Published in the March/April 2012 issue of Renew
Allergy sufferers looking to avoid meds should try these alternative and natural remedies.
By Janice Arenofsky
Every year, allergy sufferer Shirley Cole struggles with an inflammatory response to pollen in the air. She has sniffles, sneezing, itchy eyes and sinus congestion. “I did not want to take over-the-counter medications because of their negative side effects,” Cole says. For a long time, she did nothing, and, like the 50 million other allergy sufferers, she wrestled with chronic symptoms from environmental triggers.
But then Cole heard about a natural technique— a saline nasal wash that relieves the stuffy unpleasantness by flushing out irritants from the nose and lessening mucus. Irrigating nasal passages with a commercial or homemade solution (to make, combine a quart of water with two to three teaspoons of sea salt and one teaspoon of baking soda) can gently reduce headache-causing inflammation, says Molly Roberts, president of the American Holistic Medical Association and a former physician with Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Ariz.
“At first, rinse [while standing over] the bathtub once a day for a week,” she says, adding that the lavage treatment is called neti pot and is based on a 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic tradition. During irrigation, Roberts recommends angling the head in such a manner that you can easily breathe through the mouth without swallowing any water.
Similar to homeopathy, sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT, relies on blood test or skin test results for the preparation of a liquid treatment unique to the individual. “This solution, placed under the tongue, contains very dilute amounts of what one is sensitive to,” says Zina Kroner, a New York City internist specializing in integrative medicine. “The theory is that after getting the allergens into one’s system, one can develop an immunity to those allergens.” Kroner uses SLIT regularly in her practice. “Many patients benefit immensely from it,” she says.
Change Your Diet
Romy Fox, author of 25 Natural Ways to Relieve Allergies and Asthma, says that there are a number of foods that can reduce inflammation or strengthen the immune system. Honey, for example, nurtures the immune sys-tem by building natural antibodies in the body from the tiny amounts of pollen it contains. Forego the junk food. Eat natural whole foods, and increase your servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Include omega-3 fatty acid that you get from eating fish such as sardines and salmon.
Kroner advises patients with mold sensitivities to stick to a yeast free diet that lowers sugar-producing carbs. She also suggests a dairy and gluten-free diet. Drink more water and teas (green, juniper, pine, eucalyptus, rosemary) to thin out nasal mucus and hydrate the membranes.
“Chamomile tea is good,” says Roberts, but she cautions against drinking chamomile if you suffer from an allergy to ragweed, as it can actually make your symptoms flair up.
Experts recommend butterbur because it inhibits chemicals that cause nasal swelling. According to British Medical Journal, Swiss researchers found that one tablet of butterbur four times a day controlled hay fever symptoms as effectively as a common antihistamine drug. Evidence indicates that bromelain also reduces nasal swelling, and a 2000 study showed homeopathies such as allium cepa and euphrasia fared better than a placebo.
“I keep an open mind to homeopathies,” says Roberts, adding that one-third of pharmaceuticals also succeed due to the placebo effect or the physician’s belief in the drug’s efficacy. Probiotics, such as lactobacillus and acidophilus, boost the immune system and can “potentially help with the environmental causes of allergies,” says Roberts.
Kroner agrees and says, “Probiotics optimize the GALT, or gut associated lymphoid tissue, where 65 percent of the immune system is located. By optimizing the GALT, we decrease one’s susceptibility to allergens.” The flavonoid quercetin—a natural antihistamine found in onion and apple skins—blocks histamines and reduces inflammation.
“I recommend it, natural vitamin E (not the synthetic) and vitamin C,” says Kroner, who also authored Vitaminsand Minerals. Additionally, reduce your physical exposure to dust, smoke, cat dander and mold, and you’ll breathe more comfortably. Keep doors and windows closed, and remove your shoes at the home entrance way or foyer. Use central air conditioning with allergen filters and a freestanding air purifier with a HEPA filter.
Round out this natural treatment plan with mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation. “You must consider the spiritual and emotional components, too,” says Roberts, “to achieve better balance within yourself.”
By following some or all of these tips, you can minimize allergies without resorting to meds.
Janice Arenofsky is an Arizona-based freelance writer for national magazines such as Experience Life, The Medical Post and American Fitness.