Ah-choo! 🤧 Natural Approaches to Fall Allergies

Fall allergies are very common, affecting millions of people each year. The most common culprit is ragweed. About 75% of people who are allergic to spring plants also react to ragweed. Another common culprit is mold, particularly the mold that grows on rotting leaves as they fall from trees and break down with the help of fall’s frequent rains. The most common mold is alternaria, which can cause a plethora of symptoms well into November. 

The most common symptoms of environmental allergies are:

  • Runny nose 

  • Watery eyes

  • Sneezing  

  • Coughing 

  • Itchy eyes and nose

  • Dark circles under the eyes 

An allergy is defined as an inappropriate response to an otherwise harmless substance in the environment. Our immune cells are always on the lookout for dangers, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxic substances. When these molecules enter the body – through the lungs, mouth, intestine, or skin – the immune system can react by labeling them as either harmless or dangerous. Most of the time, our bodies accept or tolerate the presence of allergens. This is called a Type 1 immune response, and the cell type at the heart of this process is the regulatory T cell.

In some individuals, the body’s immune cells see the allergen as a threat, and a pro-inflammatory response occurs as a result. This is called a Type 2 immune response, and a different class of T cell appears on the scene: T helper type 2 cells.These cells stimulate the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) molecules.

The first exposure to an allergen that results in a Type 2 immune response is called allergic sensitization.

Importantly, once the body has been sensitized, it maintains a lasting memory of the substance. And then, when it next comes into contact with the culprit, IgE molecules are primed to release a cascade of inflammatory players such as histamine, causing the unpleasant symptoms of allergies. This same process occurs with severe food or bee sting allergies–those that cause anaphylaxis–although that reaction is obviously more severeSo, what can you do to help treat these symptoms while you wait for the season to change? First we’ll start with several natural supplements that may be helpful, and then some other approaches that can quell the irritating symptoms of allergies.

Natural Approaches to Fall Allergies

Because allergies are caused by an inappropriate response by the immune system, it makes sense that supporting the immune system with nutritious foods, adequate sleep , regular exercise, and nutritional supplements such as vitamins D and C, selenium and zinc would be helpful.

There are also several natural supplements that can help calm symptoms of fall allergies. These include:

  • Quercetin: Quercetin is an antioxidant shown to reduce inflammatory cells and proteins, especially in skin. It is found naturally in foods such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea. Quercetin inhibits the release of histamine, a major component of allergic reactions. It can also inhibit the formation of IgE antibodies. Quercetin is also available as a nutritional supplement in tablet or capsule form. A typical dose for allergies and hay fever is between 200 milligrams (mg) and 400 mg three times a day.

  • Bromelain: Bromelain is an enzyme found in the core and juice of pineapples. It has significant anti-inflammatory and can help reduce allergy symptoms by decreasing the inflammation in the nose and sinuses. A typical dose for allergies is 100 mg to 500 mg of a supplement standardized to “GDU” (usually around 2400 GDU/g) 1-2 times per day.

Stinging Nettle: Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. It helps control allergy symptoms by blocking histamine receptors and controlling inflammation. It can be consumed as a tea, and also dosed as a supplement capsule, typically 400 mg 2-3 times a day.

What else can you do?

Besides supplements and herbs, nasal saline rinses can be helpful in decreasing the allergic cells (called eosinophils) in the nasal passages. 

The two most common ways to perform nasal saline rinses are with a gravity-driven device, such as a Neti Pot, or with a pressure-driven device, such as a squeeze bottle. 

The head should be tilted down, with the rinse bottle or Neti pot spout placed into the upper nostril. With your mouth open, the bottle or syringe is squeezed with moderate force (or the Neti pot is poured) so that the water can go through one nostril and out the other while you breathe through your mouth.

To make your own saline, mix the following in a clean container:

  • 3/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt, such as pickling or canning salt (iodized salt can irritate the nasal passages)

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (added to prevent burning; you can increase the amount as needed)

  • 1 cup warm water (must be distilled or previously boiled water—not tap water)

Note: this recipe is for a single use rinse and should not be stored for future rinses.

It also makes sense to try to avoid or decrease your allergy triggers, even if that seems impossible. Keep your windows closed with ragweed pollen counts are high. Clean your heating ducts (if possible) before turning on the heat for the winter, and if you have a basement, keep moisture levels low by using a dehumidifier.

D-Hist is an effective and safe combination of several ingredients, including vitamin C, stinging nettle, bromelain, and quercetin. These powerful anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory supplements can help soothe allergy symptoms. 

In order to get quick relief of symptoms, it is recommended to start with a loading dose of 2 capsules three times per day for 7-10 days. Thereafter, you can decrease to 1 capsule once or twice a day for maintenance.

Side effects to this supplement are uncommon but include hives (if sensitive to any of the active or inactive ingredients), mild stomach upset, headaches, or sweating.

The US Biotek 48 Inhalant Panel measures several immune proteins and whether they are elevated from allergic triggering. The test includes evaluation for trees, grasses, weeds, animal dander, and mold allergies. Done from a fingerstick blood test at home, the test can help you and your physician sort out your allergies–fall or otherwise–once and for all.

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