Spring officially arrives next week!
Here on the west coast, we’re lucky to experience mild winters and we’ve noticed flowers, buds and blooms popping up throughout the West End over the last several weeks. This is a long-awaited time of year for many people, but for others it is the beginning of months of suffering from both the physical effects of seasonal allergies and the high cost of conventional allergy medications.
So, what exactly are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are caused by the response of your immune system to pollen and particulates produced from plants, including grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs. Itchy eyes & ears, a runny nose, and red, watering eyes associated with seasonal allergies are the result of your white blood cells releasing chemicals, known as histamine and leukotrienes, in response to inhaled pollens. Histamine aids the function of your immune system by increasing permeability, or leakiness, of your capillaries to allow your white blood cells to have easier access to fight pathogens in the mucous membranes lining your nose, pharynx and throat. This is helpful when you fight the cold and flu bugs you inhale, but brings about those annoying symptoms of seasonal allergies when your body reacts to harmless inhaled particles.
Many conventional allergy medications, known as anti-histamines, work to reduce these symptoms by blocking the effect of histamine in your body. This provides much needed relief of your allergies, but the results are temporary and require regular dosing of medication to enjoy the outdoors symptom free. And medications carry side effects. As histamine has other functions in your body, these medications can also cause varying, unwanted effects, including: changes in digestion, dizziness, drowsiness or excitability, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness or anxiety, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, vomiting, and muscle weakness.
Why are only some people affected by seasonal allergies?
It boils down to your individual body chemistry and how reactive your immune system is. In general, the immune system of allergy sufferers is more likely to muster an “attack” against inhaled particles, with an over-zealous release of histamine. Many seasonal allergy sufferers have a history of being more reactive and may have a history of childhood asthma or currently suffer from asthma, or experience food allergies and sensitivities. Additionally, adrenal fatigue, due to ongoing stress, poor eating habits, and nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to the development of seasonal allergies.
Steps to decrease your allergy symptoms:
•avoid exposure to allergens -- try to keep doors and windows closed. Keep your bedroom door closed and consider purchasing an air purifier for use in your room so it is a safe haven from allergens while you sleep.
•use a neti pot, or nasal irrigation system, using room-temperature boiled water and salt solution, to help clear and moisten nasal passages
•limit exposure to dust, molds and mildews -- vacuum regularly. Clean the air filters on your furnace and remember to change the vacuum bag before it is full.
•Eat a whole foods diet, rich in brightly coloured vegetables. This will provide bioflavonoids and other potent nutrients required to help keep your immune cells from releasing histamine unnecessarily.
There are many supplements and vitamin formulations that can help. In addition to providing more natural forms of symptomatic relief, your naturopathic doctor can work with you to determine the cause of your allergy symptoms and provide lifestyle, nutritional and supplemental support to treat the underlying cause of your allergies so you can get excited about spring again.
This season, breathe deeply and take charge of your seasonal allergies with the help and support your naturopathic doctor.
Dr Tara Lantz, ND