It's that time of year when those prone to seasonal allergies are once again tormented by itchy, watery, and burning eyes; congestion; dry throats; sneezing; coughing; loss of sleep, and just feeling blah. Although I do not suffer myself, I am writing this on behalf of all the people that I know and love who have suffered more than enough with seasonal allergies.
There are many natural ways to reduce allergies. I'm not talking about taking antihistamines here. Antihistamines only suppress the symptoms and do nothing to heal the physical problem. Although those with allergies may need to take an antihistamine, there are also some things that can be done to aid the body in fighting off allergens.
What can be done to strengthen the immunity, reduce infection, and lesson the negative reaction to environmental irritants for those who suffer from seasonal allergies?
• Reduce or eliminate refined sugars. I do not think there is one single human discomfort that can not be reduced or eliminated by reducing or eliminating processed sugars and white flour (simple, fast acting carbs). Sugar causes inflammation and also creates a mineral imbalance in our bodies. Both the inflammation and the imbalance violate our immunity, which in turn makes it much more difficult for the body to deal with any type of allergic reaction. You need a strong immunity to combat allergies, and sugar compromises that ability. Consuming sugar may also cause allergies to develop because of inflammation, compromised immunity, and mineral imbalances.
When I recently did a two-week sugar fast-no sweeteners of any kind including maple syrup and honey, no bananas or dates, no dried fruit, no white rice, white flour or potatoes-I was very surprised to find that the congestion I usually have first thing in the morning was gone during that fast. It came back with the reintroduction of sugar and fast acting carbs.
• Use a netti pot. Using a netti pot clears out the sinus cavities of any impurities, including pollen and environmental irritants. I love using my netti pot! I'm not plagued with allergies, but I know that a netti pot brings my nasal congestion when I have a cold. I use mine just to clear out those passes, even when congestion is not an issue. I regularly use a netti pot as part of my morning routine: brush my teeth, use my tongue scraper, and use my netti pot. It feels great!
I bought a little plastic netti pot many years ago, and it does the trick. I will eventually replace it with a ceramic one, as I try and eliminate my exposure to plastics. However, for the time being, I'll continue to use the one that I have.
Use distilled water. Tap water, filtered or unfiltered, should always be boiled for at least five minutes, then allowed to cool to a comfortable temperature. It may be more convenient to boil a larger amount, and to keep it in a container to be used once or twice a day.
If using bottled spring water, boil it first.
Do not use unboiled tap water. I can not stress this enough. Tap water can introduce pathogens and toxins into your nasal passes, and can create more of a problem than you already have. If distilled water is not available, pre-boil the tap water for several minutes, and allow to cool down. If boiling water is also not a possibility, then just do not use a netti pot.
Some people prefer room temperature, and others prefer it a little heated. This takes only a minute, as you do not want the water to be too hot. Add te teaspoon of salt and mix it until it dissolves (I use a heaping te teaspoon). Some people also like to add a teaspoon of baking soda, to sooth the drying properties of the salt. I do not do this, but if the salt feet too drying, baking soda can be added.
Do not use iodized salt or salt with anticaking agents. Read the ingredients. There should only be one thing listed there: “Salt.” It can be any kind of salt, but make sure that nothing else is listed. You can also purchase packs already made up for use with a netti pot. I prefer to make my own, as I like to use high quality natural sea salt. If you find that the solution burns your sinuses, either reduce or increase the amount of salt slowly. If it is not the correct balance of saline to match the saline in your body, it will irritate. Try adjusting the amount.
Put the spout of the netti pot into one nostril, and tip it so that the water drains out of the other nostril. You'll want to lean your head forward slightly and to the side of the nostril that is draining. (Stand over a sink.) Keep your mouth open and breathe while using it. Experiment with the correct angle to hold your head. Now, change nostrils and do the same thing on the other side. It may take some practice, but you'll get used to it. When you're finished, gently move your head in a circle to help drain any water that is left in your nostrils, and gently blow your nose.
Some people simply can not use the netti pot because they hate how it feels, or they can not get it to drain properly from their nostrils. For those who do not like or can not use the netti pot, try using a nasal bulb syringe that is used for babies when they are congested.
• Eat raw local honey. Eat raw local honey to introduce small amounts of the pollen from local flowers. (Bees carry minute minutes of nectar and pollen from flower to flower while making honey.) This works in much the same way as getting allergy shots. Raw local honey will introduce the pollen in amounts small enough for your body to handle. Over time, it will help your body to build up a resistance to these allergens. It is recommended that you consume a couple of tablespoons, daily, of local raw honey. It is best to start doing this before allergy season kicks in, but I imagine that it's never too late to derive some small benefit, even if started later in the season. If this is the first time you've eaten raw local honey, begin with small amounts, as there have been some allergy sufferers who have had a few reactions to the pollen present in honey. This is not common, but you should be aware of the possibility and start out slowly if it's something new that you're just introducing to your body.
• Increase fermented foods and probiotics. The majority of your immune system is in your gut. Eating cultured or fermented foods helps to increase the friendly bacteria that build up our immunity.
• Consider any food allergies that may be contributing to the body's weakened immune response. If you suspect that you have an allergy or sensitivity to any food, remove the food for two weeks. On day 15, reintroduce the food and see how your body responds. Common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, peanuts, soy, and eggs, but allergies can come from virtually any food. Food allergies are more than just a pain in the neck. They compromise your health by compromising your immunity.
• Reduce stress. Stress also compromises our immunity. I could write volumes about how the body responds to stress, and how it takes a toll on human health-physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most of us are aware of the dangers of unresolved stress in our lives, or of stress that we do not learn how to manage. This stress causes our freedoms to be greatly compromised. For those with allergies, a compromised immunity will cause the immune response to be weakened. Focus on ways to reduce stress in your life. Pray, meditate, practice yoga, take walks, workout in a gym (if you can not be outdoors), take time for self-care, keep a journal, and / or embrace a higher power to help you to relax and manage stress .
• Up your intake of Omega 3 fatty-acids, known to reduce inflammation. Omega 3 fatty-acids can be found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, oily fish (salmon, herring, trout, and sardines), chia seeds, and walnuts. Animals that are grass fed are also a good source of omega 3 fatty-acids.
• Eat more food with vitamin C and take a good vitamin C supplement. Vitamin C helps to build a strong immunity.
• Consider taking the herb, stting nettle. It has known anti-inflammatory properties and is used, in holistic medicine, to treat allergies.
• Eat a diet high in foods that reduce inflammation. Ginger, onions, garlic, turmeric, foods high in omega 3 fatty-acids, pineapple, walnuts, fish (salmon is wonderful for reducing inflammation), berries, and healthy fats (coconut oil and olive oil), along with all fruits and veggies , will help to reduce inflation.
• Avoid or reduce the foods that cause inflammation. Sugar, processed foods, table salt, alcohol, refined grains, farm factory animals, and unhealthy oils (polyunsaturated and trans fats) all cause infection in the body. If you are sensitive to dairy, it can also cause inflammation.
These are some of the things that you can do to build up your immunity and reduce infection, which can help to alleviate seasonal allergies. Remember that natural healing takes time. Begin making some positive diet and lifestyle changes today, and you can look forward to seeing improvement as time goes by. Some changes will be more immediate, but others will increase your immune response over a period of time.