It’s that time of year again, the days are getting longer and warmer and you are venturing
outdoors with increased excitement. If you’re an allergy sufferer, this time of year may also
present some apprehension. Will this year be as bad as the last? Will it be worse? Will it be
obvious it’s “just allergies”? The good news is that an integrative approach to seasonal
environmental allergies can help you stave off or at the very least minimize your symptoms, as
well as helping you to manage them should they arrive. A bonus is that many of the
lifestyle habits that mitigate allergies also contribute to your daily good health.
What are Seasonal or Environmental Allergies?
Allergies are your body’s natural response to a substance or substances deemed threatening to
your immune system. It reacts and attacks the invading substance in an effort to eliminate it.
Upon repeated exposure, your body’s natural response may increase in severity, resulting in
uncomfortable symptoms sometimes labeled as “allergic rhinitis”. Environmental allergies to
irritants other than pollen, such as dust or pollution, can lead to similar symptoms.
Common Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Itchy ears
- Swelling along the eyelids and nasal passageways
- Itchy nose
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Sore throat
- Lung pressure
- Sinus pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Itchy skin
- Reduced sense of taste and/or smell
Year-Round or Seasonal
Environmental allergies generally occur during the spring and fall, but can trigger your immune
system all year long. Tree, shrub and grass pollens and molds are the main seasonal culprits. If
you suffer from indoor allergies like dust mites and dander as well, the mix of indoor and
outdoor allergens can create the perfect environment for an aggravated immune system that
Different for Everyone
It’s important to note that everyone’s immune system is different, and allergies can develop
over time. If you haven’t experienced allergies in the past and are experiencing symptoms, or, if
you have experienced them, but are perplexed at symptoms showing up at a time of year you
didn’t expect an appointment with your healthcare practitioner can help you pinpoint the
Managing Allergy Symptoms Naturally
Antihistamines may be the medication your MD prescribes for severe symptoms, however
there are many natural steps you can take to support your body, prevent and ease symptoms.
Allergens that are inhaled through your nose can stay there, and get inhaled deeper into your
sinuses triggering your immune system. When you get a runny nose, that’s your body’s way of
trying to eliminate the invading substances, but it doesn’t always work. You can assist it via
Nasal irrigation is the process of cleaning your sinuses by rinsing them with a saline solution7.
Saline water is poured into your sinuses from one nostril, and, via a head tilted sideways, the saline water comes out the other nostril, having traveled through, and effectively cleaning your sinuses. This process is repeated through the other nostril.
Neti pots have been traditionally used in Indian medicine for thousands of years to painlessly
irrigate the nasal passageways, but there are also other options, including premade saline
sprays that do the trick well.
Controlling Indoor Allergens
Minimizing indoor allergens can help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Aside from the regular
offenders of dust mites and dander, outdoor allergens travel indoors through open windows.
Keeping your windows closed during the spring and fall will help cut down on indoor irritants
that pose a threat to your immune system.
That being said, outdoor allergens will still make their way into your home, via doors being
open and individuals, including yourself, transporting them inside on your clothes, hair and
shoes. If your allergies are severe, consider showering and changing your clothes once you’re
home for the evening and launder your clothes and bedding regularly.
If that wasn’t enough, allergens can still move throughout your home aggravating your sinuses,
so keeping your home especially clean during the spring and fall by vacuuming and dusting
regularly can help. Investing in a HEPA filter air purifier is a fantastic way to keep your indoor air clean year round8.
Acupuncture works on the premise of supporting the body through balancing energy pathways
and improving circulation. Originating in what is now China, acupuncture has been used to
promote general good health for thousands of years. Studies have found that regular
acupuncture sessions may help relieve runny nose, watering eyes, inflammation, scratchy
throat, eczema and other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies2,9.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant that supports the immune system when taken
regularly1*. Unlike chemical antihistamine medications, vitamin C reduces the amount of
histamine you produce, rather than blocking histamine receptors10.
Long Term Strategies to Support Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Support the Immune System
Reducing and managing stress, practicing good sleep hygiene, eating whole, nutrient dense
foods and getting 30 minutes of regular, moderate physical activity daily all contribute to a
healthy immune system. Nutritional supplements such as Quercetin*, Vitamin D*, olive leaf*,
and stinging nettle* may offer additional support6. Talk to your Naturopathic/Functional
Medicine/Integrative medical practitioner to discuss a comprehensive look at what’s going on
and supporting your immune system from the inside out.
Support Gut Health
The immune system and intestinal flora are intricately interconnected. A healthy intestinal
system helps ward off allergens5, while a poorly functioning intestinal system can lead to
increased chances of experiencing allergy symptoms. Support your gut microbiome by reducing
stress, removing irritating foods, addressing infections and parasites, decreasing sugar and
caffeine and increasing foods that promote healthy gut microbiome such as sauerkraut, kimchi
and other fermented foods. Digestive enzymes and probiotics offer additional support*.
Support A Healthy Inflammatory Response*
Stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and eating a diet rich in fatty, sugary and processed foods all
contribute to creating inflammation in the body3. Inflammation, when it becomes chronic,
wreaks havoc on your immune system. Support a healthy inflammatory response by managing
stress, staying active and increasing your consumption of foods that may promote a healthy
inflammatory response while adopting what is commonly referred to as an “anti-inflammatory diet”. Foods that may promote a healthy inflammatory response include fruits, vegetables, cold water fish, and raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Spices such as tumeric11 and ginger also help reduce inflammation so find ways to integrate them into your diet. Inflammatory foods to keep to a minimum include sugar, red meat, and anything processed.
If you’re struggling to get seasonal allergies under control, give me a call. A Functional Medicine practitioner can help by looking deeper at your overall health to help you manage your allergies better, naturally. Together, we can create a customized plan to deeply support your body’s systems and give you peace of mind as we move into allergy season.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1 Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published
2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
2Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, et al. Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic
review and meta–analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2015;29(1):57–62.
3Galli SJ, Tsai M, Piliponsky AM. The development of allergic inflammation. Nature.
4Hermelingmeier KE, Weber RK, Hellmich M, Heubach CP, Mösges R. Nasal irrigation as an
adjunctive treatment in allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta–analysis. Am J Rhinol
Allergy. 2012;26(5):e119–e125. doi:10.2500/ajra.2012.26.3787
5Hua X, Goedert JJ, Pu A, Yu G, Shi J. Allergy associations with the adult fecal microbiota:
Analysis of the American Gut Project. EBioMedicine. 2015;3:172–179. Published 2015 Nov 27.
7Khianey R, Oppenheimer J. Is nasal saline irrigation all it is cracked up to be?. Ann Allergy
Asthma Immunol. 2012;109(1):20–28. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2012.04.019
8Ohio State University College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, Division of
Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine: “HEPA Filters Help Some with Allergies.”
9Taw MB, Reddy WD, Omole FS, Seidman MD. Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Curr Opin
Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;23(3):216–220. doi:10.1097/MOO.0000000000000161
10Vollbracht C, Raithel M, Krick B, Kraft K, Hagel AF. Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of
allergies: an interim subgroup analysis of a long–term observational study. J Int Med Res.
11Wu S, Xiao D. Effect of curcumin on nasal symptoms and airflow in patients with perennial
allergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016;117(6):697–702.e1.