While many rejoice as we shift from a cold, dark winter to sunny days and blossoming trees, there are others who dread this time of year. To them, spring brings with it sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, generalized fatigue, and other common symptoms of seasonal allergies.
While over-the-counter antihistamines can work wonders, they can sometimes have mild side effects (such as dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, blurred vision, difficulty urinating, and/or confusion) and don’t do anything to address why the seasonal allergies are happening in the first place.
I have a handful of patients coming in right now to have their seasonal allergies addressed, and I’ll shed a little light on some of the things we do together and what options may be available to you if you suffer.
[It’s important to note that naturopathic medicine is centred on individualized care and not a cookie-cutter approach. Also, just because a remedy is “natural”, doesn’t mean it’s safe. That said, I will simply list various options that may be explored in a seasonal allergy case. Should you be curious about how this information fits within the context of your specific case, or want to know if a treatment option is safe/right for you, I highly recommend that you contact me for a complimentary 15min phone consultation.]
To provide acute relief from allergy symptoms, I often implement some combination of the following:
- Avoidance of known triggers
- Nasal irrigation (eg Neti Pot; to flush out allergens from nasal and sinus cavities)
- Supplements such as vitamin C, pycnogenol, quercitin, and stinging nettle tea (all of which have antihistamine-like effects…I say “antihistamine-like” because nutritional and herbal remedies have broader action than pharmaceutical and/or over-the-counter drugs, which are generally very specific in their action…in addition to antihistamine effects, these natural remedies also support blood vessels, skin, blood pressure, and blood sugar, amongst other things)
To address and treat the underlying root cause (which is often related to some kind of immune dysregulation, when you consider that the body is mounting quite a strong immune response to seemingly benign stimuli such as pollen or dust), here are some of the things we may explore:
- Assess for foods that aggravate symptoms and find suitable substitutes
- Correct any digestive disturbances (the gut plays a major role in immune function)
- Magnesium (if deficient, as histamine levels can be higher in magnesium deficient individuals)
- Vitamin E (to support optimal vitamin C function and immune health)
- Probiotics (to support a healthy and balanced immune system)
- Adaptogenic herbs (to support a balanced stress response, as chronically elevated stress hormones can exacerbate symptoms and cause a disruption to immune function)
- Vitamin D (to support optimal immune function and levels of inflammation)
I have been asked several times about two specific supplements that were referenced as being helpful for hay fever (another term for seasonal allergies): pycnogenol and quercitin. I’ll briefly share some key info on these two substances, as they can be great additions to a hay fever treatment plan (though, I must stress the importance of a comprehensive treatment plan that works to address the underlying root cause of the condition).
Pycnogenol is a an extract from French maritime pine bark that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It has been proven to help support healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as well as help with joint pain, cognition/memory, eye health, PMS, skin elasticity, chronic venous insufficiency, and respiratory health.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial done here in Ontario, 50mg daily of pycnogenol was shown to reduce nasal and eye hay fever symptoms, as well as antihistamine use, when supplementation started five weeks before the onset of the birch pollen allergy season. Clinically, I have seen benefit even if supplementation is started during the allergy season, but it is usually valuable to combine it with other treatments to maximize results.
It is noteworthy that this research was done on pycnogenol, which is a registered trademark product that has over 230 published studies and review articles. There are “pine bark” supplements on the market, but these may not have undergone the same research to test their validity and results may be unpredictable. I encourage that you look for the pycnogenol label/trademark if you’re interested in this product (and as always, it’s best you seek guidance from a trained health professional before starting any supplement).
Quercitin is a flavonoid with antioxidant properties that has demonstrated the ability to reduce hay fever symptoms. In a placebo-controlled study, 100mg daily resulted in reductions in allergic symptoms (congestion, watery eyes, and itching) and a reduction in the use of other allergy medications. For optimal benefit, I generally use slightly higher doses and combine it with vitamin C.
Again, if you’re curious about how this information fits within the context of your specific case, or want to know if a treatment option is safe/right for you, I highly recommend that you contact me for a complimentary 15min phone consultation.
Wishing you a happy, fun, and allergy-free summer!