Alt-Health: Allergies and Nutrition

Allergy season is here. You can tell by the blotchy green dust on your car, the sniggley, snitchy sneezing, and your weeping eyes. Doctors recommend that you begin taking an allergy medication right away and stay on it for the duration. Before you step blindly onto this unending treadmill, we’d like to give you some information that your doctor probably didn’t.

First, symptoms begin when the seasonal pollen and mold counts go up … this much is obvious. But did you know that those symptoms can then be increased dramatically by many factors other than pollen and dust mold? Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do you spend hours by the pool seeking relief from the summer heat? Chlorine fumes can irritate nasal passageways and increase congestion.


• Are you drinking to forget your allergies? Oops. Any kind of alcohol increases the blood flow to your nasal membranes, making allergy symptoms worse.

• Are you using a humidifier to combat dry air? You are also providing an incubator for dust mites, which thrive in moisture. Get rid of the humidifier and see if your symptoms improve.

• Do you notice that your symptoms increase after meals? Allergy sufferers often have antibodies in their systems that cause them to overreact to specific foods. If you are allergic to ragweed, your symptoms will worsen after eating bananas, melons, cucumber or zucchini. If your problem is with tree pollen, apples, pears, peaches, hazelnuts, kiwi, carrots or celery will cause your symptoms to accelerate. And this brings us to another important fact: The food that you eat can greatly lessen the severity of allergy symptoms. Nutrition can be a powerful weapon against seasonal suffering.

• Histamine is the substance responsible for your itching, sneezing and watery eyes. Vitamin C naturally lowers histamine levels and boosts allergy-fighting hormones in the adrenal glands. Try taking 2,000 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C daily during allergy season. It works best taken in 500 mg doses over the course of the day.

• Some scientists think the rise in allergies may be caused by a lack of bacteria in the gut, ironically, due to cleaner living conditions. Probiotics can replenish those bacteria and some studies show this reduces allergy symptoms. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, or in much higher concentrations in supplement form.

* Drinking hot fluids breaks up congestion without shriveling up your nasal passages as pseudoephedrine can. It’s a counterintuitive move in summer heat, but it works.

• Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and plant oils improve lung functioning in adults with asthma and lessen allergy symptoms by strengthening the immune system overall.

The skeptics among you may ask, “Great. Nutrition can improve my symptoms. But why bother when I can just take a freakin’ pill?” And you are right. Taking a pill is easier. But in addition to instant temporary relief, you are getting some side effects you may not have been aware of. Here’s a few other facts to consider:

• Medications that make you drowsy can also put your libido to sleep. Numerous people have reported that when their allergy symptoms went away, so did their sex drive. Ya gotta weigh your options.

• Those antihistamines that block your itching and sniffles are also sold as a sleep remedy one aisle over, right next to the Unisom. They can have a decidedly dampening effect on your energy level. For those of you who are prone to depression, this sedative effect can further sink your mood and cause cognitive impairment in the bargain.

• Feeling jittery and snappish? Anxiety and mood swings can be triggered by decongestants and other stimulant medications. Be careful about mixing caffeine with this stuff; it’s like swallowing combustible rocket fuel. If you have anger management issues, just say no.

• Some nasal sprays contain ingredients that unpleasantly alter the taste of foods and affect your sense of smell. If you are a chef with a drippy nose, you may want to reconsider your remedies.

Allergy symptoms are increasing every year, in part due to rising carbon dioxide levels, which affect the pollen production of ragweed and other allergen-inducing plants. As climate changes continue to evolve, allergies will probably worsen.

If we rely solely on medicines to alleviate our symptoms, we are going to need larger and more potent doses as time goes on. The smarter choice may be to enact a preemptive strike and increase our resistance to environmental allergens. In addition to the nutritional remedies suggested, acupuncture, as well as herbal and homeopathic remedies, provide relief. Talk with a naturopathic physician or the nutritional manager at your local health store. They always know more than the doctors do.

Personally, I am sick of supporting the pharmaceutical companies. I’d like to give someone else a chance.