It's hard to believe that Spring is officially here and it's time to start thinking about allergy season.
If you suffer from hay fever - itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing - you likely dread this time of year. While the sun is shining and the weather is warmer, it's impossible to enjoy time outdoors. So, if you’re looking to prevent allergy flare ups this season, try implementing these 5 strategies. These tips can be applied at any time to anyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.
1. Consider Your Microbiome
Since 80% of the immune system lines the digestive system, it's important to recognize that the functioning of one directly impacts the functioning of the other. When there is an impairment in the digestive lining, food and inhaled antigens like dust, mold or pollen, can leak through the digestive tract and trigger an immune response.
Did you know that there are over 100 trillion bacteria, fungi and viruses that live within our gut? They are responsible for maintaining immune and metabolic homeostasis and protecting against pathogens. An altered gut flora can lead to numerous inflammatory diseases, including allergies (1). Studies have found that probiotics, particularly of the lactobacillus species, play a role in the prevention and treatment of allergies (2, 3).
2. Emphasize Vitamin C
Most people know that Vitamin C has positive effects on the immune system. When it comes to allergies, Vitamin C has a therapeutic role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby reducing symptoms such as itchy eyes and runny nose (4). Incorporating foods that are high in Vitamin C such as citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries is ideal, but added supplementation may be necessary.
For adults, a daily dose of 1000mg has been effective at preventing and treating seasonal allergies and while Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy has limited data, the recommended amount of Vitamin C in pregnant and breastfeeding women is 85mg and 120mg per day, respectively (5). Higher doses of Vitamin C may be used short term but should be done so under the care of a healthcare professional and should not exceed 2000mg per day. Finally, the dose of Vitamin C in children is weight dependent.
3. Incorporate Quercetin
Quercetin is a frequently studied polyphenol compound known for its antioxidant and anti-allergic properties. It inhibits histamine release, reduces inflammation and modulates the immune system (6). Simply speaking, quercetin helps reduce the immune response triggered by an allergen. In my clinical experience, Quercetin is one of the most useful supplements for preventing and treating allergies.
In vitro studies also show that quercetin can reduce the amount of inflammation in the airways, thereby reducing symptoms of asthma (6). People who suffer from allergy induced asthma highly benefit from quercetin.
While quercetin supplementation is safe for kids and adults, studies have found it to be unsafe in pregnancy. The best way to benefit from quercetin when pregnant is to consume quercetin rich foods such as onions, apples, raspberries, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
4. Ribes is a Hidden Gem!
Ribes nigrum gemmotherapy, also known as black current bud extract, is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties (7). It is a well-known adaptogen and has a cortisone-like effect without any toxicity. While studies are limited, positive clinical experience in combination with its safety in pregnancy, lactation and in children, makes it worthy of more research.
I remember having horrible allergies a couple of years ago when I was pregnant with Harper and Claritin did nothing for me – it was only Ribes that helped keep my allergies at bay. Like any supplement, it should not be self-prescribed and should be taken under the instruction of a licensed healthcare provider. If you are looking for a specific allergy support protocol, be sure to book your free consultation today.
5. Avoiding Food Triggers
As always, we must consider what we’re eating. If you suffer from hay fever, you may find that avoiding dairy and refined sugars makes a significant difference in symptoms such as allergic rhinitis (8). Since these foods naturally increase mucus production, reducing or even, avoiding these foods during allergy season, may prevent or reduce the severity of nasal congestion.
If you suffer from allergies throughout the year or if you also suffer from eczema and asthma, you most certainly want to identify food triggers (8). There is a triad between allergies, asthma and eczema so if you or your child experiences one, you should consider triggers for all. I have seen some pretty incredible outcomes when patients remove reactive foods.
To be honest, the best results I see for the treatment of allergies is in patients who address their digestive health and support their immune system throughout the whole year. These patients usually come to see me a month or two before the start of allergy season and the focus is always about repairing and optimizing the digestive system while simultaneously modulating the immune system. Supplements are incorporated strategically to reduce the intensity of allergies during the peak of the season and discontinued as the season changes. Typically, patients no longer require conventional over-the-counter options and often times, supplement needs reduce.
If you are interested in a unique allergy support protocol this season, be sure to get in touch! Virtual visits are available to all Ontario residents and in-person visits are available out of my home office in Maple or out of Uptown Midwives and Family Wellness in North York. Visits are covered by extended health insurance so if you have benefits, you can definitely take advantage of them.
Dr. Shelly Ordon, N.D.