An overactive immune system, the real cause of seasonal allergies, can lead to brain fog and a lack of focus. Learn natural allergy relief strategies that work.
Besides the usual sneezing, coughing, and itchy and watery eyes, seasonal allergies can leave you with serious brain fog.
This means an inability to concentrate and focus, fatigue, irritability, and even depression.
It’s during spring and fall that seasonal allergies are most likely to flare up, making these otherwise enjoyable seasons times to be dreaded.
Typically, people with allergies seal up the house and try to stay indoors.
Then they try one of the myriad over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines.
Many are forced to go the traditional medical route of prescription medications or allergy shots.
But disturbingly, prescription antihistamines and even OTC remedies can cause memory loss and contribute to dementia.
Fortunately, there are natural and more effective ways to cope with 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.
5 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.
1. Minimize Exposure to Allergens
Minimizing exposure to allergens can definitely help because your immune system will have less to react to.
Here are steps to reduce your contact with pollen:
Keep Windows Closed
Close your windows to prevent pollen from blowing into your home or car.
Use Air Conditioning
If you’ve got central AC, use it.
Air conditioning filters the air.
Get high-quality filters and replace them frequently.
Go Outside Only When Pollen Levels Are Low
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.
During peak allergy season, get someone else to do 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.
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Make Your Bedroom an Allergen-Free Zone
Give yourself eight hours in an allergen-free environment to lighten your allergic load.
Get an air purifier for the bedroom.
Keep your bedroom scrupulously clean.
" 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.
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, minimize your use of toiletries with artificial fragrance, and certainly don’t smoke or let anyone else smoke in the bedroom.
Don’t Seal Your House Too Tight
Closing up your house can cause other problems.
The level of air pollutants in the average home is up to 5 times the level of pollutants outside. (1)
Dust, pollen, mold spores, tobacco smoke, and pet dander accumulate when you seal your house tight.
Some people then develop allergies all year long.
Get a Good Air Purifier
Using one or more good air purifiers is a must.
There are many air purifiers to choose from, but choose a high-quality 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 that their allergies get worse. (We are among them!)
Get Pollen Level Updates
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 types of plants you are allergic to.
Having this information 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 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.
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.
If you are tempted to try a neti pot to rinse your sinuses, be aware that improper use of neti pots can be dangerous and lead to infections, including the deadly Naegleria fowleri, notoriously known as the “brain-eating” amoeba. (2)
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3. Strengthen Your Immune System
Since allergies are fundamentally an immune system problem, you need to strengthen your immune system for long-lasting relief.
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 the next allergy season and for years to come.
Follow these nutritional recommendations to strengthen your immune system:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only the number one nutrient for your brain, but are also great for helping to prevent allergies.
These highly anti-inflammatory compounds are not reliably found in the modern diet except in cold-water oily fish, so supplementation is almost always beneficial.
Vitamin D is another brain-essential nutrient that has been found to reduce allergy symptoms and even asthma.
Vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic levels, making supplementation a must for most of us. (3)
Wheat allergies don’t manifest only as digestive problems, they contribute to oversensitivity to environmental factors as well.
A wheat allergy can cause conditions that you might not expect like nasal congestion, asthma, sore throat, and itchy eyes.
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 by William Davis, MD.
And, of course, wheat isn’t the only food allergy that can make seasonal allergies worse.
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 with an elimination diet.
It’s not complicated — you simply avoid the food in question for two weeks, then re-introduce it slowly into your diet and notice how you feel.
For instructions, you can download University of Wisconsin’s elimination diet patient handout.
Probiotics provide “friendly” bacteria that reduce allergic reaction to pollen as they heal your gut and improve brain health.
So far, research indicates that various strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria provide allergy relief. (4)
These are commonly found in probiotic supplements and in probiotic foods like yogurt.
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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 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. Supplements for Controlling Seasonal Allergies Naturally
If you are already experiencing allergic symptoms, you want relief fast.
But taking antihistamines won’t cure allergies or change the allergic process — they merely block its expression.
William E. Berger, MD, one of the nation’s foremost experts on allergies and asthma, reports that nearly a third of allergy patients don’t find their allergy medications to be effective. (5)
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 memory loss.
Disturbingly, even over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl can greatly increase your risk of dementia. (6)
The sedative effects of these drugs can leave you feeling drowsy.
They can impair your judgment and your ability to drive.
Unprocessed, locally produced honey contains minute amounts of pollen unique to your area and can significantly control allergy symptoms. (7)
Don’t pick up cheap honey from the grocery store since it won’t contain the pollen or the nutrients you need.
There’s an abundance of supplements that act as natural allergy remedies.
Some are proven to work, but for most, there is only anecdotal evidence.
Saint Louis University’s Complementary & Alternative Medicine library suggests the following natural allergy remedies: (8)
- vitamin C
- astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
- butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
- heart-leaved moonseed (Tinospora cordifolia)
- stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Allium cepa
- Arsenicum album
- Nux vomica
Traditional Chinese Remedies
- Biminne (a mix of multiple traditional herbs)
- Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
- ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
- horny goat weed (Epimedium sagittatum)
- magnolia berry (Schisandra chinensis)
Unfortunately, no single supplement works for everyone, so expect to go through some trial and error.
One of my favorite allergy relief discoveries is a little-known supplement called apple polyphenols. (9)
This has done more than anything else I’ve tried to reduce my seasonal allergy symptoms.
Seasonal Allergies: Take the Next Step
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.