How to manage Seasonal Allergies

Have you been suffering from seasonal allergies this fall?

If you’re one of the millions of Canadians who suffer from seasonal allergies each year, you’ll know that untreated symptoms can wreak havoc on your wellbeing.  Although allergies can’t be cured, there are ways to manage your symptoms. More than one in six Canadians struggle with moderate to severe allergies each year.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • 4 risks of untreated allergies
  • What to eat when allergy symptoms attack
  • Natural remedies for severe symptoms
  • How to avoid allergens and other triggers

Overview: What are seasonal allergies?

Allergies develop when your immune system mistakenly identifies a substance as harmful.
When your body sees these ‘dangers’ (pollen, mold, food, pet danders) it releases antibodies to attack these allergens which leads to the release of histamines into the blood.

Histamines trigger a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, headaches, fatigue – symptoms you may notice as the seasons change.  Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early, triggering some people’s immune response during this time of year.

4 Risks of Untreated Allergies

Your immune system is working overtime to fight allergens, like pollen. If untreated, your immune system wears down and the allergy has more power to ramp up symptoms to an even higher level.

When this happens, it can affect your daily life:

  • Chronic sleep issues. Dealing with issues such as chronic stuffy nasal congestion can lead to poor quality sleep, insomnia, or, in the worst-case scenario, sleep apnea, a chronic disease in which oxygen levels decrease during sleep to the point where your heart and your brain don’t get enough air to function properly.
  • Infections and inflammation. Uncontrolled symptoms can eventually wear down the immune system and lead to more serious inflammatory problems such as eczema, sinusitis, asthma, ear infections, chronic migraines, and headaches.
  • Decreased brain function. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re debilitated by allergy symptoms that inhibit cognitive skills. Chronic fatigue, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating and staying productive can affect work and school performance, and may even be dangerous for people driving or working in hazardous occupations.
  • Mood disorders. Ongoing symptoms resulting in a lack of sleep or causing a person to not feel well may also trigger irritability and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression — all of which can negatively affect your day-to-day functioning, your social life, your relationships, and your overall health.

How can I tell if my child has allergies or just a common cold?

Cold symptoms will last 7-10 days
Unfortunately, allergy symptoms continue for as long as the body is exposed to the allergen.

Can stress cause your allergies?

Although stress doesn’t cause allergies, your body will release hormones and other chemicals including HISTAMINES, which can make your reaction worse.

The problem with conventional allergy treatments

The standard medical treatments for seasonal allergies are steroid nasal sprays to cool inflammation in the nasal cavity, antihistamines to reduce sneezing and itching, and decongestants to dry up mucous. Unfortunately, none of these therapies targets the “root cause” of the immune system glitch, but rather suppresses its expression (i.e., the symptoms).

Therefore, these can be effective treatments in the short-term – so you can get through your day, power through meetings and deadlines, or make it through your CrossFit workout or 5k run. However, in the long run, they’re not the answer.

Seasonal allergies and Inflammation

Allergies involve quite a bit of inflammation. All those puffy eyes, swollen throats, and skin rashes – that’s inflammation at work. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help make the symptoms more manageable (at least you won’t be piling inflammation on top of pre-existing inflammation), and can also help address the more fundamental problem by toning down your immune response so it isn’t on high alert all the time.

There’s some evidence that anti-inflammatory foods can help with allergies: for example, this study found that higher levels of the Omega-3 fat EPA in cell membranes were associated with lower allergic sensitization in adults. That points to the possibility that an anti-inflammatory diet overall might reduce symptoms or make allergies harder to trigger.

What to eat:

  • Wild Alaskan Salmon – Wild Alaskan salmon roe along with other healthy, sustainable fish choicesResearch has shown that regular fish consumption before age 1 appears to be associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease and sensitization to food and inhalant allergens during the first few years of life.
  • Liver – Make sure your liver is organic and from grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chickens.
  • Fermented Vegetables and/or Probiotics – Including naturally fermented foods and/or supplemental high quality probiotics have been directly correlated with decreased levels of antibodies that may trigger your seasonal allergy symptoms. These foods further provide higher levels of a different antibody (IgG), thought to play a protective role against allergic reactions. To restore gut health, and prevent leaky gut from occurring, eating traditionally fermented foods is essential.
  • Quercitin (containing Flavonoids) – This includes foods such as apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, capers and black tea, which prevent histamine release and are thus natural ‘anti-histamines’
  • Healthy Fats – Butter and raw cream (if you consume dairy) from grass-fed cows and lard and tallow from pastured livestock are reach in healing rich in vitamin D. Remember that fats, especially animal fats, should be organic.
  • Local, Unpasteurized, Raw Honey – There is anecdotal suggestion that eating local honey may provide a natural protection against pollen. This is not recommended for babies under one year of age. It also needs reminding that for everyone, honey is still a form of sugar and should be consumed occasionally, in small amounts.
  • Hot Peppers – Hot chili peppers, horseradish, and hot mustards work as natural decongestants and can be used in your arsenal for some rapid, effective, natural symptoms relief.
  • Raw Dairy – Research has found raw, whole (full fat) milk to be anti-allergenic in children. Although not strictly Paleo, many do find benefit from including grass-fed, raw dairy into their diets.

Avoid Histamine-containing foods

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages, especially wine, champagne, and beer
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yoghurt, kombucha, etc
  • Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, mayonnaise, olives
  • Cured meats: bacon, salami, pepperoni, luncheon meats and hot dogs
  • Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, sourdough bread, etc
  • Dried fruit: apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Aged cheeses including goat cheese
  • Nuts like: Walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
  • Avocados, Eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes
  • All smoked fish and unsmoked mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines

How to Avoid Allergy Triggers

The best way to manage allergies is to reduce your exposure to triggers.

  • Hiring someone to mow the lawn or do the gardening
  • Closing your windows during the early mornings (8-10am) when pollen is at it’s highest
  • Staying indoors on windy days
  • Investing in an air purifier
  • Letting your children play in the dirt – The hygiene hypothesis proposes that along with all the use of antimicrobial substances to support infection control, we have become too sterile.  Children are not exposed to enough particles and bacteria to fully develop their immune systems and appropriate immune responses resulting in, along with other things, an increase in seasonal allergies.
  • Understanding your timing. Ragweed season usually ends with the first frost in October. In colder states, mold tends to be worst in the fall.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots are injections you receive at regular intervals over a period of approximately three to five years to stop or reduce allergy attacks. Allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy.

Each allergy shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances that trigger your allergic reactions. These are called allergens. Allergy shots contain just enough allergens to stimulate your immune system — but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.

Over time, your doctor increases the dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots. This helps get your body used to the allergens (desensitization). Your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergens, causing your allergy symptoms to diminish over time.

Share your allergy treatments in the comments below and stay well!

The Live Well Centre Team