Spring is supposed to be a happy time for people across the world, where snow is a thing of the past and you have plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy yourself. Emphasis on “supposed to be.” For many, this is a double-edged sword, with the sun and fun coming with congestion, runny noses and itchy eyes. Out of the roughly 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies, a large portion of them have to deal with spring allergies. Many people rely on conventional medication to try and handle these issues, but there are several natural options on the table, and one of them could be your allergy solution for this spring.1
What Causes Spring Allergies
Before talking about your options, we should look at what exactly causes spring allergies in the first place. Spring allergies, like all allergies, happen when your immune system is triggered by an allergen. Your body comes into contact with some sort of entity or substance that is otherwise harmless, but for some reason, the body thinks it’s harmful. As a result, the body releases certain substances that are normally reserved for serious immune issues, like parasites or viral invaders.2 We see this manifest as a variety of different symptoms, including:
- Hay fever
- Nasal drip
- Digestive issues/nausea
- Anaphylaxis – the deadliest of all allergic reactions, generally requiring medical intervention to avoid being fatal
In the case of spring or seasonal allergies, the allergen in question is generally pollen or some sort of plant material. When spring comes and certain pollens are released into the air, sufferers start to feel symptoms. For other allergies, like food allergies, you can be okay by watching what you eat. But what do you do when potential allergens are all around you every day for a whole season?
Your Natural Options
For those who don’t want to be reliant on allergy medication, here are some supportive substances to look into.
Natural Antihistamines: One of the major substances releases in an allergic reaction is called histamine, a protein that we associate with many of the traditional allergy symptoms. Many medications try to block the release of histamine, but there are some natural options that have a similar effect. Studies have been done that show positive effects for herbs like stinging nettle. Certain foods also have properties that work against histamine release. These include bromelain in pineapples and quercetin in onions and apples.3,4,5
Local Honey: This doesn’t have the scientific backing that other options do, but it bears mentioning due to its popularity. The idea is that this emulates an allergy shot, in that consuming honey from where you live lets you adapt to allergens in the area. It may be worth a try – if nothing else, you’ll have something tasty to snack on.
Probiotics: We are learning more and more that the immune system has a unique relationship with the gut. It may be a good idea to try probiotic foods like yogurt or kefir to bring balance to the bacteria in your gut.6
Supplements: Allergies are a case of a useful bodily function going awry. In some cases, it pays to focus on supporting the body’s natural functions with supplements as well. A good example is Enzymedica’s Allerase. Allerase combines the enzymes amylase (a starch-digesting enzyme) and Mucolase™ (an enzyme that targets and breaks down excess mucus), to help work against some of the common effects of allergies. It also includes a protease Thera-blend™ to break down proteins, a common component of many irritants.
When the season starts to change, you want to do everything within your power to try and make the transition a smooth one. This means taking advantage of every means at your disposal. Whatever you choose, it’s a good idea to see a doctor or allergist beforehand. Everyone’s allergies are different, so you want to make sure your strategy matches your situation.
1 Schmidt CW. Pollen Overload: Seasonal Allergies in a Changing Climate. Environ Health Perspect. 2016;124(4):A70-5.
2 Sussman G, Sussman D, Sussman A. Intermittent allergic rhinitis. CMAJ. 2010;182(9):935-7.
3 Shaik YB, Castellani ML, Perrella A, et al. Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006;20(3-4):47-52.
4 Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(5):448-54.
5 Guo R, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Herbal medicines for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2007;99(6):483-95.
6 Sayin I, Cingi C, Oghan F, Baykal B, Ulusoy S. Complementary therapies in allergic rhinitis. ISRN Allergy. 2013;2013:938751.