Spring is in the air, and so are allergens! Don’t you just love this time of year? If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you probably don’t love it so much. Fortunately, there are some ways we can relieve allergy symptoms and get to the root cause, without medication. Read on to find out what allergies are, what causes allergies, and 10 natural remedies for allergies.
What are allergies?
First of all, what are allergies? In short, allergies are when your immune system reacts to something. The “something” is called an allergen, and different allergens affect different people. I may be allergic to oak pollen, but it may not bother you. Maybe you react to grass pollen. When an allergen enters your body, it is the role of the immune system to attack it. Your immune system creates antibodies to that trigger when it is starts to recognize it. The allergen then binds to the antibodies in your body, and your body releases chemicals, including histamines. Histamines are what cause inflammation in the lungs, nose, and head and causes all those lovely symptoms!
Allergies can also cause different symptoms for different people. Symptoms can include:
- Nose and Ear Congestion
- Watery eyes
- Itchy skin
- Difficulty Breathing
- And, if it’s super severe, anaphylactic shock, which involves swelling of the mouth and throat
Why do we get allergies?
Why does our immune system even react to different things?
The answer to that question and the root cause of allergies is the same root cause for many health issues. It’s all about THE GUT! Like Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, said, “All disease begins in the gut.” 60% of the immune system is in the gut. So, when the gut is not functioning properly, our immune system is affected, causing all kinds of other problems (including eczema, which I wrote about here!).
Fortunately, there are things you can do to heal your gut to prevent from getting allergies and there are some things you can do to reduce allergy symptoms in the meantime.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
1. Heal the Gut
First, it’s important to get to the root cause of allergies – gut issues. Your gut contains much of your immune system. It also contains trillions of bacteria, also known as your gut microbiota. One gut issue many people have is called dysbiosis, or an imbalance of bacteria. You may have too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Or you may have too much good bacteria, but in the wrong place.
Another gut issue many suffer with, and often a result of bacteria dysbiosis, is leaky gut. Leaky gut is exactly what it sounds like. The lining of your gut, or your intestines, is made up of tight junctures, which provide a barrier between your intestines and your bloodstream. It allows nutrients to pass through to your blood, but keeps bacteria, food particles, and toxins out. Or, it’s supposed to keep those things out. If your gut is “leaky”, those tight junctures are not tight any more, and things that should not be in the blood, pass through to the blood. The immune system senses those foreign invaders, and then launches an attack. That attack produces inflammation in the body. One way that inflammation manifests is through seasonal allergies.
So in order to heal the root cause of allergies, it’s important to heal the gut. Here’s how to do that:
a) Remove Inflammatory Foods and Common Food Triggers from the Diet
Yes, the foods you eat do contribute to getting seasonal allergies. I notice a HUGE difference with this in my body. Before I started my health journey, I had terrible seasonal allergies – sneezing, coughing, headaches, and lots of congestion. Now, I might get a few days a year where I have some symptoms – usually a headache and a little congestion – but not nearly as much as I did before.
Common foods that cause inflammation and contribute to leaky gut are:
- Gluten – found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and foods containing those or that are cross-contaminated with those (usually oats are)
- Other grains, especially GMOs
- Vegetable oil and other refined, Omega-6-rich trans fats
- Highly processed foods
- Sugar and other sweeteners
b) Focus on Eating Nutrient-dense, Anti-inflammatory Foods
Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, or shouldn’t eat, try to have a positive mindset and focus on eating foods that nourish your body and will help heal your gut. Great foods to include are:
- Vegetables (try to choose organic)
- Meats (Choose quality, not highly-processed meats, including pasture-raised chicken and pork, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught fish, when possible)
- Bone broth
- Healthy omega-6 rich fats, like olive oil, sprouted nuts and seeds, avocado, and fish
- Fruits – especially berries
- Herbs and spices – especially turmeric
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
c) Rebalance Gut Bacteria
One important step in healing your gut is rebalancing your gut bacteria. Make sure to consume a probiotic supplement or probiotic-rich foods to increase your good bacteria, and therefore reduce the bad bacteria. A great probiotic supplement that is spore-based and is able to survive your acid stomach to get to your gut is this one.
To get a good variety of probiotics, also choose probiotic-rich foods and drinks to consume, including:
- sourdough bread
- other fermented vegetables
d) Reduce Stress
A big contributing factor to leaky gut is stress. If you’re super stressed, there’s more of a chance that allergens will affect you. I know from experience that times when I am really stressed my eczema, also caused my leaky gut, flares up. So to help prevent allergy symptoms, work on stress management. You can read my posts 7 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Manage Your Stress for help with that.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Whether you suffer with allergies or not, this one is always important. One symptom of allergies for many people is tiredness. This is something you’ll probably want to do anyways when you’re suffering from allergies. But this one also contributes to healing your gut. Not getting enough sleep is also a contributing factor to gut issues, and therefore leads to inflammation and allergies.
As hard as it can be sometimes, especially as a mom with littles, try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Read my post on Quality Sleep for more benefits of sleep and tips for getting quality sleep.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural way to reduce mucous and help with lymphatic drainage. Your lymphatic system is a part of your immune system and is responsible for removing toxins from the body.
When you have allergies, one symptom you may experience is enlarged lymph nodes. Your lymphatic system, including your lymph nodes which store white blood cells (the fighters against foreign invaders), is working hard to fight and remove the allergens.
When you have an infection or allergies, a buildup of toxins can occur. Apple Cider Vinegar can help to clean out your lymphatic system and reduce swelling in your lymph nodes.
Apple Cider Vinegar containing “the Mother” is a fermented food, which is full of beneficial bacteria. Like I wrote earlier, increasing good bacteria is a great way to get to the root issue of treating allergies. This is my favorite brand of ACV. It hasn’t been filtered and still contains “the Mother,” where all that great bacteria is.
When you have allergy symptoms, dilute 1 Tablespoon in a cup of water and drink once a day or a few times a day, as needed.
4. Local, Raw Honey
Eating raw, local honey is a great way to get your body used to allergens around you. The LOCAL part is important. Bees make honey from nectar of plants within a 5 mile radius of their hive. Some of that nectar is probably from the same plants that give you a fit of allergies. So, when you eat that local honey, especially before allergy season starts, your body is able to adapt to those allergens and handle them better when allergy season comes.
The RAW part is important too. Most honey that you buy at the grocery store has been heated and filtered to remove the pollen and anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and immune-boosting benefits. Raw honey contains some pollen in it to help your body adapt to those allergens.
We actually have our own bees, which we just harvested our first batch of honey from. I use a little honey in my coffee or tea, and pretty much any time a recipe calls for a sweetener (as long as doesn’t mess up the consistency).
Quercetin is a pigment in many fruits and vegetables, including onions, apples, broccoli, grapes, green tea, coffee, and citrus fruits.
It has great antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body, which cause damage to cells and increase inflammation. Free radicals contribute to lots of problems, including cancer and allergies.
Supplementing with quercetin, whether quercetin-rich foods or an actual quercetin supplement, helps prevent the body from releasing histamines and reduces inflammation – therefore, reducing allergy symptoms.
I’ve been taking this Quercetin supplement, which also has Vitamin C and some other clean ingredients, that are specially designed to work together to boost the immune system and reduce allergy symptoms, and it works!
6. Essential Oils
Essential oils have tons of great benefits and are a natural way to heal a variety of problems in the body, including allergies. Here’s some that are great for allergies:
- Peppermint Oil: this is one of my favorites! It is great for relieving headaches and reducing inflammation. I put a drop on my temples when I get a headaches, and it starts to relieve my headache right away! It also helps to soothe sore throats and clear out mucous. Diffuse it or apply it to your neck and chest.
- Lavender Oil: reduces inflammation, is a natural anti-histamine, and helps to relieve headaches. Diffuse a few drops in water.
- Lemon Oil: supports lymphatic drainage. Apply a drop directly to each of your swollen lymph nodes.
- Eucalyptus Oil: clears the lungs and sinuses and improves breathing. Diffuse a few drops in water or mix a few drops with a carrier oil and apply it to your chest.
7. Nasal Irrigation
Another way to clear mucous from your nose is with a saline solution. Spraying or squirting a nasal spray or saline (salt) solution in your nostrils helps to wash away the excess mucous and allergens.
There’s a few different ways you can do this:
- You can make your own saline solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt with 2 Cups hot water. Let the salt dissolve, and then let the solution cool completely. Then put the solution in a neti pot, squirt bottle, or syringe, tilt your head so that it’s horizontal, squeeze the solution into one nostril, and it will drain out the other nostril.
- Or, use the same homemade saline solution, but put it into a spray bottle. Spray into the nostrils when needed.
- Or, the easy way, buy a pre-made saline spray, like this one, and spray it into your nostrils whenever you need to clear them out.
8. Air Purifier
Another way to reduce allergy symptoms is by purifying the air and get ridding of the allergens in your home. AirDoctor is an excellent air purifier to clean your air and rid it of pollen and other allergens. Its Ultra Hepa filter cleans 100 times more efficiently than traditional Hepa filters. AND it’s amazingly able to sense the air quality and adjust the level of filtration based on the allergen level in your home. I don’t have an AirDoctor yet, but it is on my birthday list! I’d love to get one soon!
Of course, this remedy is not a cure all, and it only works when you are in your home. And I’m sure you want to go outside sometime during allergy season.
9. Reduce Interaction with Your Triggers
Of course, one “remedy” for allergies is to just avoid your triggers as much as possible. Of course, it’s not always possible, but do the best you can. Just like those with food allergies don’t eat whatever they’re allergic to, you can try to not be around whatever seasonal allergy is your biggest trigger.
My biggest trigger is oak pollen. So when I see online that oak pollen count is high right now, I’m not going to spend as much time outside. Thankfully, it’s not high all spring.
10. Get Your Vitamin D
This one can contradict the last one, but it is so important! When you are able to and when the count of your allergen trigger (if you know it) is not super high, spend some time outdoors. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to allergies, and many people are deficient in Vitamin D these days. We’re just not spending as much time outside as we did a hundred years ago.
The best way to get Vitamin D is from sun exposure. “Vitamin” D is actually a hormone our skin creates when exposed to sunlight. The amount of sunlight needed is different for different people, depending on your genes, skin color, and location. But aim for getting at least 15 minutes a day of sunshine WITHOUT sunscreen.
Other great sources of Vitamin D are fish, eggs, Cod Liver Oil supplements (I take this one.), and Vitamin D supplements. Since many people are so deficient, sometimes an extra dose of Vitamin D in a supplement is needed. I use this one and love it. It’s mixed with Vitamin K2, which works together with Vitamin D, to maintain healthy levels of calcium and keep the calcium where it’s supposed to be – in the bones.
I hope these remedies are helpful to you. What are your favorite natural remedies for allergies? Let me know in the comments!