It's fall allergy season again and this can mean dealing with pretty severe symptoms in sufferers. Treating allergies with nutrition and nutrition supplements can have big advantages over using medications.
Allergy medication most commonly comes in the form of Antihistamines, and there are some big problems with long-term use of these medications. It is now known that prolonged use of antihistamines decreases levels of acetylcholine which is a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and other important functions. In fact, long-term use of antihistamine use increases the risk of senility, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults.
What are Allergies Anyway?
Allergies are abnormal immune reactions to specific agents (proteins) known as antigens/allergens, which include many substances such as foods, drugs, pollens, dust mites, animal danders, feathers, along with many others.
Allergies may also develop when an otherwise innocent substance has significant contact with an already inflamed surface (known as sensitization). For example, when sick with a respiratory illness, respiratory surfaces are already inflamed and substances present at this time may be “remembered” as being foreign. This can also occur with chemical substances known as “haptons” which are combinations of self and non-self which can lead the immune system to attack the self.
Since there are multiple pro-inflammatory substances involved with allergies it is rare to obtain adequate control with single products/medications. The most potent chemical mediators in allergies and asthma are leukotrienes. Some leukotrienes are one thousand times more potent than histamine as stimulators of bronchial constriction and allergy.
Interestingly, many medications that reduce one inflammatory pathway actually boost leukotrienes. For example, Aspirin and other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Ibuprofen) result in the production of excessive levels of leukotrienes in sensitive individuals although they decrease prostaglandins associated with inflammation and thereby relive pain. So long term they can create a much more severe problem.
Asthma is linked to allergies and can be a severe and life threatening condition. Do NOT try to self-treat Asthma – see a physician!
Strategies for Allergies
Try to avoid allergens by using air filters, regularly cleaning all surfaces and vacuuming and keeping your air-conditioning system on while regularly changing filters to filter out as many allergens as possible. Remember your car cabin filter as well, and take showers and wash clothes after being outside for long periods of time.
Change your diet to reduce inflammation. Dramatically reduce your intake of refined carbohydrate – sugar and starch which drive insulin which drives inflammation. At the same time increase your intake of low glycemic, organic fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc. These plant foods contain polyphenols which are potent anti-oxidants and help to reduce inflammation and allergies without side effects.
Increase your intake of Omega 3 Fatty Acids from cold water fish such as Alaskan Wild Salmon and/or take an Omega 3 Supplement such as Krill Oil. Omega 3 fatty acids will always reduce inflammation if taken in sufficient dosages so this should be a primary strategy for allergy sufferers because they produce many side benefits. The only exception is people taking any type of medication to thin blood and reduce clotting like Coumadin. In this case the combination can be dangerous!
Nutritional Supplements for Allergies
There are several highly effective nutrition supplements for allergies including some key herbs.
Local Raw Honey – it MUST be local and must be raw because it will contain small amounts of local pollen and works by getting the body used to pollen much like an allergy shot. A Tablespoon a day is as much as you need. Many people swear by this simple and safe remedy!
Stinging Nettle Extract – this herb has a long history of effective use for allergies and freeze dried preparations seem to work the best and are best taken BEFORE allergy season even begins to put a damper on symptoms before they start – this is true of all nutritional approaches to allergy by the way!
Euphrasia Officianalis – aka “Eyebright” is an herb which name says it all – it is highly effective for eye allergy symptoms.
Quercetin – is a flavonoid contained in high amounts in apples, peppers, red wine, dark cherries and berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and sprouts, and raw red onions. To treat allergies taking supplemental quercetin is the way to go and the best Quercetin Supplements are Quercetin Phytosome supplements. An excellent product is Mercola Quercetin and Pterostilbene which can be purchased on Amazon. Two 250mg capsules a day is a good dose. Quercetin is proven to decrease your chance of contracting a viral illness like the cold or flu by 9 times!
Boswellia Extract – Boswellia aka Frankincense (yes the herb mentioned in the bible!) can be highly effective for allergies and other forms of inflammation including arthritis because it blocks the formation of leukotrienes! To get the benefits you must take 5-loxin which is a specific extract. Note that in some individuals 5-loxin can cause or exacerbate heart burn so it is not for everyone, but when it works it can be highly effective!
Butterbur Extract – this plant extract can be highly effective for inhibiting leukotrienes and allergy symptoms or side effects. You need to take a standardized extract with standardized levels of Petasin and Isopetasin) and free of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids aka PA. High quality brands include Life Extension, Swanson, and Enzymatic Therapy to name a few. This product can also help many migraine sufferers and is a well-researched, proven treatment.
NAC – N-Acetyl Cysteine - helps thin mucus naturally and boost levels of the body’s most important antioxidant Glutathione – every allergy sufferer should be taking 600 – 1,200mg per day!
You will also find combination of these ingredients in particular products, and it is worth experimenting a bit because if you find the right product or combination of natural products you can find relief without sedation and without the side effects associated with antihistamines and more potent drugs like steroid nasal sprays or oral steroids.