new_health (2006-39)

I’m Allergic to Autumn

Fall allergens can be combated by natural options

by Wendy C. Smith

Well, it's football time in Tennessee. It’s also time for that battalion of late-summer pollens to come floating in. A large segment of the East Tennessee population gets the final allergy hit of the year right about now, and I know many people who are suffering allergic reactions, which makes it difficult to enjoy the beautiful, crisp, cooler weather.  

Although the pollen count has been quite high throughout the spring and summer, it’s not the only cause. Pollution, dust, food, pets, insect bites, chemicals and molds can all elicit allergic reactions which manifest as headaches, nasal congestion, hives, itching and fatigue to name a few symptoms.

An allergic reaction is an exaggerated immune response by the immune system. Allergies are a defensive response by that system to something that is not usually harmful. The immune system is our fortress against invading organisms and infections. However, once in a while the immune system incorrectly identifies a normal substance as a harmful one and, in trying to fight the incorrectly identified "invader," produces a reaction that becomes problematic.

Allergies affect a large percentage of the population throughout the year. For some people, they are just a mildly irritating part of life. But for many others, allergies produce severe symptoms that can make life miserable. Luckily, there are several natural approaches that can combat allergies. Allergic symptoms are instigated by histamine, a protein that causes inflammation and is secreted by mast cells. The histamine level in the body increases when an allergen is introduced. The idea is to lower the histamine levels and try to keep it contained in the mast cells where it is made.

Quercetin is a bioflavinoid found in strawberries and red onions, among other foods. Although it is not an antihistamine, it works against histamine by keeping the body’s mast cells from releasing this substance. It is also good at blocking inflammation, which is one of the bodily responses to allergies that create numerous problems. Quercetin seems to be especially effective in combination with bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme that is a general anti-inflammatory found naturally in pineapple that seems to give great relief to allergies. Taking a little quercetin and bromelain on an empty stomach every day may help alleviate symptoms and will help support the immune system as well.

Vitamin C (or Ester-C), taken alone or in combination, may have anti-inflammatory properties by lowering the blood serum levels of histamine. This vitamin is also necessary to keep cell walls strong and maintain cellular integrity. SuperQuercetin is a supplement that contains bromelain, quercetin and vitamin C. It is important to take these enzymes on an empty stomach, otherwise they act solely as digestive enzymes and not as anti-inflammatories.

A couple of people I know have had success treating allergies with acupuncture. A practitioner prescribed acupuncture and a Chinese herbal product called Xanthium Relief Formula and Nasal Tabs for a friend of mine. She was thrilled with the results, which were fairly immediate, and experienced no side effects or drowsiness. Please note that traditional Chinese medicine has used herbs as drugs for thousands of years and these herbs can be quite potent. One should not purchase any sort of Chinese herbal formula without consulting a professional.

There are also many herbal options that may reduce the symptoms of allergic reactions. Nettle (stinging nettles) is a substance that can be helpful in treating the symptoms of allergies. Nettle is a vigorous antioxidant and reduces inflammation in the sinus cavities. Licorice root can also be effective at battling the inflammatory response of allergies and mimics the effects of cortisone and protisone without the nasty side effects.

Many natural relief formulas such as AllerResponse contain these ingredients. Mucolytic products, such as MucoStop , which contain natural mucolytic (mucus eating) enzymes can assist in easing congestion and sinus issues. And, oddly enough, an extract made from the Chinese mushroom Cordyceps seems to increase breathing capacity in asthmatic situations.

Homeopathy is another place to look for allergy relief. The basic premise of homeopathy is to fight like with like. Homeopathy immunizes the body against the allergen by introducing it in small amounts that allow the body to formulate the appropriate response to the problem. It’s thought to be similar to what an allergist does with shots. Allergy treatment with homeopathy is quite popular. Since homeopathic products use the irritant to elicit a response and give the body a chance to fight back, they are symptom-specific, so care should be taken that the correct products are being used.

Allergies are a natural reaction to substances in our environment, and it can’t hurt to explore the many natural options that are available. Find out what works for you, then take that glorious hike in the mountains.