It's easy to think of allergies as an inflammatory event since many of us experience itchy eyes, runny noses, fatigue, headaches, and eczema. These symptoms are the body's way of letting us know it's stressed. Like many issues, it's often easier to prevent them than it is to fix them once they've developed and gotten worse. Unfortunately, for spring allergens, the trees start waking up long before we even recognize it, and pollen counts can increase as early as February (even January if it's a warm winter!). However, it's often the grasses that really light us up, and that starts in March and goes through the end of June (remember, these times can be shifted if it's particularly warm or cold in the winter). If we can prevent the body from reacting, we'll all be a lot happier! There are a ton of remedies to try, ranging from natural to pharmaceutical. It's important to note that the more stressed a body is (not your perception of stress, but the body's experience of stress), the worse the symptoms will be. So before we even discuss "remedies," we need to discuss lifestyle and actions that can minimize how likely it is that we react.
Stress reduction: It's difficult to overstate how negative stress can be for us, especially given that it's constant and never seems to stop. So, it's important to do something every day to manage that stress. Yoga, meditation, exercise, a walk in the woods...whatever does this for you, it's important to do.
Sleep: If the body is sleep deprived, it won't recover as well and will be more likely to develop an issue. Most individuals need at least 8 hours IN BED to get at least 7+ hours of actual sleep. Therefore, people who don't sleep well need more hours in bed to get the required hours of sleep.
Food: Many foods cross-react with spring pollens*. If you have spring allergies, minimizing these foods can significantly improve the body's responses and minimize negative reactions.
Don't wear shoes in your home: When you wear shoes at home, you track allergens all over your house (along with a huge number of other toxins...eww). Leave your shoes at the front door and wash your pets' feet when they come in, too.
Hair: Pollen gets in our hair. So, if you're someone with spring allergies, wash your hair before bed to remove the pollens, so you don't wipe them all over your face while you sleep.
Nasal Rinsing: This gets the pollens out of your nasal passages!
Air quality: Air quality can improve or tank reactions to allergens. If you're sensitive to pollens, keep the windows closed and invest in a high-quality HEPA air filter. Put this near your bed so that the area you spend the most time in (i.e., your bedroom) has the best quality air. If you're super sensitive, wear an N95 mask outside to filter the particles and prevent breathing them in.
Food: Aside from the cross-reactions in some foods with trees/grasses, it's important to eat as clean as possible during times the body is stressed (aka spring allergies). This means avoiding processed foods, sugar, and alcohol so that the body can focus on recovery and not be stressed more. Many of our patients report an improvement in their seasonal allergies when they eliminate categories of food that they are reactive to; this should be done in partnership with a functional medicine provider for management and oversight.
OK, now let's talk about remedies.
Quercetin: This can minimize the histamine response
Stinging Nettle: This can minimize the histamine response
Local UNFILTERED honey: Gives you low doses of pollens and can quiet down the immune response (mechanism unclear)
Bee Pollen (local, ideally): Gives you low doses of pollens and can quiet down the immune response (mechanism unclear)
Low-dose antigen therapy: Gives you low doses of pollens and can quiet down the immune response (mechanism unclear)
Sublingual immunotherapy (aka "SLIT"): Gives you low doses of pollens and can quiet down the immune response (mechanism unclear). The FDA has approved a version of this that is standard for all individuals.
Vitamin C: Minimizes the histamine response
These range from over-the-counter options like Zyrtec® and Claritin® to prescription options focusing on mast cell stabilization (Ketotifen). These stabilize mast cell reactions. Alka-Seltzer, Gold® also minimizes the histamine response.
Acupuncture, bodywork, and Epsom salt soaks all help the body reset and minimize reactions.
Pollen and related foods that can cause symptoms:
Birch — Hazelnut, carrot, kiwi, parsley, almond, soybean, celery, potato, orange, peanut, apple family (i.e., peaches, plums, nectarines)
Ragweed — Milk, melons, banana, lettuce, mint, cucumber, zucchini, chamomile tea, egg, white potato
Grasses — Legumes (peas, beans, soybeans, all beans such as kidney, navy, garbanzo, etc.), grains, apple, carrot, celery, orange, tomato, white potato, zucchini
Cedar — Apple, cherry, bell peppers, kiwi, paprika, tomato
Sage, Mugwort — Celery, coriander, potato, tomato, carrot, fennel, peppers, sunflower, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onion, caraway
Marigold — Milk
Cedar, juniper — Beef, yeast
Elm — Milk, mint
Oak — Egg, chestnut, apple
Pecan, hickory — Corn, banana, apple
Pigweed, amaranth — Pork, black pepper
Ivy Ciliata (poison ivy) — Wheat, pork, black pepper
Mesquite — Cane sugar, orange
Cottonwood — Lettuce
Other allergens and related foods that can cause symptoms
Dust — Peanuts, snails, oysters, clams, scallops
Latex — Banana, avocado, kiwi, chestnut, potato, cinnamon, plantain, tomato, walnut
Candida — Cheeses, mushrooms, vinegar, fermented moldy foods
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wendie Trubow, M.D., is a board-certified OBGYN with over 25 years of experience in the medical field. Following her own personal journey detoxing from heavy metals and mold, and managing gluten intolerance and celiac disease, Dr. Wendie shifted her area of expertise to become a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is passionate about helping women live vibrant, healthy lives by getting to the root cause of hard-to-treat conditions like gut health, inflammation, hormonal imbalance, brain fog, hair loss, joint pain, eczema, painful menstrual cycles, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, and so much more. Dr. Trubow and her husband, Ed Levitan, M.D., own and operate the Five Journeys membership-based wellness practice in the Boston area. They are also co-hosts of the Five Journeys health podcast and co-authors of the Amazon bestselling book Dirty Girl: Ditch the Toxins, Look Great and Feel FREAKING AMAZING!