5 Natural Allergy Remedies
Updated: May 23
It's allergy season again in Atlanta, GA, and some of you might be curious to know what you can do for an all natural way to relieve your allergy symptoms. In this post, I will outline the dangers of using traditional allergy relief medications and I will tell you how I have been able to overcome the annoying sneezing and sniffles that happen around this time of year.
Think of your body's immune response as a bucket, and each environmental irritant as water. Each time your lifestyle adds another irritant, the water level rises. If there are enough different substances causing immune responses in your body, the water will overflow and you will experience allergy symptoms. Yes, it really is this simple!
What is an Antihistamine?
In order to understand what and antihistamine is, we first need to examine what histamine is and how it works. Histamine is an important chemical in your body. When your white blood cells detect a potential threat, they release histamine to trigger an immune response, which generally includes inflammation, itching, runny nose, and sneezing. Histamine is essentially protecting you from invaders and clearing your body of them any way it can. A runny nose and a cough are your body's ways of cleaning the pollen out of your nose, throat, and lungs. While these symptoms may be annoying, they are an important defense mechanism for your body to protect itself.
Your body reacts to certain foods and environmental factors as though they are dangerous invaders even though they might be completely harmless. Pollen is a fantastic example of this fact. It poses no real threat to our body, yet our immune system can sometimes react strongly to it. Why might this happen?
When your immune system releases histamine, it binds to receptors in your cells that cause inflammation which allows your immune system to do the job of clearing out the invaders. An Anti-histamine drug counteracts the effect of histamine and prevents the allergic reaction. This is an important part of the protection of your body from real invaders and toxins and, unfortunately, the medications don't only stop the reaction from happening for harmless things like pollen, they stop the protection from all invaders.
Over-The-Counter Allergy Medications
Two of the most commonly used medications for allergy relief are Claritin and Zyrtec. They are both anti-histamines and both have some dangerous side effects, especially if used long term. As a disclaimer, I am not trained in pharmacology and have no authority on how to use medications. Please consult your medical doctor before starting or changing your medication use.
Claritin for Allergies
Claritin is a drug called Loratadine. Loratadine acts by binding to the histamine binding sites first so that there aren't any left for histamine to bind to. This action stops the histamine from causing the allergic reaction. The problem is that then your body is left with a lot of toxins and other threats that the histamine reaction would normally get rid of. Blocking the action of histamine is an effective way from preventing your immune system from reacting the harmless environmental toxins but unfortunately, it prevents your immune system from doing its job and protecting your from the real threats too.
Although Claritin is considered non-drowsy, it does cross the blood brain barrier and can cause slowed cognitive function as well as slight loss of motor control. Essentially it slows your brain down and causes it to malfunction. There are some serious side effects with using this drug as it can interact with your nervous system in a negative way, though many of the side effects are labeled "frequency not reported." Personally, I try my best to stay away from substances that can affect my body negatively at rates up to 10%.
Zyrtec for Allergies
Zyrtec is a drug called Cetirizine. The action of Cetirizine is seemingly more complex that that of Loratadine though it functions in an essentially similar way: by preventing your immune system from functioning properly. If you're curious, you can read more of the specifics here but it basically finds another pathway that leads to inflammation and stops it. By preventing the immune system from releasing certain chemicals, this drug prevents your body from protecting itself from everything, not just pollen and other harmless substances. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. As you can imagine, because I believe that your body is doing all of these things for a reason, this response is concerning. Your body only produces diarrhea and vomiting responses when it needs to get rid of toxins. If these are common side effects of this drug, maybe we should reconsider how harmless they are.
Natural Allergy Remedies
Ok, so drugs are a good way to stop the allergic reaction, but unfortunately negatively affect your body too. So what do you do? If you're reading this article, you might be miserable with allergies and are looking for help. I have outlined five things you can do right now to help with your allergies. Trust me, these work. I used to be absolutely miserable with allergies until I found these at-home remedies.
1. See a Chiropractor
My story with chiropractic care starts with allergies. I was 19 years old and miserable with allergies. I was approached in the mall by a man at one of the kiosks, the kind of guy at a kiosk that tries to sell you something and you do your best to avoid, asking if I had allergies. He had my attention because I was looking for anything to get relief from my misery and he explained chiropractic and how getting adjusted can help your allergies.
The basic understanding is that the nerves from your brain go to your sinuses and tell them how to function properly. If there is a subluxation, or bone misalignment, in your neck, specifically at C2, it can cause a change in the communication of your nerves that go to your nose and potentially lead to allergies. He then asked me a question that changed my life: Do you think you're supposed to be allergic to grass? It blew my mind. I had never considered how strange it was that we were allergic to things like grass and trees given our long, nearly complete history of living among them. Needless to say, I started care and quickly got relief from my allergies. This understanding of the nervous system can explain many, many physical ailments and is the reason that I started chiropractic school. Below is a chart of the nervous system and what organs and systems connect to it and where. If you live in Atlanta, I would love the opportunity to care for you and your spine. Click here to book a free consultation with me.
2. Eat Clean
Unfortunately for humans living on the planet these days, there are a multitude of amazingly delicious foods available that are terrible for your body. Many of our favorite snack foods and good old American favorites like hot dogs, burgers, and pizza are filled with chemicals and foods that irritate your immune system. Remember the bucket and water analogy? Eating foods that contain gluten and dairy is sure to overflow your bucket and cause allergy symptoms. Dairy is especially to blame as it causes your body to produce a lot of mucus even when there isn't a lot of pollen in the air. If I notice that I am starting to feel the effects of seasonal allergies, I get my spine checked by a chiropractor and immediately cut out gluten, dairy, and other highly processed foods along with most carbs in general.
If you are in an emergency situation with your allergies, meaning you are ready to go to the doctor and tell him to just cut your nose off, one solution that I use regularly is going on an all fruit diet. This diet is championed by Dr. Robert Morse, ND. You can learn more on his YouTube Channel. Though it may sound strange, simply switching to an all fruit diet for a few days has cleared my allergies quickly and effectively many times. By eating only fruit, you are limiting the high irritation foods that are adding water to your bucket and giving your body a chance to detoxify. It is a cheap, easy, and simple way to completely clear out your allergies. You might also lose some weight and help your body heal in other ways!
3. Take a Shower
Allergens are measured in grains per cubic meter of air. That literally is measuring the amount of pollen in the air. Here in Atlanta, at peak allergy season that number regularly get to 10,000 grains or higher. That means that stepping outside for just a few seconds is exposing your hair, and clothing to hundreds of thousands of grains of pollen. The pollen gets in your hair, on your skin, and on your clothes and comes back inside with you. Now, I am not suggesting that you go crazy with it and change your clothes and shower ten times per day, but if you notice that your eyes are still watery or your nose is irritated even while sitting inside, you might consider rinsing the pollen out of your hair or changing your clothes. Especially if you spend a long time outdoors going for a walk or something similar.
Taking a shower is also beneficial for your allergies because of the steam. The steam particles in the air come in contact with pollen and remove it from the air. It also sticks to the side of your air passages and cleans those out too. Running the hot water in your sink and (safely, not so hot to burn your face) putting your face over it, breathing in the steam for a few seconds can give some relief from allergies. Put a towel over your head too to keep the steam in for added help.
4. Limit Exposure
As I mentioned above, going outside at peak pollen season can expose you to millions of grains of pollen. I am a runner and during the spring months, I do notice that the pollen can irritate my eyes, nose, and lungs if I am not taking care of myself properly (meaning eating inflammatory foods and skipping a week of getting adjusted). During this time of year, I might decide to use the treadmill for my runs instead of running outside. I understand, the weather is absolutely perfect for running and a treadmill is boring (in my opinion), and this is a temporary fix. The pollen will be gone in a week or two and I will be back to the road. Basically, during high allergy times of the year, it might be worth modifying your lifestyle to avoid unnecessary exposure to pollen. I will say, though, that if you are eating well and seeing your chiropractor, you probably wont event think about it.
5. A Neti Pot
If you have never heard of a neti pot, you are really missing out. All of this talk of pollen might be making your nose itch already. The good news is that there is a way to clear the pollen out of the inside of your nose, not just your clothes and hair. If you feel like you would rather live without a nose than endure even another five minutes of sneezing, then get a neti pot. Its a bit weird at first, but as long as you follow the instructions, you can find some major relief. It essentially works by running water through your nasal cavity, clearing out any pollen (its great for colds too) that may be stuck inside. I mentioned before that I am a runner. If maybe its been a minute since I got adjusted AND I haven't been eating well AND I decide to run outside during peak pollen season, I might start to feel my nose itch a bit. The neti pot is a quick and easy solution for fast relief. Just remember that after you go outside again, you will probably have more pollen in your nose that needs to come out, so again, be mindful of how much time you spend outside.
The Simple Truth About Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
The Simple and easy truth about season allergy symptoms is that, with a little bit of effort, we can help our body get over them very quickly. With some simple dietary and lifestyle changes, we can have an allergy free spring and fall. This power is true for most health concerns. From the amazing healing offered by chiropractic care to the power that small dietary changes can have on our overall health, we have more control over our health than we are told to believe. I am by no means against medicine, I just prefer to use natural methods of healing first. I have laid out five simple and easy ways to help your body overcome seasonal allergies without using medications. I can imagine that the most challenging for many people reading this might be changing your diet. To this I say that allergy season only lasts a few weeks. If you are worried about cutting dairy, gluten, and processed food for a few weeks, maybe even eating only fruit for a few days, then it might be a good challenge! I personally use allergy season as an excuse to do a dietary detox for a few weeks every year. By the time the few weeks is over, my body feels better, I am sleeping better, my brain is sharper, and I am simply feeling great! Don't let something small like allergies ruin your life. Take control over your health and live the way you choose!