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Natural Treatments for Spring Allergies
It’s that time of year when the snow starts to melt and spring allergy season begins. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected with seasonal allergies.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a benign trigger (allergen). Common springtime allergens include pollens, dust mites, animal dander and moulds.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen, it produces the molecule immunoglobulin E (IgE)1,2. IgE is responsible for the release of histamine that results in inflammation of the mucus membranes and causes allergy symptoms. Common allergy symptoms include: itching, swelling, sneezing, and excessive mucus production of the eyes, ears, nose and throat.
Naturopathic medicine offers many options in the prevention and treatment of seasonal allergies as described below:
Essential Nutrients: Diets deficient in vitamins A, C, D, E and the minerals selenium and zinc have been linked to an increased prevalence in seasonal allergies. Increasing these nutrients through food or supplementation can prevent allergy symptoms by decreasing the inflammatory process of the immune system. Quercetin, found in fruits and vegetables, can be useful in treating allergies because it inhibits the release of histamine.
Probiotics: Probiotics are supplements containing live bacteria found to be beneficial to digestive and immune health. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species are the most common. Probiotic supplementation can be beneficial for decreasing the overactive immune response which causes allergies.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) have strong anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system thus, supplementation may be useful for management of allergies.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): This herb is beneficial for reducing allergic rhinitis due to its decongestant and anti-histamine properties.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis): This herb’s anti-inflammatory actions and ability to dry up mucus are beneficial particularly for allergic eye symptoms which it is named for.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Traditionally known as the ‘King of the Mucous Membranes’ for its ability to treat infections of the sinuses, nose, mouth, throat, digestive and urinary tract. Goldenseal contains the antimicrobial ingredient berberine making it a great herb for combined sinus infection and allergy symptoms.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Licorice decreases inflammation and soothes irritated tissues. Be cautious with licorice because it significantly elevates blood pressure.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): This herb, known for its beneficial effects on the liver, contains anti-inflammatory ingredients proven helpful at alleviating allergic rhinitis.Pineapple (Ananas comosus): Bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory, is extracted from pineapple is available in supplement form usually in combination with quercetin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Homeopathy
TCM and homeopathy are other useful systems of medicine utilized by naturopathic doctors in the treatment of seasonal allergies. Both systems of medicine evaluate a person’s physical, mental and emotional symptoms to determine a pattern of imbalance. Using acupuncture, Chinese herbs and homeopathic remedies, naturopathic doctors restore balance to the immune system.
There are a variety of natural medicine approaches available to prevent and treat seasonal allergies. These can be used alone or in combination with conventional treatments. Always speak to your primary healthcare provider before starting any new treatment to make sure it is right for you.
Ellen Simone, ND practices at Alta Vista Chiropractic & Massage Clinic and Somerset Health and Wellness Centre. Visit: www.drellensimone.com