Top Five Strategies for Allergy ReliefJulia Woodford May 1, 2014
Best Herbs, Homeopathics, and Lifestyle Changes
As one of Ontario’s harshest winters on record gave way to an exceptionally cold spring, media pundits were predicting a “pollen vortex” for the late spring season. Unseasonably cool temperatures have kept Toronto’s trees dormant for longer than normal, which has delayed their usual release of pollen. But in spite of the late start, spring pollen season could come on very fast and intense as the temperatures heat up and trees awaken.
While health authorities and TV ads tout the latest drugs for temporary relief from allergy symptoms, natural remedies provide a safer and more holistic solution.
What Causes Allergic Reactions
According to a report on CBC, “More than one in six Canadians suffer from hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Depending on what a person is allergic to, allergy season can start in the early spring and last right through to the first killing frost of the autumn. In some parts of the country, you could suffer from March to November.”
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, literally means an inflammation of the nose caused by an over-reaction to certain triggers. With this condition, a person’s immune system tends to over-react to normally benign airborne substances like flower pollen by producing antibodies that signal the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals cause symptoms of allergic rhinitis including sneezing, runny nose, and even coughing.
In most people, an allergy trigger sets their symptoms off at about the same time each year. Spring attacks are usually due to tree pollen, while grass pollens dominate in the summer and weed pollens in the autumn. Most people with allergic rhinitis are sensitive to more than one allergen.
As a kid, my own hayfever would start up in the spring and continue right through the fall. My whole face would swell up as I sneezed and coughed and begged my mother for drugs to give me some relief. At the same time, I had severe eczema on my arms and legs which was treated with cortisone cream.
Later on, my son suffered from the same allergic tendencies. That is, until I got wise to the best ways to prevent allergies before they start, and cure them after they’ve taken hold – namely, get my plumbing humming, flush out the liver, and then strengthen the immune system. I’m now convinced that with these three steps, even the most powerful seasonal allergies can be vanquished once and for all.
Get Your Plumbing Humming
If the large and small intestines are clogged up with old waste matter, which can ultimately leak through the bowel lining and back into the body, an inflammatory process is triggered which puts the immune system on alert. Once the immune system becomes hypervigilant in fighting inflammation, it will start over-reacting to all sorts of perceived threats including airborne allergens.
So job #1 is to cleanse the stomach and bowels and clear inflammation. If we look for the primary cause of bowel inflammation, we find two dominant themes – diet and intestinal bacteria.
Diet – The culprits most likely to cause bowel inflammation are foods that trigger an allergic response. Since everybody is different, these foods will vary from one person to another, but certain foods have a solid track record of provoking allergic reactions in susceptible people.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, “There are eight foods which account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.”
In addition, sugar is a strong precursor to allergic reactions. According to Dr. Marcelle Pick, co-founder of the Women to Women Clinic in Yarmouth, Maine, “Although sugar may not register on a standard allergy test, too much sugar (or carbohydrates with a high glycemic value) does invoke an inflammatory response similar to what the immune system mounts to an allergen.”
So the holistic approach to pollen allergies begins with eliminating dietary allergens. To illustrate how effective this is, here’s a story. One summer I decided to take my son to a music festival at a conservation area near Guelph. On the way, we stopped at a roadside cafe for submarine sandwiches (containing wheat and cheese), along with soda pop. As we later drove into the countryside he started to sneeze loudly, his eyes watered, and his face swelled up. We had slammed into a wall of country pollens.
After realizing that our meal of bread, cheese, and sugar – combined with exposure to airborne pollens – had triggered such severe allergies, we switched over to a plain diet of water, mint tea, and raw organic fruits and vegetables for the rest of the weekend, munching on carrots, celery sticks, and apples inbetween visits to various bandstands. By the end of the day, none of my son’s allergy symptoms had returned. In other words, by simply eliminating three food items that he was allergic to (wheat, dairy, sugar) we were able to enjoy our visit to the countryside with no further upsets, in spite of the pollens flying around in the air. To this day, if he eats wheat and dairy during allergy season, vigorous sneezing and facial swelling follows.
This fits with the research of allergy specialist, Dr. van Hoogenhuize, who maintains that allergic reactions to airborne substances will only erupt if dietary triggers are also present. It seems that a combination of the two is what overwhelms the immune system.
Intestinal bacteria – if the large and small intestines are deficient in friendly bacteria, allergies are far more likely to occur. According to Dr. Zoltan Rona, MD, taking probiotics regularly is very helpful in combating both environmental allergies and food allergies. In regards to dosage: “The safe and effective dosage for most people is 1 to 15 billion viable L. acidophilus, L. casei, or bifido bacteria organisms daily. Combinations of three or more species per capsule work best according to most studies.”
Tools and Strategies for Bowel Cleansing
In addition to eliminating allergenic foods from the diet, there are numerous supplements which work to clear bowel inflammation and tonify the immune system.
• Colonic hydrotherapy involves a complete flushing of the bowel with purified water, and is recommended for those seeking relief from allergies. This therapy can remove old impacted fecal matter, thereby reducing inflammation. It is helpful to follow colonic hydrotherapy with the introduction of probiotics (acidophilus, bifidus) into the diet, to replenish friendly bacteria in the intestine.
• American scientist Dr. Linus Pauling recommended a vitamin C colon detox flush as being useful for the treatment of influenza, bacterial infections, cancer, AIDS, and chemical allergies. Find more details and instructions at: http://www.thedetoxspecialist.com
• Prolax by New Roots Herbal is an herbal formulation which aids in the relief of simple constipation. This is a blend of mild cathartics, namely: Cascara Sagrada, known worldwide as a natural mild laxative that works; Turkish Rhubarb has purgative action useful in constipation, and an astringent effect following this; and Licorice – a mild laxative that helps to counterbalance the discomforting effects that may result from laxative use. It provides a mild boost to the adrenal system that may be stressed in certain debilitating conditions for which laxatives are often suggested. Most importantly, Licorice root protects and heals distressed mucous membranes of the intestinal tract.
• There is evidence that vitamin D plays a role in both allergies and asthma. According to Dr. Zoltan Rona’s book, Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin: “A recent study involving 600 children with asthma showed that the severity of the disease was inversely correlated with the blood levels of vitamin D. In other words, the lower the vitamin D blood level, the worse the asthma. In addition, the lower the vitamin D, the worse the allergies, the higher the levels of immunoglobulin (IgE) and eosoniphils (two markers for allergy severity), and the higher the likelihood of hospitalization for asthma.
Flush Out and Strengthen the Liver
Not only do allergenic foods congest the bowels, they also put tremendous stress on the liver – especially high fat foods such as butter, ice cream, margarine, and rancid oils. (The best oils are cold pressed flax, hemp, olive, and coconut oil.) Since the liver also has to deal with incoming toxins from air pollution, drugs, and virtually all of the contaminants we are exposed to on a daily basis, cleansing and tonifying this organ has a positive influence on the whole body. This is especially helpful in reducing allergy attacks.
• Numerous herbs can be used to clear and strengthen the liver. Bitter herbs such as dandelion can be eaten raw in salads or steamed and added to any dish. Burdock root and turmeric can be cooked in stews (or take AOR’s CureCumin in capsule form), and superfood powders can be taken with juice in the morning on an empty stomach. And a glass of water with fresh lemon squeezed in is a great liver cleanser.
• One of the most powerful liver protecting herbs is milk thistle, which can reduce congestion and prevent toxins from penetrating deep into liver cells. Taking milk thistle capsules or extract is a great way to start tonifying and rejuvenating the overworked liver.
• Acupuncture, bodywork, and foot reflexology are also effective strategies for cleansing and tonifying the liver.
• In addition to the bowels and liver, another major organ of detoxification is the skin. By inducing sweating, many toxins can be eliminated through the skin, which in turn lightens the load on the other organs of elimination. Two good ways to induce a healthy sweat are the infrared sauna and vigorous exercise. Doing an hour in an infrared sauna at least once a week will help to remove a wide range of heavy metals and chemical pollutants from the tissues. Alternatively, a vigorous 10-minute session on a rebounder, three times a week, will also flush out toxins from the lymphatics, blood, and skin.
More Allies for Clearing up Allergies
If the immune system is on high alert due to incoming assaults from food, air, and water, then it is more likely to over-react to benign things like flower pollen. By flushing toxic residues from the body and clearing out inflammation, you are already on your way to reducing or eliminating allergic symptoms. To take it a step further, there are strategies and supplements which augment this process.
- Get more sleep. Exhausted adrenals can aggravate allergy symptoms. Develop a set of strategies that help you fall asleep easily and get at least seven hours’ worth. Taking a walk or doing yoga before bed, along with turning down the thermostat to keep the bedroom cool, can calm the mind and allow the nervous system to downshift into a relaxed state. St. Johnswort and Skullcap are both herbal nervous system relaxants that can aid this process; a few drops of tincture in a glass of water before bed are recommended.
- Drink more water. This will help to hydrate and cleanse the tissues, which reduces the “toxic heat” that brings on allergy symptoms.
- Eat allergy-fighting foods. In clinical studies, onions and garlic have shown an ability to reduce inflammatory reactions; they both contain quercetin (a powerful anti-inflammatory). You can also obtain quercetin in supplement form (try AOR or New Roots Herbal brands). It works by inhibiting the release of histamine and other inflammatory agents within the body and, unlike conventional chemical antihistamines, quercetin will not cause unpleasant side effects. Take 400 mg, 20 minutes before each meal, combined with digestive enzymes to increase absorption.
- A. Vogel Allergy Relief (formerly Pollinosan) is a homeopathic medicine used for the treatment of symptoms associated with hay fever such as sneezing, itchy nose, scratching throat, burning eyes, lacrimationa. It is available in 3 formats; the 50ml tincture, 120 tabs, and 20ml nasal spray.
- Black Cumin Seed Oil by New Roots Herbal is sourced from the flowering plant Nigella sativa. The fatty-acid profile features linoleic and oleic fatty acids that strengthen and balance immune response. It fortifies cell membranes to effectively resist the histamine response that causes allergic symptoms.
- One of my favourite Ayurvedic remedies for turning off symptoms fast is Andrographis. The tincture is very bitter tasting, but a few drops in a glass of water can alleviate symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis as quickly as medication.
(Editor’s note: All of the aforementioned herbs, vitamins, and homeopathics are available at health food stores across Ontario. These stores also carry alternatives to the most common allergenic foods.)