What can you do? Here are suggestions for helping you find some much-needed natural relief this season.
What could be simpler than rinsing away allergens with saltwater? Neti pots, small vessels shaped like Aladdin’s lamp, have been used in India for thousands of years to flush the sinuses.
- Alittle dose of saltwater can rinse away pollen grains and help reduce allergies and other forms of sinus congestion. Neti pots are widely available online and at natural food stores.
- Use your pot about twice a day during allergy season, especially in the morning and after spending time outdoors. You also can use a neti pot before bed to prevent snoring caused by allergies and promote optimal overnight breathing
- A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps suppress histamine production in your body. (Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer.)
- Though many foods are high in quercetin, allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season
Allergy Fighting Foods
- A German study, published in the journal Allergy, found that participants who ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to suffer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t regularly eat these foods.
- Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs.
- If you decide you need an antihistamine but want a natural option, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves in much the same way as many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, but without the unwanted side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness.
- Nettle actually inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine. It’s a common weed in many parts of the United States, but the most practical medicinal form is a freeze-dried extract of the leaves sold in capsules.
- Studies have shown that taking about 300 milligrams daily will offer relief for most people, although the effects may last only a few hours.
- Derived from a common weed in Europe, butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is another alternative to antihistamines, though it may be hard to find in the United States.
- A Swiss study, published in British Journal of Medicine, found that butterbur was as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec. Even though cetirizine is supposed to be a nonsedative antihistamine, researchers reported that it did cause drowsiness, though butterbur did not. Participants in the study took 32 milligrams of butterbur a day, divided into four doses.
- A word of caution though — butterbur is in the same family as ragweed, so it could worsen allergy symptoms in some cases. Effects of taking butterbur over a long period of time also are unknown.
- Specific immunotherapy, otherwise known as allergy shots, has been used widely to inject patients with diluted doses of certain allergens to help build immunity over time. However, allergy shots can take three to five years to be effective, and a small percentage of people suffer severe reactions to this treatment.
- New studies have found a gentler way to acclimate the body to pollen and other allergens called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), which has been used for the past 20 years in Europe. In SLIT treatments, patients put drops of a very small dose of the allergen (initially a 1:1,000 dilution) under the tongue for two minutes, then swallow.
- The daily therapy begins before peak pollen season for seasonal allergy sufferers, but also can be used to treat year-round allergies, though treatment must be specific to the type of allergen.