Mar 24 2016

It’s spring! Flowers and trees around us are blooming as nature awakens from its winter slumber. But if you live anywhere in the South, everything outside has a yellowish tint to it. Unfortunately, with nature in full bloom, millions of people suffer from seasonal allergies with symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and headache! An allergy is an overaggressive immune response triggered by ingesting certain foods, touching certain substances or inhaling an irritant, such as pollen.

After moving south from New York City a number of years ago, I discovered what I heard others complain about every spring – allergies!   For years, I got marginal relief from my allergies with over-the-counter remedies.   I would switch between Zyrtec and Claritin-D (sometimes even doubling up! Eek!!). After a number of years of using these antihistamines, I realized I needed something more. I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment with a local allergist. When the receptionist told me that I couldn’t take any antihistamines for seven days prior to my appointment, I knew I was in trouble. At the time, I was paying tennis 3-4 times a week and at the height of pollen season, you could literally see the pollen explode off the ball when you hit it. The antihistamines limited my symptoms but I still suffered from watery eyes, scratchy throat and overall fatigue. As much as I loved spring, I couldn’t wait for the trees to stop blooming!

Unsure of how I was going to survive for seven days without antihistamines, I naturally called my Mom to lament. She suggested I go to a health food store to see if they had any allergy relief recommendations. I ended up leaving the health food store with two supplements that I still rely on during the spring – milk thistle and quercetin.   Milk thistle helps reduce allergic, inflammatory and histaminic reactions. And it helps to detoxify your liver, the organ that works hard to protect us from adverse effects from toxins, like pollen and other allergens. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that calms immune cells, preventing or reducing their release of histamines – the substances that cause allergy symptoms.

Seeking any sort of relief, I started taking my milk thistle and quercetin regiment immediately. By the time my allergy appointment came around, I was feeling markedly better. I decided to go to my appointment to see what the doctor had to say.   My test results came back that I had minimal allergic reaction to the typical seasonal allergens. The doctor asked if I had been taking antihistamines and I responded no, I had been taking some supplements from a health food store. He did not seem pleased but gave me 3 prescriptions to “help” with my allergies. I never had to fill any of the prescriptions because my herbal supplements did the trick (and still do!).

There are a number of natural supplements and vitamins, such as stinging nettles, gingko and vitamin C, that can help reduce the effect of seasonal allergies. Beginning natural supplements 4-6 weeks before the season starts can help reduce the severity of symptoms.   Additionally, strengthening ones immune system (and having a clean gut!) is critical for fending off those pesky allergies. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, drinking plenty of water and taking a daily probiotic will help keep your gut in check.  Limiting (or eliminating) dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat and spicy foods during the pollen season can also help alleviate some of typical symptoms.

As always, please check with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.