Say Adieu to Allergies

The average person inhales and exhales about 17,000 times a day and never even thinks about it. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may spend several months in the spring, fall, or even year-round suffering with a stuffy nose, sneezing, and other allergy symptoms that make breathing a chore.

People with airborne allergies are cursed by an over-vigilant immune system, which responds to harmless substances such as pollen, mold spores, or animal dander with an all-out attack. An antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) binds to the offending allergen at one end and to mast cells that line the respiratory tract at the other end. The mast cells burst open, releasing histamine, interleukins, and other inflammatory compounds.

A Short History of Histamine

Most allergy symptoms are caused by these inflammatory chemicals, not by the allergen itself. Histamine, the most notorious compound released by mast cells, causes blood vessels to dilate and become leaky, promoting swelling and triggering runny noses, watery eyes, scratchy throats, and other annoying allergy symptoms. It also stimulates the secretion of large amounts of mucus and constricts the bronchioles, making it harder to breathe.

Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) improve symptoms by blocking histamine receptors on other cells. But the side effects of allergy drugs may outweigh their benefits.

Problems With Antihistamines

One of the chief side effects of allergy drugs such as Benadryl is drowsiness. In fact, the active ingredient in popular over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids such as Sominex and Nytol is this same antihistamine! Studies have shown that drivers who use these drugs are much more likely to have fatal accidents than drug-free drivers. (What would you expect from taking a sleeping pill before you get behind the wheel?) Worse still, Benadryl and similar antihistamines fall into a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which are linked to memory problems and dementia with long-term use.

The newer prescription antihistamines are widely touted for their ability to relieve allergy symptoms without causing drowsiness or impairment. Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec, which have been available OTC for a while now, have raked in billions for Big Pharma even though they have been demonstrated to be only marginally more effective than a placebo. Furthermore, these drugs do nothing to address the underlying causes of allergies.

Natural Treatments for Allergies

The real goal in allergy control goes beyond relieving allergy symptoms to actually dampening the allergic response and promoting overall health. And a handful of natural compounds do just that.

One of my favorite natural treatments for allergies is quercetin, a phytonutrient abundant in onions that inhibits the release of histamine and other inflammatory compounds from mast cells. It also puts the brakes on the formation of inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes that stimulate airway constriction. In addition, quercetin is a natural antioxidant: It helps mop up free radicals generated during the allergic reaction.

To enhance the absorption of quercetin, take it with bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple. Bromelain also reduces tissue swelling and helps break down mucus.

“Itch Weed” Relieves Allergy Symptoms

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) might get the medal for “least likely to succeed” in relieving allergies—it’s commonly called itch weed because histamine in its needles causes hives and itching. However, stinging nettle is an effective natural treatment for allergies. In a double-blind study published in Planta Medica, people with hay fever who were given a freeze-dried stinging nettle extract for one week had a much greater improvement in symptoms than those who were given a placebo.

This popular botanical has also been used in traditional medicine to treat prostate problems, rheumatism, and osteoarthritis, as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Allergy Symptoms: Prevention Is Best

These natural treatments for allergies are best used as preventive medicine for seasonal allergies (or year-round if you suffer from perennial allergies). But there’s another aspect to prevention: blocking allergens from entering your body in the first place. Start by washing your hands frequently. One of the easiest ways for allergens to enter your body is hand-to-face contact.

Because the mucous membranes of the nose are the main entry points for allergens, I also recommend using nasal irrigation to flush allergens from these areas.

Another way to keep allergens from entering your body is to use a pollen blocker: a petroleum jelly-like ointment under and just inside the nostrils. The offending particles stick to the pollen blocker so they can’t enter the nasal passages.

Finally, if you continue to be plagued with allergy symptoms, consider placing a high-quality air purifier—preferably one with a HEPA filter—in the rooms you use most.

Receiving Natural Treatments for Allergies

The bottom line is you don’t have to suffer with allergy symptoms or the negative side effects of allergy drugs. Natural treatments for allergies can provide safe and lasting relief.

Look for these supplements in health food stores, online, or order by calling (800) 810-6655. If you’d like to speak to someone about receiving treatment for allergy symptoms at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253 or fill out this form for a free consultation with one of our friendly and knowledgeable Patient Services Representatives.

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