Allergy Relief for Spring
Runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, stuffy head….sound familiar??? Well, you are not alone as more than 2 million Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies each year. The term allergy comes from two greek works meaning “altered reactivity”. This means that an allergy is an adverse response to a substance felt by some people but not all people. The problem in studying allergies is that the same substance can cause different reactions in different
people and yet no reaction in the majority of people. For example, pollen causes some people to have itchy eyes and some to have headaches, however most people have no reaction.
In 1926, European and American Allergists decided to limit the definition of allergy to immunological types of reactions only. This was reinforced in 1967 with the discovery of IgE, the first recognized antibody involved in immune type reactions. The problem is that many times food sensitivities will not produce an IgE reaction even though they produce multiple symptoms in the body. These symptoms could include bloating, gas, irritability, headache, dark circles under the eyes, puffy eyes or skin rashes to name a few.
In an allergic response, the allergen comes in and is recognized as foreign in the body. The IgE then binds to the antigen and causes the release of something called histamine. This discovery then spun into the creation of antihistamines, which work by interfering with various chemical reactions that normally occur in the body. These drugs relieve symptoms by preventing histamine from being released from certain cells in the body. The problem is that whenever you block a naturally occurring process, it does not come without side effects. The most common side effects that occur with antihistamines include drowsiness, and dry mouth, nose and throat. The less common side effects can include blurred vision, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety and headache. However getting well from an allergy is more than controlling and relieving the symptoms, it is about figuring out why the body is having this "adverse reaction".
While it is true that allergies have a huge hereditary component, many times things like poor digestive function, food allergies, stress and frequent illness can exacerbate
allergic symptoms. By addressing these concerns you can help to minimize the effects that seasonal allergies have on your system. Naturopaths look at the body from a holistic point of view, meaning that each system and organ is related and contributes to your health or disease picture. Therefore, there is no way that your allergies will improve if your whole system is not being addressed.
Herbs to Fight Allergies
In addition to addressing underlying imbalances, there are many natural substances that can help control your allergy symptoms this summer. It has been found that
fenugreek can thin mucous secretions, and is now a popular addition to allergy formulas.
Beta carotene is involved in strengthening the mucus membranes that are constantly
being irritated by allergens. The aerial parts of eyebright are both astringent and anti-inflammatory, and decrease the hypersensitive response of the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat, and ears.
The bitter, yellow root of goldenseal has antibiotic properties and is useful in preventing secondary infection in hay fever, sinusitis, or chest congestion. It is also anti-inflammatory to the mucous membranes, and helps reduce and soothe swollen, irritated tissues.
Stinging nettles are a popular addition to allergy formulas as they help stabilize the mast cells that line the mucous membranes, and they literally burst to release histamines
when encountering an allergen. This makes nettle an excellent stabilizing herb to use for prevention or to reduce symptoms in any allergic response, including hay fever, sinusitis, and asthma.
Finally, Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are also mast cell stabilizers, and rosehips will enhance and protect the action of vitamin C.
In addition to taking things internally, saline nose rinses can be very effective in reducing allergy symptoms. Salt water rinses will flush your nasal cavity and help to thin mucus and get rid of allergenic irritants.
Saline nose rinses can be purchased from your local health food store or pharmacy, and the ratio of salt to water should be about 1/8 tsp of salt to 1 cup of warm water. Another method is to use a suction bulb or put some of the warm salt water in the cup of your hand to sniff it up one nostril at a time.
Living Free from Allergies
Many people will tell you that it is not possible to cure allergies, however hundreds of people have recovered from allergies and now lead an allergy free life.
I will leave you with this quote from Dr. William Philpott, "We must always keep in mind that the greatest enemy of science, or any discovery of truth, is a closed mind. Accordingly, we should continue to seek the courage to ask impertinent questions which shake out complacency and challenge our minds to look deeper into the great mystery of the human body."
All of the herbs mentioned above are found in Sangster’s ALRG+
Written by: Dr. Robin Walsh, BA Sc. Nutrition,
ND earned her BA in Nutrition at
the University of Guelph and her
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
(ND) degree at the Canadian
College of Naturopathic Medicine.
She currently practices in Waterloo
and her website is