Updated: Jun 12
If you are here looking for natural solutions for your seasonal allergies, I'm so glad you are here!
The truth is that many people see seasonal allergies as a separate entity - a diagnosis or a 'condition', but really, it is a manifestation of a whole system imbalance from an interplay between:
Our environment (our diet, sleep, toxin exposure etc)
You see, our bodies never 'malfunction' - allergies don't just come out of nowhere because our bodies made a mistake. Allergies is something our bodies adapted to in an attempt to protect us. Say what? Yep you heard that right.
Our gut houses around 70%-80% of our immune system. This is because our gut encounters a large number of pathogens and foreign material. You can argue that our skin encounters more, and that's true, but remember that what lies between us and the external world is only one cell layer thick in the gut, whereas our skin comprises of multiple layers that form a solid barrier (unless it is broken by skin conditions such as eczema - a related condition to allergies). The gut lining has a delicate job of needing to allow nutrients in but keep the bad guys out.
Our gut is also one of the boot camps for the immune system. The interaction between the gut bacteria and our cells at that delicate lining can dictate whether your body identifies something as a friend or a foe.
Studies have linked antibiotic use in infancy with childhood allergic diseases such as eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis, and the hypothesis is that, since antibiotics affect our microbiome, it can also have an impact on allergic diseases (Not saying don't take antibiotics - please follow your doctor's advice, antibiotics can be life-saving).
In addition, we also know that the integrity of our gut barrier plays an important role in food allergies. There are many hypotheses as to why, the immune system is very complex and it is beyond the scope of this blog post to fully explain the mechanisms but and here is a simplified version. Under normal circumstances, a food is digested and broken into small particles to be absorbed. Our immune system has been trained to identify these as 'food' and therefore do not mount an attack when these food particles are absorbed into our body. When the gut barrier is 'leaky', the holes in the barrier is much larger. Therefore, much bigger, undigested food particles can now pass through. These particles are not what our immune system has been trained to identify - and so an immune response is triggered.
On that same thread, could it be that 'leaky gut' or even 'leaky lungs' could contribute to the loss of tolerance to environmental allergens? Definitely plausible and further research is needed to confirm this.
We know that intestinal permeability aka 'leaky gut' is associated with inflammation - because materials e.g. LPS (lipopolysaccharide), which are not supposed to enter our bloodstream, starts to when the gut becomes leaky... LPS (lipopolysaccharide) are found in the membrane of gram-negative bacteria which is present in our food (meat) and also a normal part of our gut microbiota... These organisms are supposed to stay inside the gut lumen. However, when they make the escape into our blood stream, they sound an alarm to our immune system that we are under attack, and an inflammatory response is triggered.
Inflammation tips the balance our of immune system. It basically distracts the immune system away from the job at hand, and so the immune system starts to become dysregulated.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because there is good news. YOU can help heal your gut and lower the inflammation - through diet and lifestyle. I have a couple of blog posts on this, one of them is linked here.
Both of my kids had severe food allergies when they were infants - my daughter has completely outgrown hers, including an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts and eggs. My son has gone from having 9 IgE-mediated food allergies down to 3... we still have work to do on him. And yes it is hard work, A LOT of hard work and an overhaul of our entire lifestyle - but this is true natural healing... getting to the root causes.
Herbal remedies, whilst they are 'natural' and have an important place as symptom relief, is just another bandaid. We shouldn't have to be on herbal remedies and supplements for the rest of our lives.
And, I want to emphasize that there's no shame in needing antihistamines or herbal remedies - if your allergies are bad, use the medications as guided by your healthcare provider, while you work at the underlying root causes. Always check with them before you start any supplements or herbs as these can sometimes interfere with medications and be contraindicated in certain medical conditions.
When I approach allergies, I have two prongs - a long term prong which I know will take consistent effort and time to manifest, and a short term prong which brings more immediate relief. Please recognize that nothing, even in the short term prongs listed below, will work like an antihistamine pill, which is a concentrated pharmaceutical agent. The steps do, however, add up and together they may bring about some symptom relief - as always, be guided by your medical doctor as this is for education only and not to be taken as medical advice.
Here are some other tips to reduce inflammation and combat those allergy symptoms while you work on healing your gut and combatting inflammation:
Eat quercetin rich foods: onions (particularly yellow), capers, apples, grapes, tea (click here for my favorites), berries. In general, plant foods contain flavanoids and vitamin C which have a synergistic action. So load up on colorful fruits and veggies.
Reducing inflammatory foods: processed foods, refined sugar, omega 6 rich oils like sunflower, animal products which as discussed above are a source of LPS and other inflammatory compounds like Neu5GC.
Reduce toxin exposure which also damages our microbiome and causes inflammation. One of the most useful tools we've incorporated is a quality air filter. This not only helps to filter out allergens but also toxins in the air like VOCs, PM2.5 particles from cooking which can damage our health. I love the Air doctor because it has an Ultra-Hepa filter, capable of capturing particles down to 0.003 microns (more HEPA filters captures only down to 0.3microns).
Nasal saline irrigation and showering soon after coming indoors - studies have shown that saline nasal irrigation can reduce nasal irritation and mucous production - please make sure you follow proper instructions to do this properly as improper use can increase the risk of infections.
Some supplements that may be helpful are listed below. I am unable to advise whether these are suitable for you because I am not your doctor, but provide these as a guide for you to discuss with your own health care provider. Please do not start any supplements without consulting your doctor first:
Leefy Organics - This is a turmeric/ginger tincture you've heard me mention before, which I use as a pain relief and to help lower inflammation - both turmeric and ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory foods, and this tincture combines these in a bioavailable and synergistic form to help reduce inflammation (affiliate code: Plateful for 15% off your first order)
Butterbur - in a randomnised controlled trial of 131 patients, butterbur was found to be as effective as cetirizine in seasonal allergic rhinitis
Other helpful steps are included in the infographic below: taking off your shoes, showering soon after you come indoors.