Seasonal pollen allergies are dreadful. There’s nothing worse than stepping outside on a gorgeous summer day and feeling your nose start to tickle and eyes turn itchy. You’ve got tissues shoved in every pocket, and you’re trying to finish your tasks as quickly as possible in order to retreat back inside as fast as you can.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to garden for hours, pick raspberries, spend time with the animals, plant flowers, put up a fence, mow the lawn… you don’t dare mow the lawn, do you?
Breathing is so overrated.
Getting rid of seasonal pollen allergies (or at least greatly reducing them!) must be like the best kept secret in medicine. And the solution isn’t walking around in a Benadryl coma and snorting nasal spray.
When you’re outside breathing in pollen, it’s your immune system that reacts to cause the sneezing, drippy nose, watery eyes, and the awful feeling that your head is going to explode. Your immune system is probably over-reacting. Have you ever asked why?
Seasonal pollen allergies may be common, but they’re not normal. Let’s take your seasonal allergies as a sign that something in your body isn’t right, work to correct it, and then not only reduce your suffering, but be healthier and better off for it. Sound good?
In case you didn’t know… this information comes from my experience suffering with terrible allergies as a child, my love of being outside, and my work as a natural medicine practitioner. (Besides homesteading, I’m a Chiropractor in my other life!)
So, what can you do to improve your seasonal allergies?
Improve Your Immune System
INCREASE YOUR MICRONUTRIENTS
Are you getting all the vitamins and minerals you need? The immune system is a nutrient hog, big time- and if you’re not getting eight servings of veggies per day plus fruit, healthy fats, fermented food, and pastured meats… then I would bet a dozen eggs that you’re deficient in something. If dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and other colorful fruits and veggies like blueberries, carrots, squash and beets aren’t part of your meals every single day, then you’re not doing everything you can here.
It seems so simple, I know. But food is fuel- it’s the building blocks your body needs, the only thing that is powering the billions of functions your body is performing every day.
If you are unwilling to improve your diet, you can improve your nutrient status by taking a good quality supplement (Nutrience, from Calton Nutrition is the brand I use and recommend). Is it an equal substitute for fresh fruit and veg: not at all. Can it still help the stubborn vegetable-haters out there: yes.
Start by giving your immune system the basic building blocks it needs to function properly.
KNOW YOUR VITAMIN D STATUS
The number of people who are deficient in vitamin D (especially up by me in the North) is astounding.
Your immune system needs vitamin D to function properly, and if you are deficient, then your immune system isn’t working as well as it could. This is a dangerous place to be in.
When I have a patient who is vitamin D deficient, the supplement I use in my office (and personally) is D3 5000 by Metagenics. Did you know there are test kits you can get to test your vitamin D at home? If you don’t/won’t/can’t go to a doctor, consider a test at home to check your vitamin D level.
Other ways of increasing your vitamin D intake are eating lard from pastured pigs and eggs from pastured hens (especially duck eggs), and fatty fish like canned salmon. Some mushrooms have even been shown to be high in vitamin D!
Yes, we can synthesize vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are many factors that can interfere with this… so just because it is summer time, doesn’t mean you are getting sufficient vitamin D.
Bottom line: know your vitamin D level, and if it is low, improve it… or your friends will continue to call you “Wheezy,” and you’ll have a miserable summer. Immune system is everything!
Vitamin D is an important immune system regulator- in other words: it helps your immune system make good choices about which things it needs to get excited about and go after, and which it doesn’t.
IMPROVE YOUR INTESTINAL HEALTH
A big part of your immune system is in your intestinal tract, so stress on your guts = stress on your immune system. A better functioning immune system not only does a better job of really important tasks like getting rid of cancerous cells, but can have a positive impact on seasonal allergies.
Improve your intestinal health:
—> Eliminate grains and refined sugar from your diet (the Paleo diet is a great place to start!).
—> Add in more fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut and pickles (good bacteria!).
—> Increase variety and quantity of your vegetable intake (food for the good bacteria!).
—> Make bone broth a weekly menu item (eat soups or just sip it!).
—> If you can’t do bone broth every day, consider a collagen peptide supplement.
If you are eating something that you know bothers your stomach in some way, eliminate it from your diet. Continually eating something you are sensitive to has a negative impact on your immune system. It’s stressful and taxing.
Intestinal health has a huge impact on immune system health! Make your immune system as healthy and well-functioning as possible by filling your body with the best foods and eliminating the ones that are hardest on your intestines.
By far and away, the worst food-offender for people suffering with seasonal allergies is dairy. This is something I have seen for years first-hand in my practice, and I think many other practitioners would say the same.Eliminating dairy (yes, all dairy- even raw, and even sheep and goat) can have an incredible positive impact on your allergies. And luckily, this is something you should notice pretty quickly. Eliminating all dairy from your diet for two weeks is generally a good test for most people. All dairy needs to be eliminated 100% for this trial: including milk, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cheese… everything. Sorry dairy farmers!
Most people find that after their symptoms improve, they can slowly add some dairy back into their diet and see which things flare their allergies and which don’t.
If it reduces your suffering, giving up dairy for the summer, or even for a two-week trial to test it out, is totally worth it!
Minimize Pollen Exposure
PREVENT POLLEN FROM GETTING IN YOUR NOSE
When I was in my teens I used to walk around with tissue stuffed up my nose… I think these are magical, and genius: they are little, clear (invisible!) screens that cover your nostrils and filter the air that comes into your nose. The only downside is that it will be a little more difficult to breathe through your nose as well, and you’ll have to breathe through your mouth more. But, this keeps more pollen out of your sinuses, where it causes the most trouble.
There are other options, like this allergen-filtering soft dust mask (looks like a more comfortable and less obvious version of a doctor’s mask). The downside is that it will likely get a little warm underneath, but if it helps you to be able to stay in the garden longer, or mow the lawn without collapsing into a heaving, coughing puddle on the floor afterwards, well then it’s probably worth it.
Or try these reusable, more breathable nasal filters. The trade off is that they are more visible (they look like a mini gas-mask for your nose!) but you should be able to get more air through them.
With any of these items, make sure you read more about how to get the proper fit and what size to order!
GET THE POLLEN OFF FAST
If you’re headed out for a long day in the pollen-filled air, cover up! Wear a thin, long-sleeved shirt and have your hair pulled up and under a hat. Remove your clothes as soon as you get in the house so that you get as many pollen particles off you as possible, and you don’t continue to breathe them in. Better yet if you can shower immediately.
Make it a habit of blowing your nose as soon as you get in the house, and take a few big sips of water to wash any pollen out of your throat.
KEEP POLLEN OUT OF THE HOUSE
When the outside world is your enemy and the house is your pollen-free safe-haven, you probably already know not to keep the windows open, which is a bummer on beautiful days… but totally necessary.
If you have a central air system, use allergen-reducing, pollen-filtering air filters and change them every month.
Taking every step you can to keep pollen off of you and out of your sinuses will greatly help!
Try Raw, Local Honey
This is a hotly debated topic! Does eating local, raw honey help prevent or eliminate seasonal allergies?
The scientific literature has mixed reports on whether or not raw honey can help allergies. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (the gold standard in scientific research) can tell us a lot, but they aren’t everything. I have personally known many people who have improved their seasonal pollen allergies using local, raw honey.
It must be raw, and it must be local to you- try to find a beekeeper with hives as close to where you live as possible. Instructions on how to find a honey meeting all these criteria here!
If you try one beekeeper’s honey for a while and it doesn’t help, try another. You can also try varying the amount you take. A couple spoonfuls per day is a common amount used for treating allergies, but you may need more or less. Try to start this honey therapy well before allergy season starts!
I can think of a lot worse treatments than eating a teaspoon of honey a couple times per day- it is certainly worth trying!
Jokes about your bloodshot, watery eyes and your friends calling you “Sniffles” can be a thing of the past. Allergies can make life utterly miserable- but I’m convinced it doesn’t have to be that way if you follow all or even some of these suggestions. Improve your health, improve your immune system, improve your summer!
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