Spring breezes scatter seeds … and pollen, and dust. Allergy season has begun!
While many over-the-counter medications offer temporary relief or make you drowsy, an increasing number of allergy sufferers are exploring natural remedies with longer lasting results and none of the troubling side effects associated with allergy drugs.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has been used to treat allergies for thousands of years. Several studies confirm that acupuncture and herbal medicine are helpful for allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, and food allergies. Even among otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), acupuncture’s benefits are well regarded and included in physicians guidelines for the standard treatment of allergies.
Natural medicine, herbs, and diet can alleviate or prevent allergies and asthma in four ways: control inflammation, dilate air passages, thin mucus in the nose and lungs, and prevent food-allergy reactions that can trigger respiratory allergies and asthma.
In my clinic, I advise patients to receive weekly acupuncture treatments the month prior to their allergy season. The individualized protocol I use, in combination with some of the lifestyle changes below, has had profound results – and a much more enjoyable spring and summer!
Spice it up
Spicy dishes can thin mucus secretions and clear nasal passages. Try adding cayenne pepper or ginger to your foods. Ginger is a natural antihistamine and decongestant. It may provide some relief from allergy symptoms by dilating constricted bronchi.
Eat the right fat
Omega-3 essential fatty acids can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation of the air passages. Good natural sources include flaxseed oil and salmon. 20/20 LifeStyles Omega 3 capsules also provide these benefits.
Breathe, baby, breathe
In recent years, sinus irrigation (also known as nasal lavage) has become mainstream. This technique uses two basic ingredients, salt water and a vessel to deliver the solution. A warm salt water mixture flushes nasal cavities, removes excess mucus and debris, and improves the health of the lining of the nose.
An apple a day
Some foods contain the flavonoid, quercetin, that can cross-react with tree pollen. Quercetin can reduce allergic reactions by having an antihistamine effect. It also decreases inflammation. Quercetin is found naturally in certain foods such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea. HistaEze, a herbal formula that contains quercetin, can be found at the Naturopathic Dispensary. Many of our patients swear by it!
Carotenoids are a family of plant pigments, the most popular being beta-carotene. Although no randomized controlled trials show that carotenoids are effective treatments for hay fever, a lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation in your airways. Good sources of carotenoids include foods easily found in our yards or local markets – carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.
By Rachel Weissman
Board Certified Acupuncturist, East Asian Medicine Practitioner