYMPTOMS OF FALL ALLERGIES
We tend to hear more about spring allergies, but fall allergies can be just as unpleasant. Symptoms often include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Sinus pain or pressure
- Increased asthma symptoms
These symptoms can appear when you’re exposed to an airborne allergy trigger. Common sense would suggest that the best solution may be to avoid the trigger but, of course, this isn’t always possible.
Because allergies are often due to weaknesses in the adrenal, immune, or the digestive system, sometimes a more lasting – and practical – approach is to treat allergies from the inside out, by getting to the root cause within your body.
FALL ALLERGY TRIGGERS
The environment goes through seasonal cycles, and observing those changes is one of the pleasures of the great outdoors. Who doesn’t love to see the leaves turn to bright colors every fall?
However as a seasonal allergy sufferer, changing seasons can often mean the start of unpleasant symptoms. As a result, just when you thought you had things under control, the natural cycle of our environment creeps up to create a whole new set of sensitivities and reactions.
Some of the allergy challenges specific to fall include:
- Airborne pollens are more plentiful, especially on windy days when they are blown off blooms and into the atmosphere.
- Mould spores love the fallen leaves and damp grass of this time of the year.
- Cooler temperatures prompt us to close windows and seal up our homes, so allergens are trapped inside.
- When we bring out our cold-weather clothes and comforters, we can stir up dust – and with it, dust mites.
- People tend to think that pollution is worse in the summer. However, the cooler days of fall and winter can create an inversion in which pollution from heating systems, vehicle exhaust, and industrial pollution get trapped under the warmer layer of air.
- Your pets may also be exacerbating your allergies. As your pets’ coats shed and thicken in preparation for the winter months, dander and fur become a greater presence in your home.
4 NATURAL WAYS TO CONTROL FALL ALLERGIES
Instead of moving to the southern hemisphere every fall, you can gain control of fall allergies by working with your body’s immune system and adapting your environment.
1. HEPA FILTER
No matter how careful you are with keeping outside pollution from getting into your home, allergens can still get into your home. After all, you have to open the door many times a day, so they can easily enter uninvited. Using an air purifier with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter can significantly reduce airborne allergens like dust, dust mites, pollen, mould spores, and pet dander. HEPA filters trap these allergens and lock them away. If you’re particularly sensitive to allergens, it could also be helpful to use a vacuum cleaner that also has a HEPA filter so that you can allergen-proof your home even more.
2. NASAL IRRIGATION
Flushing the nose and sinus with saline solution twice a day goes a long way in ensuring that congestion-causing allergens like pollen, spores, dust and dander are expelled before they can settle in and cause the symptoms that make it hard to enjoy the change of seasons.
Since your eyes, nose, and throat are connected, nasal irrigation or using a Neti Pot is a great way to naturally remove allergens. If you choose to make your own saline solution it’s important to make sure the water you use is distilled or purified so no microorganisms are present.
3. ELIMINATION DIET
If your allergies are unbearable and the above solutions fail to provide relief, it might be time to try an elimination diet, temporarily removing common inflammatory foods to provide your gut the opportunity to heal. Optimal gut health can give your body the strength to better deal with allergens.
Sensitivity to airborne allergens and sensitivity to certain foods may be related. At the very least, when the body is already on high alert coping with one form of sensitivity, it can be more reactive overall, making it harder to fight off multiple allergens. The result is often a worsening of any already-present allergy symptoms.
Elimination diets can be challenging and are best implemented under the care of your integrative health team. Speak to your practitioner about whether an elimination diet could help you better manage your allergy symptoms this season.
4. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Often allergies are the result of weakness or exhaustion in the adrenal, immune, or digestive system. There are a number of nutritional supplements that are known to support and strengthen each of these systems. That means you’ll be better prepared to deal with allergens when they appear.
● Bioflavonoids and Vitamin C
While onions make our eyes tear up, they also contain the bioflavonoid quercetin – a natural antihistamine – that can treat allergy-related itchy, watery eyes! Quercetin also has antiviral properties and can help reduce other symptoms including asthma, hay fever, and even cold sores. Onions aren’t the only source of quercetin; apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage & cauliflower, and black tea are all good sources.
Bioflavonoids work best when taken with Vitamin C. That’s because they work together to amplify their effects, keeping the immune system strong and prevent the formation of histamine (rather than interfering with the histamine the body produces like over-the-counter antihistamines do).
● Probiotics (such as lactobacillus acidophilus)
When you take care of the good bacteria in your gut, your digestive system and your immunity can benefit. And a strong digestive system can combat allergies by keeping inflammation at bay. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, pickles, and miso soup.
● Local honey
The allergens you’re exposed to in the fall will reflect the pollens that are circulating in the air where you live. Honey produced in your area can contain these same pollens (thanks to local bees). Some studies have found that consuming this honey can reduce allergy reactions, possibly because you build up immunity to the allergy-triggering pollen.
● Fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids offer an effective defense against inflammation. Because inflammation plays a big role in allergy symptoms, fish oil, which is rich in omega-3, can help reduce those annoying autumn allergy symptoms.
● Vitamin D
Some research suggests that having low levels of Vitamin D in your body can make you more susceptible to allergies. So it may not be a coincidence that as the number of people deficient in Vitamin D has gone up, so has the number of people developing allergies.
You may know that zinc lozenges are great for the scratchy throat that can accompany a cold, but did you know that getting enough zinc can help reduce your allergy symptoms, too? Zinc plays an important role in how histamine is kept in check. A deficiency means that more histamine can be released throughout the body, increasing your sensitivity to allergens.
IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR ALLERGIES
This cutting edge allergy-reduction strategy centres around exposing patients to small amounts of an allergen from their environment and gradually building up their immunity. At first glance, immunotherapy may seem counter-intuitive. Why would you willingly expose yourself to the cause of your symptoms? However, when done carefully, your body can become less sensitive to allergens and build up its natural immunity.
Many people experience lasting relief from symptoms over the course of treatment (Which can often last a few months – this is a gradual, but effective, approach.) Of course, immunotherapy should only be done under close supervision from an experienced healthcare provider.
Natural treatments for seasonal allergies often take longer to take effect than typical medications. So it’s wise to begin natural treatments one or two months before the season starts to help prepare your body ahead of when allergens are at their most severe.
Not sure you can wait that long for relief? Try pairing nasal irrigation or HEPA filter air purifiers with your nutritional supplement of choice for speedier results.
Just remember: good health begins in the gut and we recommend starting with ensuring your gut is balanced. If you’d like to get tested to see what imbalances you may have, what foods and allergens you may be sensitive to, and get a clear picture of what’s going on so you can reduce the risk of bad allergies, give us a call we can help!
Holistic Integrative Wellness Centre
Cynthia Williams FNP-BC, L.Ac, CFMP