Roughly 40 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. As winter goes into spring and summer into fall, the pollens from trees, grass, flowers, and plants make their way into the air, causing sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, as well as itchy, watery, and red eyes.
For many, relief is just a drugstore away. However, antihistamines do not address the underlying cause of seasonal allergies and they often come with side effects.
Why We Have Allergies?
Allergy is the result of our immune system’s over-reaction to an allergen, such as pollens, that is not necessarily harmful to the body. The body fights back by producing excessive inflammatory chemicals like histamine. Histamine increases the permeability of capillaries to white blood cells (to fight against foreign invaders). It also causes fluid to escape into the tissues, leading to symptoms of a classic allergic reaction – runny nose and watery eyes.
Another mechanism involved in an allergic response is the release of leukotrienes, an agent which can restrict bronchial tubes up to 1,000 times more than histamine can. The production of leukotrienes is made possible by the presence of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found exclusively in animal products. Therefore, during serious bouts with allergies, consumption of meat and dairy products can aggravate the symptoms for some people.
How Antihistamines Work?
Antihistamines do not prevent the production of histamine. They merely block the action of histamine at receptor sites. In other words, they suppress the appearance of physical symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying cause. In addition, antihistamines can produce undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, nervousness, and upset stomach.
Relieving Seasonal Allergies The Natural Way
Allergy is caused by the over-reaction of the immune system. Therefore, to achieve bona fide relief, it makes more sense to calm the body’s immune response rather than merely masking the symptoms.
First of all, your diet is the key to a healthy immune system; you are what you eat. Therefore, you cannot be eating a lot of fried foods, fast foods, processed foods, or sugar and expect to be in excellent health.
- Make sure you get plenty of antioxidants from a variety of above-ground vegetables and fruits (1-2 pieces per day due to sugar content).
- It is essential to include Omega-3 fish oil from oily fish products such as sardines and wild Alaskan salmon. Omega-3 reduces inflammation and promotes sinus health.
- Avoid the following common food additives, in particular, if you are sensitive to them; these foods may aggravate your seasonal allergies.
- Yellow dye no. 5 or tartrazine (in some breakfast cereals, pies, and canned puddings)
- Sulphites (in dried fruits, wines, French fried potatoes and chips, and pickles)
- MSG (in some Asian foods)
Based on research as well as personal experience, I found that if you are one of those who need to take antihistamine everyday to relieve your symptoms, quercetin is very effective in managing seasonal allergies.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many foods, in particular, red apples (including the skin), red onions, citrus fruits, berries, white, green, and black teas, and red wine. It has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and it suppresses the production and release of the two primary inflammatory compounds – histamine and leukotrienes.
However, to manage serious seasonal allergies, just eating these quercetin-rich foods are not enough; you need to take quercetin as a supplement. Quercetin is safe and non-toxic, but quercetin is barely soluble in water, and is not very well absorbed when taken alone.
To improve absorption, look for a quercetin supplement that also contains bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple stems that supports healthy immune system. What’s more, research shows that absorption is even further enhanced when the quercetin-bromelain is taken together with vitamin C.
- Find a quercetin-bromelain supplement from a manufacturer that follows pharmaceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest standard.
- The most effective way to handle seasonal allergies is to start taking the quercetin 4-6 weeks before the season begins. If you start taking it when you already have allergies, it may take a few weeks to see any benefits.
- Take 800 mg of quercetin-bromelain with vitamin C on empty stomach upon waking. For those with a sensitive stomach, you can take them with food. If you find that you are still suffering from severe allergies, take another 800 mg before lunch and/or before dinner (no more than 2,400 mg per day). You can back down to 800 mg a day as your allergies subside.
- Never mix allergy medication with quercetin supplements.
- Avoid quercetin if you are taking a medication that tells you to stay away from onions, apples, grapefruits, oranges, pomegranates, white, green, and black teas. These foods are naturally high in quercetin.
- People who are sensitive to citrus may want to be cautious. Some have reported mouth sores, headaches, and digestive upset from quercetin supplements.
- People on hormone replacement therapy should be aware that quercetin may increase estradiol and reduce the effectiveness of other forms of estrogen.
- People on Cyclosporine, an anti-rejection drug for organ transplants, may find that quercetine increases blood levels of Cyclosporine.
- People on Felodipine, a calcium channel blocker, should not take quercetin, which breaks down Felodipine into inactive pieces.