By Judith A. Valentine, Ph.D.
Over 22 million Americans have seasonal allergies along with hay fever-type symptoms. Other people suffer year-round with “perennial rhinitis” usually resulting from exposures to animal hair, dust, feathers, spores, fungus or other environmental agents.
Allergies, particularly hay fever, act upon the mucous membrane lining of the nose, eyes, and air passages. Symptoms can include runny nose and eyes, itchy eyes, sneezing and irritability. Symptoms can be similar to the common cold, however, according to James Balch, MD, “…allergies cause a distinctive clear, thin nasal discharge, whereas secretions caused by colds usually become thick and yellow-green as the illness progresses.” Also, colds can cause a fever and are usually gone in a week to 10 days, whereas people with allergies can experience their symptoms for long periods of time.
People with hay fever often have asthma and / or dermatitis. Most people with allergies know which time of year they are most affected, helping to determine which types of exposures are causal. A reliable test which can give a diagnosis is called the radioallergosorbent (RAST) test. Below we have outlined nutrition and supplemental ideas which might be helpful. People who are prone to allergies should always choose hypoallergenic supplement products.
• Increase vegetables, fruits, especially bananas (unless candida is an issue), cooked whole grains, and nuts and seeds (preferably raw). Stay on a high fiber diet striving for 25-35 grams of fiber per day. (See example of fiber foods chart at end of article).
• Eating yogurt at least 3 x week can be helpful, especially home-made yogurt which is best. Studies have shown that eating yogurt daily can help reduce the incidence of hay fever. Avoid “fruit-on-the-bottom” and other high-sugar type yogurts.
• Avoid dairy products (except yogurt), packaged or canned foods, pies, sodas, white sugar, white flour products, junk food, cakes, chocolate, excessive coffee or black tea (more than 1 cup per day, and if you must have it, prefer organic coffee and organic black tea).
• Foods that are rich in magnesium can reduce the incidence of hay fever attacks: bananas, molasses, peas, kidney beans, soybeans, almonds, lima beans, whole-grains like brown rice, oatmeal, buckwheat (kasha), spelt and other “whole” grains or multi “whole” grain products.
• Helpful supplements: A natural and allergen-free multivitamin & mineral product, Coenzyme Q10, Quercetin (a type of bioflavanoid), vitamin B- complex, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C (3,000 mg +), zinc, Vitamin E, Histoplex (Biotics Research), Sinus Clear or Lung Clear (with our without Ephedra) by Ridgecrest Herbals..
• Helpful Herbs: Alfalfa, mullein leaf, stinging nettle, wild cherry bark, burdock, dandelion, echinacea, yerba mate. Be sure to cycle herbs; do not take them year-round. Bee Pollen can strengthen the immune system in some, however, some folks might be allergic. Work up to 2 tsp. slowly and discontinue use if a reaction occurs.
• Ephedra can help to relieve bronchial spasms, congestion and coughing (do not use over 25 mg per day, and avoid if you have anxiety, glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia or if you are taking a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drug for depression.
• Try using an air purifier which sets up an invisible, pure air shield against microorganisms (bacteria, molds, virus, fungi) and microparticles (dust, pollen, dander, pollutants). If you are allergic to animal dander, see an allergist for possible de-sensitizing.
• Keep pets either inside or outside. They can pick up pollen on their fur and bring it indoors.
• Shower and change clothes when you come in from having been outside for awhile. Pollen can stick to your hair and clothes, especially if it’s windy out. Wash hair often to keep pollen out of the eyes and nose.
• Use natural cosmetics on the hair, on the body and in your brushing teeth. Many cosmetics contain chemical compounds that are extremely allergenic.
• Exercise in the morning when wind is down and before grasses have pollinated (usually midday).
• Place extra coverings on your mattress and pillows, washing them in hot, soapy water weekly. Shake out blankets and bedspreads every week – or better yet – have someone else do it for you, or wear a mask during the shaking.
• Don’t forget to have your carpets and venting system commercially cleaned at least twice a year to get rid of dust mites and other invisible particles that may be problematic to your respiratory system.
“The best and safest way to control allergies is the natural way – avoiding all allergens and taking steps to normalize immune function and prevent or lessen the symptoms. Allergies can usually be controlled if you are willing to make changes in your lifestyle, diet, and mental state.
Quote and other references are taken from, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James Balch, MD, and Phyllis Balch, C.N.C., also from The Natural Pharmacy, by Jonothan Wright, MD and Alan Gaby, MD, and Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND.