Relieve Allergies the Natural Way
If spring and fall send your seasonal allergies into a spin, many experts say look to Mother Nature for relief that can be as comforting and easy as a day at the beach.
In addition to herbs, many naturopathic doctors also believe certain nutrients can be helpful in quieting seasonal symptoms. Among the most popular are grape seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin. Although both occur naturally in many foods -- and are especially abundant in red wine -- when used in supplement form they can be extremely helpful in reducing allergy symptoms, particularly in conjunction with vitamin C, says James Dillard, MD.
"There is even some evidence that quercetin may control the release of histamine and other chemicals that help initiate the allergic response," says Dillard, clinical advisor to Columbia University's Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Turning the focus from the medicine chest to the kitchen cabinet, you might want to try cooking up some allergy relief in the form of hot, spicy foods. The reason: Experts say the spicier the dish, the more likely it is to thin mucous secretions, which in turn can clear nasal passages. Among the most frequently recommended spices for this purpose include cayenne pepper, hot ginger, and fenugreek, as well as the traditional onion and garlic.
Interestingly, what you don't eat may be even more important than what you do eat. The reason, according to Hardy, is that food intolerance may be far more intimately entwined with seasonal allergies than we realize.
"You have to really look at your diet and cut out any foods that seem to provoke even a mild sensitivity, such as occasional hives or even stomach upset, " says Hardy. In doing so, she says, you can literally lighten the burden on your immune system, which in turn may help reduce the impact of seasonal allergic reactions.
According to New York University allergist Clifford Bassett, MD, if you suffer from ragweed or other weed pollen allergies, "you should avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing echinacea, all of which can make symptoms much worse," he says.
Seasonal Allergies From the Inside Out
If your seasonal allergies are causing you to spend more time indoors than out, you may be tempted to try an air filtration system, which many say can remove irritating dust and pollens from your personal space, and in the process improve seasonal allergies. But according to a recent report from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, while these sometimes-costly units may clear the air, once an allergy is in progress they don't appear to have much impact on symptoms.