Up to 40% of all Americans suffer from hay fever, and the incidence in the US is increasing every year. Also called allergic rhinitis, symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, teary eyes and headache. No matter what you call it, the season is upon us as spring flowers bloom and grasses grow. Hay fever usually peaks when particular plants are pollinating or when molds are flourishing. People who suffer from year-round hay fever (perennial rhinitis) may be allergic to persistent allergens in the environment coming from such sources as dust mites, mice, and cockroaches. In the Pacific Northwest, people may also notice a flare in late winter with the wet weather, likely due to mold.
In response to allergic triggers, an individual prone to allergies develops an exaggerated immune response. Substances known as IgEs flood the nasal passages, white blood cells called eosinophils arrive by the millions and billions, and inflammatory substances such as histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes are released in massive amounts. The overall effect is the familiar one of swelling, dripping and itching.
The mechanism of allergic response is fairly well understood. Why allergic people react so excessively to innocent bits of pollen, however, remains somewhat a mystery. It is not unusual for people to develop allergies over time, though allergies may begin in childhood as well. The adrenal glands, the little glands that sit on top of each kidney, respond to stress appear to play a role in allergic reactions.
Food allergies or sensitivities, infections (especially chronic ones), nutritional deficiencies (especially iron), heavy metal toxicity, excessive caffeine, high stress, negative emotions, and lack of sleep are some of the more common factors that stress the adrenals, thus may contribute to increased allergic reactions. Common symptoms that indicate adrenal stress may include: lack of motivation, feeling easily overwhelmed, cravings for salt and sugar, dizziness upon standing, excessive urination, blood pressure irregularities, blood sugar irregularities and, most importantly fatigue. For this reason, it is important to reduce adrenal stressors as part of a holistic approach to reducing hay fever.
Natural treatment for hay fever may utilize Quercetin, Nettle leaf and Bioflavonoids, which have been historically used throughout the years to help with the support and management of seasonal allergies. An easy remedy to add to your daily routine is Nettle leaf tea. Drinking 1-3 cups of this mild flavored tea every day through the allergy season will, over time, reduce reactivity. I recommend adding a small amount of local raw honey, which has also been used to address allergies historically.
Test tube studies suggest that bioflavonoids—biologically active compounds found in many plants—may help reduce allergy symptoms. A particular bioflavonoid, quercetin, seems to be one of the most active. Recent studies show that quercetin works by stabilizing mast cells, the cells that release histamine as part of the allergic response.
Newer studies have focused on two additional therapies that reduce allergic reactivity: healthy fatty acids, like those found in fish or krill oils, and probiotics, or live beneficial microorganisms that may be taken as a supplement or in fermented foods. Probiotics may even prevent allergy development, especially when given in early childhood.
Neti Pot rinses, popularized by Dr. Oz, may help relieve sinus pressure and soothe the sinuses. In addition, homeopathic remedies, may be effective at relieving symptoms. Working with a Naturopathic Physician may help you individualize the best approach for you to prevent and treat seasonal allergies.
Julie Brush, ND