Spring is a magical time of year, when plants come back to life and begin to reproduce. But sadly, releasing pollen into the air is a big part of that reproduction.
Every year as we move into spring, plants and trees naturally throw pollen. But this year, due to the prolonged winter and delayed spring, we have been bombarded with an unusually high concentration of it as all the trees and plants have released pollen at the same time.
The Pollen Tsunami and Allergies
Even on a normal year, millions of North Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, but this year has been especially bad. Allergy experts are calling it a “pollen tsunami.”
The tsunami has made the typical symptoms of itchiness, watery eyes, puffy or swollen eyelids, sneezing, runny nose, and sinus congestion even worse.
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system becomes over-reactive to pollen, creating IgE antibodies to fight it. This triggers the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals.
While nasal decongestants and antihistamines are commonly used, there are actually a lot of natural ways to improve your allergy symptoms. You can add them to your existing medication, or even try them in place of it.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eating wild fatty fish or taking good quality fish oil supplements help to decrease the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in your cell membranes. This in turn decreases the production of inflammatory chemicals.
While this solution is not immediate, it is a great preventative measure to help decrease the severity of allergic reactions.
Studies have found that there is an inverse relationship between vitamin C levels and histamine in your blood. As levels of vitamin C drop, histamine levels tend to rise.
As a result, taking vitamin C supplements has been shown to reduce high histamine levels. Eating more citrus fruits is also a good option because they contain bioflavonoids, which can further help decrease the release of histamine, therefore lessening the allergic response.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in citrus fruits, onions, apples and buckwheat. Studies have shown that quercetin helps prevent the release of pre-formed histamine from mast cells.
It works best when used preventatively before allergen exposure, and can be taken throughout the allergy season.
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapples that has strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it a useful addition to help decrease inflammatory reactions.
Bromelain, in addition to Vitamin C, also helps increase the absorption of quercetin and is therefore useful when taken with quercetin.
Stinging Nettle (Uritica Dioica)
This herb has long been used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
It naturally contains histamine, and its anti-allergic properties have been attributed to a negative feedback loop to decrease the production of histamine in the body. It also inhibits chemicals in the pro-inflammatory pathways, such as COX-1, COX-2 and prostaglandins.
Nettle can be taken as a supplement, or even enjoyed as a tea.
Riding the Wave
The best way to not drown in this year’s pollen tsunami is to eat the foods that can help your body limit it’s allergic response. Eat plenty of fatty fish, citrus fruits, pineapple, and maybe try giving Nettle tea a try.
1) Pollen Tsunami causing misery in the Northeast. NBCNews. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pollen-tsunami-causing-misery-n354931
2) Pizzorno J, Murray, M. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Ed. Churchill Livingstone. 2012. Chapter 29: 268-274.
3) Clemetson CA. Histmain and ascorbic acid in human blood. J. Nutr. – April 1, 1980; 110 (4); 662-8
4) Natural Medicines Database. Allergies Monograph. www.natural medicines.com
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