Little story: When I first moved to Asheville from Boston, it was like a nature bomb went off and littered my world with dandelions, ferns, poison ivy, and kudzu. (And bugs.)
Mostly, I loved it. The air smelled so clean! I could see green everywhere I looked! And since I moved in the fall, I got to skip most of the oppressive summer heat.
The following spring, though, I had a wicked sore throat that lasted for weeks, along with post-nasal drip and what felt like a low-grade fever.
Honestly, it felt like strep throat, so I went to urgent care for a culture. The doctor was very sweet, and not condescending at all when she delivered my diagnosis: allergies.
Thankfully, my allergies have gotten better every year as I acclimate to the nature extravaganza of Western North Carolina. But that year, I felt like crap for pretty much the entire spring season. And living here, I’ve met more and more people with downright debilitating seasonal allergies. Case in point: as I sit here writing this, my man is home taking a sick day because of HIS allergies.
If you’re allergic to spring, it can be a real bummer. You miss out on the most beautiful, hopeful time of year. The burst of outdoor activity, the excitement of getting your garden in gear, the first picnics and barbecues – all come with a hefty price.
Because a) I’m in the holistic health profession, and we know these things, and b) I live in a place where 90% of the residents have pretty bad allergies and have therefore tried lots of remedies, I’ve come across some interesting prevention techniques. Turns out, there’s also a lot about allergies that’s misunderstood.
A word on medication: There are lots of natural remedies to prevent allergies, true. And something like Benadryl is undesirable, for obvious reasons. I haven’t found any major negatives to taking Loratadine (Claritin), although I’m sure somebody has. My approach is, do your best with natural interventions first, and then take something if you need to. Don’t be a hero.
Here are some fun facts you might not know about your seasonal allergies:
- Sinus pain, itchy eyes, and sneezing are not the only symptoms associated with allergies. Body aches, sluggishness, and depression are also part of the package.
- Most natural remedies (nettle tea, local honey) are for prevention of seasonal allergies – which means you need to ingest them consistently over a period of time. All the local honey in Bee Town won’t help you if you’re already sneezing your face off.
- Really bad seasonal allergies can be a sign of food sensitivity. Your body has an allergy “threshold” – a certain amount of triggers it can withstand before you start experiencing symptoms. If you have an undiscovered food sensitivity, you could be maxing out your threshold before spring even gets here.
But if you don’t want to take Claritin all day and Benadryl all night, try some or all of these natural approaches first.
- Try acupuncture. I kid you not: EVERY SINGLE PERSON I know who’s tried acupuncture for their seasonal allergies has experienced relief. Far be it from me to explain Chinese medicine to you – I just know it works. Most people do well with just a few treatments.
- Do a cleanse or elimination diet. The most common food sensitivities are wheat/gluten, corn, dairy, soy, and eggs. In second place, shellfish, strawberries, citrus, and chocolate (I know, how awful.) I know this is not easy, but again, I can think of at least ten people who’ve experienced fewer allergy symptoms after a 3-week elimination.
How to do it: You can try one food at a time, but I think it’s better to do them all at once. Eliminate these foods for three full weeks (no cheating), and then reintroduce them methodically, one by one, taking note of your reactions.
- Drink the nettle tea. Here’s how you REALLY do it. Find bulk nettle (I’ve seen this at Whole Foods). Steep two tablespoons in a quart of fresh, filtered water, for at least an hour. (I like to do this in the sun, but the stovetop works too.) Strain, then drink throughout the day. This works best if you do it every day.
- Use a neti pot. You can find these everywhere now, including CVS and other conventional pharmacies. Follow the instructions and rinse your nasal passage with a sterile saline solution. The first time you do this, it’s weird. But it really helps alleviate acute sinus congestion. Do it first thing in the morning, and right before bed.
- Try homeopathics. Homeopathy is controversial and not very well understood in the Western world. It’s based on the principle that just a small amount of medication will prompt the immune system to take appropriate action. The treatments are dilute, and may take a few days to take effect. The main rules when taking homeopathics: no mint (this includes your toothpaste & dental floss), chocolate, or caffeine. These substances interfere with the effectiveness of the remedy.
To find a product, visit a natural health-foods store with a supplement section and talk to one of the salespeople. Or go to Viatacost.com and search “homeopathic allergy remedy.”
Have you tried any of these approaches? Did you discover something new to try? Tell me about it in the comments!