It’s that time of year again. Many of us are coughing, sneezing and generally not feeling our best. Pollen season has been starting earlier and lasting longer each year, and seasonal colds are still making the rounds. While many of us turn to antihistamines for relief, there are some natural approaches that can help to tame your symptoms.
Nature’s Ascorbate (vitamin C). Ascorbate acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent and has also been shown to have antihistaminic effects. This antihistamine action is different from that of traditional antihistamines which block histamine receptors; ascorbate instead reduces the amount of histamine you produce. This can potentially diminish the allergic response. We recommend choosing fully bioavailable nature’s ascorbate, which is 100% l-ascorbate, fully reduced and buffered with alkalinizing minerals.
Ascorbate is also well-known as a “cold-buster.” Many of us reach for the vitamin C when we feel a cold coming on. It has been shown to directly boost immune response and to produce interferons which interfere with viral replication. We recommend that you choose only the active l-ascorbate, fully reduced and buffered.
Quercetin is a polyphenol that occurs naturally in onions, kale, apples, dark berries, grapes, broccoli, tea, dill, and many other herbs, vegetables, and fruits. In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, quercetin is particularly useful during allergy season due to its significant antihistaminic effects. Quercetin prevents activation and recruitment of mast cells while stabilizing their membranes and blocking subsequent degranulation – which is very important for managing Type 1, or immediate, allergies.
Separately, quercetin has been shown to have direct antiviral activity. It appears to block virus entry into cells and inhibit viral replication in in vitro studies and is suggested as a supplemental agent for both prevention and treatment of viral illness.
All quercetins, however, are not alike. Poor bioavailability or toxicity make many forms inappropriate for health management. Quercetin “dihydrate” is the preferred form to use. In physiologic or biological salt solutions as present in cells and tissues, it is easily bioavailable, especially to the immune first responder cells. Flavonols like oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC) can work hand in hand with quercetin dihydrate to enhance antioxidant benefit.
Quercetin and Ascorbate Together – A Synergy
Quercetin and ascorbate together are thought to have a synergistic effect due to their overlapping effects both on the immune system and on attacking viruses . Ascorbate can also recycle quercetin, and quercetin dihydrate preserves the integrity of ascorbate by enhancing the reduction of the intermediary compound dehydroascorbic acid (oxidized ascorbate) back to fully reduced ascorbate, prolonging the action of vitamin C.
Studies have indicated that probiotics are beneficial in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (inflamed nasal mucosa and runny nose). 70% of our immune cells reside in the intestinal tract, and these cells communicate directly with the immune system, modulating response. Some probiotics have been shown to suppress the expression of the genes that code for histamine receptors and the enzyme to convert histidine to histamine, thus decreasing the amount of histamine produced during an allergic response. This is an exciting area of continued study.
We spoke at length about vitamin D in a recent blog post, but a deficiency in this key neurohormone/ vitamin has also been implicated in allergy development. Vitamin D activates regulatory cells that prevent the release of chemicals that cause and worsen allergic response. Adequate levels of vitamin D, from the sun, food, and supplementation will help keep your immune system functioning properly.
Filters can remove tiny particles form the air in a room. The various filter types use different technology to filter the air and remove particles of different sizes. A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filter can theoretically remove 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns from the air. This includes most dust, mold, pollen, bacteria, etc. An ULPA (ultra-low particulate air) filter can remove 99.99% of 0.12 micron size or larger from the air, making it even more powerful than HEPA. PECO filters use photoelectrochemical oxidation to destroy the impurities in the air, rather than trap them. A PECO filter can neutralize molecules 1000x smaller than a HEPA filter can, as small as 0.1nm. One study found that allergy symptoms in the nose and eyes decreased significantly when a PECO filter was used over the course of four weeks.
Acupuncture uses thin needles placed on your skin to target various health conditions. This practice has been common in Eastern countries for many years and is increasing in popularity in the West. Although acupuncture has been proven effective to treat allergic rhinitis, the exact mechanism of immune system regulation may include effects on a variety of steps in the immune pathway. The effects from acupuncture can develop over time, so it’s not a quick fix. Also, you’ll want to avoid acupuncture if you have a bleeding condition, are taking blood thinners, are pregnant, or have a pacemaker. For post-acupuncture self-care tips, please check out our earlier blog post.
A neti pot is a teapot-like device used for nasal irrigation with a saline solution. The process of irrigating the sinuses can flush out mucus and allergens, and help relieve congestion. The FDA recommends, to use a neti pot safely, you’ll want to use distilled or sterile water, or water that you have boiled for 5 minutes and cooled to lukewarm. Then add the supplied saline packets. Improper use can increase the risk of infection; never use tap water in a neti pot.
One of the easiest interventions for allergy relief is to keep doors and windows closed during allergy season. Remove shoes when coming in from the outdoors to avoid pollen being tracked through the home. And finally, consider washing your hair, and changing clothes when coming in from outdoors if your allergies are severe.
A Note About Delayed Allergies
The coughing and sneezing discussed above are a result of IgE-mediated reactions. The triggers of these type I immediate allergies are usually easy to identify because reactions occur soon after exposure (usually within a few minutes to 3 hours). Identifying a trigger to which you were exposed up to three weeks ago is much more challenging, but equally important. Only by identifying these delayed hypersensitivities and avoiding the offending substances, are you able to restore immune resilience and optimal protection. Ask your healthcare practitioner about the specialized LRA tests to identify these delayed (type II, III, IV hypersensitivity) reactions.