It’s just so VIBRANT this time of year! Grass is growing. Trees are blooming. And pollen is driving most of us totally bonkers! Spring (or fall) can be marked by severe fatigue, watery/itchy eyes, sore throat, runny/congested nose or even skin rashes as all this life sends our immune system into overdrive. There are plenty of over the counter medications to try to alleviate the symptoms but many folks notice unpleasant side effects, and the minute you stop taking them, all your symptoms come roaring back. Medications don’t do anything for the underlying issue: that your immune system thinks that pollen needs to be attacked with the full force of a typhoid epidemic. There are lots of theories and research being done about where this issue starts, with a lot of it pointing to our hyper-clean environments, more time indoors, changes in climate, and rampant use of antibiotics and antibacterial products. (CNBC “Allergies are on the rise…” and Pollen Overload from the NIH)
So now what? Stay inside and suffer? No way!
Here are a few things to get your immune system back in line:
- Probiotics. Immune system regulation begins in the gut, which for most of us has been trashed by multiple courses of antibiotics in our life. I recommend starting with 50 billion live cultures for at least 3 months to repopulate your biome. Refrigerated brands tend to be more potent but if you have to leave them on the counter to remember to take it, do it! This is also one of those situations where you get what you pay for. It’s worth spending a little extra on a full spectrum, high potency brand to start and you can always cut back after a couple of bottles. You can also supplement with naturally fermented foods: kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, small amounts of yogurt/kefir.
- Stinging Nettle. Now be careful with this one! As is obvious, they are painful if grabbed in the wild. The easiest way to get this in your system is a nice tea. Mountain Rose Herbs has a blend that I particularly like. Brew it strong and drink two times a day. Extra points for adding some local, raw honey (available at the Co-Op, or Garden Song Cafe)! Nettle can also be cooked, used in a quiche or in the place of any other cooked greens. Once they are cooked, you don’t have to worry about the sting.
- Nasal Rinse/Neti Pot. These are available pretty much everywhere. Use daily to start and then back down to every few days to keep irritants and congestion from settling in your sinuses. It can feel a bit weird at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a quick way to keep your sinuses clear for the rest of the day. If you’re already suffering from congestion or a runny nose, a great time to start using them is after a hot shower/bath when the sinuses are at their most clear. These are best used with a mild saline solution and most pots come with a mix that can be used – don’t use your table salt! It is too coarse and has iodine in it, which can further irritate your sinuses. Nasal rinses should always be used with distilled or boiled water for safety.
- Limit your dairy intake. I know. No one said it would be fun. But dairy increases mucus production in the body so it’s not your friend when your head feels heavy and stuffy and your nose is running. Skip the cheese on your sandwich, try a little dusting of parmesan on your pasta instead of a cheesy lasagna, and fill your plate with seasonal veggies like ramps, asparagus and fresh peas.
- Last, but certainly not least, if the allergies are already out of the gate, and you’re totally miserable, stop in for some
acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to even beat medications for treating allergy symptoms in some studies and we can get your immune system back on track, naturally. Results are best seen after a few visits, and can lessen the severity of future flares or even prevent them all together if you continue treatment.