What can I do about hay fever?

Have you ever experienced bouts of sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose? You may be one of the more than 35 million people that have been diagnosed with “allergic rhinitis” (seasonal allergies or hay fever). Conventional pharmaceutical treatment options for allergies are limited to decongestants and antihistamines which come with unwanted side effects like dry mouth and sleepiness. Many natural treatments and lifestyle changes exist that effectively treat and prevent allergies without the negative side effects that accompany pharmaceuticals.

The first step in treating allergies is to identify what is triggering your symptoms (if possible). Next, try to avoid the offending allergen or reduce your exposure to it. If your trigger is animal dander or dust mites – try allergy proofing your home with a HEPA filter, removing rugs and carpets, and making sure that your bedding is made from hypoallergenic material.

Another important step in dealing with allergies is to take a good look at your diet. Foods such as fats and sugars will inhibit the immune system’s function thereby worsening allergy symptoms. Common food allergens such as wheat, dairy, corn, soy, and peanuts can exacerbate allergies by contributing to a hyperactive immune system. Focus on eating foods that contribute to a healthy immune system such as fresh fruits, vegetables, garlic, and onions. Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) found in salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts will decrease the inflammation that accompanies allergy symptoms.

Try this quick and healthy dinner the next time your allergies strike. It’s packed with EFA’s, Vitamin C, quercetin, and beta-carotene – all potent allergy relieving ingredients.

Salmon and vegetable bake with sweet potato
Cover salmon with diced red peppers, carrots, onions, capers, and white wine. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve with a baked sweet potato drizzled in flax oil.

When dietary and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to take care of your allergies, herbal medicines are another very effective branch of natural therapies to try.  In a recent study, the herb Butterbur was shown to be just as effective at relieving allergy symptoms as the pharmaceutical agent Allegra. Stinging nettle is another herbal medicine that has proved effective for allergies by working with the body’s immune response. For nasal and sinus congestion steam inhalations with essential oils such as thyme, rosemary, and eucalyptus are very beneficial.

Nutritional supplements are another valuable tool for allergy treatment. Vitamin C prevents histamine secretion (think natural Allegra), supports the immune system, and promotes a healthy inflammatory response.  An enzyme from the pineapple plant called Bromelain has been shown to ease nasal congestion and inflammation. Quercetin (a plant pigment found in apples, onions, and citrus fruits) inhibits inflammation and histamine release in allergy sufferers.

When allergies crop up, this can be a sign that your immune system is a bit vulnerable. Finding the time to get a few more hours of sleep, drink more fluids, and eat a nourishing diet will help your body deal with that pesky sneeze or runny nose a bit better.

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