An overactive immune system, not pollen, is the real cause of seasonal allergies. Learn natural allergy relief strategies that work on the underlying cause.
Besides the usual sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes, seasonal allergies can leave you with serious brain fog, inability to concentrate and focus, fatigue, irritability, and depression.
It’s during spring and fall that seasonal allergies are most likely to flare up, making these seasons times to be dreaded rather than enjoyed.
In fact, allergies can derail your attempts to improve cognitive and mental health.
Typically, people with allergies seal up the house and try to stay indoors.
But getting physical exercise, particularly exercise outdoors, is a proven brain booster.
Then they try one of the myriad over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl.
Many are forced to go the traditional medical route of prescription medications or allergy shots.
But disturbingly, prescription antihistamines and even Benadryl can cause memory loss and contribute to dementia!
Fortunately, there are more natural ways to cope with annoying seasonal allergies.
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 actually 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 Seasonal 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 Exposure to Allergens
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 reduce your contact with pollen:
Close your windows to prevent pollen from blowing inside your home or car.
If you have air conditioning, use it.
Do 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, wear a face mask.
When you are done, immediately shower, throw all your 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.
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Having hard surfaces — like hardwood floors instead of carpet, and 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 ten times the level of pollutants outside.
Dust, pollen, mold spores, tobacco smoke, and pet dander accumulate if your house is sealed shut.
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Some people then develop allergies all year long!
This is why a good air purifier is a must.
There are many air filters to choose from, but one good air filter is the Honeywell Pure HEPA Air Purifier.
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 of the southwestern US (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 about the current pollen situation is to sign up for pollen tracking updates from Pollen.com.
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 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 by flushing away pollen. (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 that can lead to nosebleeds.
This creates the perfect environment for infections and allows pollen to get directly into your system.
Saline nasal sprays may sting slightly.
Sometimes the preservative in the saline spray may cause irritation.
3. Strengthen Your Immune System
Since allergies are fundamentally an immune system problem, for true and long-lasting relief you need to strenghten your immune system.
You can do that with the right foods and nutrients.
Make good nutrition a part of your lifestyle and you’ll help prevent allergies and other immune-related conditions for next allergy season and for years to come.
These recommendations coincide nicely with nutritional recommendations that boost your brain health as well.
Wheat and Gluten: Bad for Your Brain
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.
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Vitamin D is another brain-essential nutrient that has been found to reduce allergy symptoms and even asthma.
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Wheat allergies don’t manifest only as digestive problems, they contribute to oversensitivity to environmental factors as well.
A 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.
You can read more about the problems caused by wheat and gluten in the bestselling book Wheat Belly.
And of course wheat isn’t the only food allergy that can make seasonal allergies worse.
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Here’s a list of the top allergenic foods known as “The Big 8.”
- tree nuts
You can determine which foods are the most problematic for you with an elimination diet.
It’s not complicated, you simply avoid the food in question for 2 weeks then introduce it back and notice how you feel.
For instructions, you can download University of Wisconsin’s elimination diet patient handout.
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Probiotics provide “friendly” bacteria that reduce allergic reaction to pollen as they heal your gut and improve brain health.
4. 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?
5. Natural Supplements for Seasonal Allergies
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, reports 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.
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The sedative effects of these drugs can leave you feeling drowsy and impair your judgment and ability to drive.
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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 as natural allergy remedies: (5)
- 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 multiple traditional herbs
Unfortunately, no single supplement works for everyone so expect to do some trial and error.
One of my favorite allergy relief discoveries is an apple polyphenol supplement.
This has done more than anything else I’ve tried to reduce my seasonal allergy symptoms. (6)
Seasonal Allergies: The Bottom Line
Pollen gets the blame for seasonal allergies, but the real cause is an overactive immune system.
For a significant improvement in your seasonal allergies, take these steps:
- Avoid pollen as much as possible.
- Avoid the top allergenic and cross-reactive food triggers.
- Boost your immune system with the right diet and supplements.