More people consider spring their favorite season over any other. But for millions, the accompanying sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and brain fog of seasonal allergies make spring a time to be dreaded rather than enjoyed.
Besides the usual sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes, inhalant allergies can leave you with serious brain fog, inability to concentrate and focus, fatigue, irritability, and depression. In fact, seasonal allergies can derail your attempts to restore your brain’s health.
Typically, people with allergies seal up the house and try to stay indoors. Then they try one of the myriad over-the-counter antihistamines.
Many are under their doctor’s care taking prescription medications or getting allergy shots. These can definitely take the joy out of this beautiful season.
But there are much better ways to cope with this annoying problem.
The Real Cause of Seasonal Allergies
Most people blame pollen or mold spores for their seasonal allergies, but these aren’t the real cause at all!
Allergy symptoms are caused by an overactive immune system. Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies that protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection.
When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies in response to exposure to things like pollen, dust, or pet dander that it perceives as harmful, even though they aren’t.
It’s not the exposure to allergens that are the root cause of your allergies, it’s your body’s overreaction that causes the cascade of allergic symptoms.
Natural Allergy Relief Strategies
Here are five ways to tackle your seasonal allergies without drugs or medications. Take these steps to keep your allergies under control this season and prevent attacks in the future. You may possibly get permanent relief!
1. Minimize Allergen Exposure
Minimizing exposure to allergens certainly makes sense and can definitely help since your immune system will have less to react to. Here are steps to take to reduce your contact with pollen:
- Close your windows to prevent pollen from blowing inside in home. Keep your car windows up and use the AC when driving.
- Do outside activities like light gardening, walking, and other forms of outdoor exercise or chores when pollen levels are relatively low. Trees and weeds typically release pollen in the morning, while grasses release pollen both morning and night. Get someone else to reduce your heavy gardening chores like grass cutting, weed whacking, and leaf blowing. If you must do these activities, when you are done you should immediately take a shower, throw all clothes in the laundry, and wipe down your shoes.
- Make your bedroom an allergen-free zone. Giving your body eight hours in an allergen-free environment can definitely lighten your allergic load. Get an air purifier just for the bedroom. Keep your bedroom scrupulously clean. Having hard surfaces — like hardwood floors instead of carpet, and vinyl blinds instead of curtains — can make this job easier. Avoid sleeping with pets who bring in pollen and distribute their dander in your bed. Don’t use air fresheners, and certainly don’t smoke or let anyone else smoke in the bedroom.
Closing up your house can cause other problems. The level of air pollutants in the average home is 10x the level of pollutants outside.
Dust, pollen, mold spores, tobacco smoke, and pet dander accumulate if your house is sealed shut. Some people then develop allergies all year long!
This is why a good air purifier is a must. There are many air filters you can choose from, but we recommend the Honeywell Pure HEPA Air Purifier. This HEPA plus carbon filtration system covers all your bases at a very affordable price. It’s highly rated by over 600 happy customers on Amazon.
If you’ve ever considered moving to the desert to avoid allergies – DON’T! There are 2,800+ species of native flowering plants in the desert southwest (more than in an Eastern US forest) plus innumerable non-native landscape plants. Many people find their allergies get worse!
A free and easy way to learn what kind of allergens are out there is to sign up for pollen tracking updates from Pollen.com. Enter your zip code to receive email alerts of high pollen counts in your area. This can help you figure out the general types of plants you are allergic to.
Having this heads-up can be a big help in knowing when it’s time to start taking precautions. In general, year-round allergens are dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander. Spring pollen usually comes from trees. Early summer pollen comes from grasses and late summer pollen is usually from ragweed.
2. Use a Saline Spray
One weird way to minimize allergic response is to keep the inside of your nose clean using a saline nasal spray. Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion and they won’t lead to the rebound congestion that can follow from the use of nasal decongestants.
When your nasal passages are dry, mild nasal crusting may occur, and bacterial infections can develop under these crusts. Saline sprays clean the nasal passages of crusts and mucus and also help the natural cleaning system of your nasal passages flushing away pollen in the process.(1)
Ironically, taking antihistamines dries out your nasal passages and when the inside of your nose gets very dry, it can crack and develop microfissures which can lead to nosebleeds. This creates the perfect environment for infections and to allow pollen to get directly into your system.
Saline nasal sprays may sting slightly. Sometimes the preservative in the saline spray may cause irritation. If this happens, try Simply Saline, a preservative-free saline spray, or Little Noses which is designed for kids, but works great for my not-so-little nose.
3. Boost Your Immune System
Since allergies are fundamentally an immune system problem, for true and long-lasting relief you need to boost your immune system. You can do that with the right foods and nutrients.
Make good nutrition a part of your lifestyle and you’ll prevent allergies and other immune-related conditions for next allergy season and for years to come. You’ll also notice that these recommendations coincide nicely with nutritional recommendations that boost your brain health as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only the number one nutrient for your brain, but are also great for preventing allergies. This highly anti-inflammatory compound is not reliably found in the modern diet except in grass-fed meat and wild-caught salmon, so supplementation is a must.
Vitamin D is another brain-essential nutrient that has been found to reduce allergy symptoms and even asthma.
Wheat allergies don’t manifest only as digestive problems, they contribute to oversensitivity to environmental factors as well. Wheat allergy can cause things you might not expect like nasal congestion, asthma, sore throat, and itchy eyes. (2) Wheat contains gluten, a protein that triggers an autoimmune response, thereby causing inflammation.
Don’t forget that when you eat wheat you are eating grass seeds! Many people report a dramatic reduction in hay fever or allergy symptoms when cutting back on grains, especially wheat.
Probiotics provide “friendly” bacteria that reduce allergic reaction to pollen as they heal your gut and improve brain health.
4. Manage Symptoms Without Drugs
If you are already experiencing allergic symptoms, you want relief fast. But taking antihistamines doesn’t cure allergies or change the allergic process — they merely block its expression.
Dr. William E. Berger, one of the nation’s foremost experts on allergies and asthma, reported that nearly a third of allergy patients don’t think their medications work. (3) Plus, pharmaceutical remedies frequently come with unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness and nasal irritation.
Antihistamines are also one of the groups of drugs known for causing brain fog and temporary memory loss. The sedative effects of these drugs can leave you feeling drowsy and impair your judgement and ability to drive.
Here are some natural remedies that have been shown to work without these undesirable side effects.
Unprocessed, local honey contains minute amounts of pollen unique to your area and can significantly control allergy symptoms. (4) But don’t pick up cheap honey from the grocery store since it won’t contain the pollen or the nutrients you need.
There are a ton of natural allergy remedies — some are proven to work but most have anecdotal evidence only. The University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine suggests the following for natural allergy remedies:
- Nutrients: quercetin, spirulina, and vitamin C
- Herbal remedies: butterbur, stinging nettle, and astragalus
- Homeopathic remedies: Nux vomica, Arsenicum album, Allium cepa, and Euphrasia
- Chinese medicine: Biminne, a mix of 7 traditional herbs
Native Remedies is one of our favorite nutritional companies. I use their Histamine Helper Combo Pack. It contains two of their most potent allergy remedies which contain several of the nutrients, herbs, and homeopathic remedies recommended above. They’ve got a new product line this year of AllergyEase regional remedies. Each uniquely addresses allergens common to different regions of the US. I’m currently using their Southwestern formula and so far so good!
5. Avoid Cross-Reactivity
Another way to minimize allergy symptoms is to be aware of cross-reactivity between plant proteins from pollen and commonly-eaten fruits or vegetables. The theory is that your immune system recognizes similarities between different allergens and will react against similar allergens.
For example, there is a significant amount of cross-reactivity among shellfish. So someone who is allergic to shrimp is very likely to also be allergic to crab.
The chart below shows some of the most common potential reactions, some of which are pretty surprising! Who’d think that if you are allergic to ragweed, you should avoid bananas?
Chart courtesy of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
If you take precautions to minimize allergen exposure while building your immune system with the proper nutrition, you should find that your allergies subside. You may still need to use some natural remedies this season, but as your immune system improves, you should find your allergies largely reduced or even gone by the time next allergy season rolls around.