5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Allergies Without Medications
The pollen and inhaled allergens are among us here in Texas. If you don’t believe me, write “Wash Me” with your finger across the top of your car. That yellow dust is not sidewalk chalk – it is genetic diversity from the pollenating plants. I have included some natural ways from a Functional Medicine perspective in order to improve your allergies this season without using prescriptions or over the counter allergy medications.
- Stop Eating Allergens – Go Dairy and/or Gluten Free
This might be a surprise that your nasal allergies can be worsened by the food you eat, but it is true. You have probably never heard this before, and you are likely wondering how nasal allergies are related to food that you eat. Well, let me tell you.
Allergies are additive. You may be severely reactive to Oak, but you are probably also reactive to other allergens. If you can remove allergens that you have control over, then your threshold for symptoms will actually improve. Look at the picture. Notice that there is an imaginary line (Symptom Threshold) that if your allergen exposure crosses the line, you get symptoms. Notice how there is no difference between the types of allergens in the left or right column. However, there is LESS dust mite and cat allergens while the pollen allergen remained the same. By lowering cat / dust mites, the graph dropped below Symptom Threshold, and your symptoms will improve. Well, we can’t change the pollen in the air, but we CAN clean up the dust and kick the cat out of the house. If you have already done this (or you can’t bear putting Fluffy out in the yard), then you can start working on food allergens. You may not even be “allergic” to food based on testing. However, dairy and gluten are well known common allergens. Choose one, cut it out completely for 4 weeks and see if your symptoms get better. If not, try cutting out the other one. If neither one works, then you should try gluten AND dairy free. Or, you can fork up the $400 to get Food Sensitivity Testing (ALCAT).
This tip is #1 because it worked for me. I started having allergies when I lived in South Carolina. I had to use Flonase every day for 4 years unless I didn’t want to breathe through my nostrils. I went dairy free a few months ago, and I have only had to use my Flonase when I cheat and eat too many dairy products. I hope you have the same success!
- Improve Gut Health to Reduce Allergy Symptoms
Many people who suffer from allergies, regardless if it is skin allergies (eczema), nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis), or food allergies (IBS), usually have some form of over-reactive immune system. Well, it turns out that 70-80% of your immune system lives in your bowels.
I like to explain that your immune system is like a handgun. If you carried a handgun around all day with it cocked, loaded, and your finger on the trigger, it is very likely that you are accidentally going to fire it at least once throughout the day. If your immune system is already revved up because of poor gut health and bacterial overgrowth in your bowels (cocked, loaded, finger on the trigger), then it is going to overreact to any potential allergens in the environment (fire the handgun). Therefore, you can calm down your immune system by improving your gut health. This is a huge topic in itself, but a good start is a strong Probiotic. I highly recommend the probiotic from Metagenics called Ultraflora Immune Booster which was designed for nasal and respiratory health.
- Reduce Stress Levels and Improve Cortisol Production
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is anti-inflammatory and calms your immune system. When you are chronically stressed out, your Cortisol levels begin to fade and drop over time. This is called Adrenal Fatigue. You can improve your allergy symptoms by improving your cortisol levels and adrenal health. As it turns out, this is easier said than done. You can try supplements like Ashwagandha, Adrenal extracts, and Vitamin C (as directed by your healthcare practitioner), but you should also focus on eating better, moving regularly, and stress reduction (yoga, meditation, prayer, etc). As your cortisol levels improve, your allergy symptoms should get better.
- Wash Away the Allergens
This part may be slightly disgusting, but it is quite effective. Your nose is designed to trap allergens in order to prevent them from reaching your lungs. When an allergen is in your nose, it causes itchy / runny nose. When an allergen reaches your lungs, it causes asthma, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. So, needless to say, you would rather your nose catch the allergen than not. However, once your nose catches the allergen, if it doesn’t get rid of it, it will continue to react to that allergen. One way to reduce the allergen exposure is to wash it away using sinus rinses, saline sprays, and Netti pots. This flushes the allergens away, so your nose stops reacting to it! I wrote a little more on this in my Sinus Infection article.
- Constant, Low dose Allergen Exposure Using Local Honey (Unpasteurized)
One of the ideas to improve allergy symptoms is to purposefully expose yourself to the allergen. Over time, you will tell your immune system that this is a common item, and it needs to stop reacting to it. Humans behave similarly – when you go somewhere new, it feels uncomfortable at first. However, over time, it becomes very normal and easy. You might be asking the question, “How do I expose myself to allergens?” Simple! You utilize bees which collect pollen from nearby plants / trees. Then, they make honey out of that pollen. Next, you eat the honey. Many people go wrong because they just buy cheap, golden honey found out the local grocery store. Well, that’s not going to do anything! You need to get LOCAL honey, meaning honey that was farmed somewhere very close to your hometown. There is no use eating honey from Canada because they probably have different plants than we do in Austin! Another tip is to find honey that has not been pasteurized (or cooked). Unpasteurized honey is pale yellow and opaque while pasteurized honey is clear and golden (see picture).
I hope these Functional Medicine tips help you survive the allergy season with less symptoms!
Enjoy the wildflowers of Austin without allergies this year!