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Seasonal Allergies: 6 natural remedies to tackle your sinuses

CareNow® - May 22, 2017

Seasonal allergies…sniffling, sneezing and coughing. Yes, it’s that time of year again.

When spring rolls around and the excitement for summer builds, so does mucus, sneezing and other seasonal allergy symptoms.

While most families may run to the drugstore and stock up on over-the-counter medications for seasonal illnesses, many prefer natural alternatives.

Improving your diet can actually help reduce the severity of reactions to allergens. Just like an unhealthy diet affects you negatively, a healthy targeted diet can help alleviate your seasonal allergies.

For example, a simple adjustment includes adding the following to your diet when you can tell you’re getting sick: 

  • Bone broth
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Local honey
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Herbal tea

A few of these may seem unconventional, but all of these foods have natural components needed to fight off your allergies and inflammation.

Following simple nutritional tips and combining strategies to fight allergies with natural extracts such as butterbur can keep you from being a victim of seasonal allergies this year.

If you try these natural remedies and your allergies are still too much to handle, going to your nearest CareNow® location can help you get immediate relief.

What causes seasonal allergies?

When your body encounters foreign pathogens, its natural response is to attack them. This response often presents itself as inflammation. Keep in mind this is only in regards to outside triggers of inflammation and not your body mistaking itself for a harmful object, a response known as an autoimmune disorder.

Inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection. An inflammatory reaction occurs to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants or pathogens and to begin the body’s healing process.

If you suffer from the dreaded runny nose, excessive sneezing and itchy eyes during allergy season, you may be experiencing a pollen allergy. Pollen, a foreign pathogen, is a large factor and trigger for why mucus accumulates every spring and/or summer depending on where you live.

Allergist and immunologist Evan Atkinson, MD, of Tulane Medical Center had this to say about what causes allergies:

“Spring allergies tend to stem from tree pollen. There's nothing about the wood or leaves that you're allergic to. It's pollen that trees release in the spring when they are trying to make baby trees that causes allergies.”

If you live in an area where pollen counts are high, you may experience this “hay fever.” This presents a challenge during the beautiful spring and summer months when the temptation to spend time outside is high – how are you supposed to hike, picnic and barbeque with all that pollen from trees and flowers in the air?

Common symptoms for hay fever and other seasonal allergies include: 

  • Stuffy nose and congestion
  • Itchy feelings in nose, mouth, eyes and throat
  • Itchy skin
  • Sneezing and coughing

Now that you know the signs, it’s time to learn how to defend yourself during allergy season.

According to an old South American proverb, "good broth will resurrect the dead." While that's undoubtedly an exaggeration, it speaks to the value placed on this wholesome food going back through the annals of time.

Have you ever wondered why your grandma always gave you a bowl of delicious chicken soup when you got sick?

Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky. As a result, you can cough more easily instead of turning to over-the-counter drugs for congestion relief.

Here is the basic science behind it: A study published in Chest journal states that “eating chicken soup (ideally homemade) during a respiratory infection reduces the number of white blood cells, which are the cells that cause flu and cold symptoms.”

Here’s the interesting thing about amino acids: they can only bond to other amino acids because they are the building blocks of your body’s proteins, which in turn promote energy and recovery. If you’re feeling sick, it’s no surprise that a bowl of steamy chicken soup can set you on the path to feeling better.

Let’s imagine you’re experiencing the signs of a pollen allergy, like a runny nose and sneezing. You stock up on healthy foods like chicken broth, rich in the amino acid cysteine, in an attempt to fight off the mucus. As the cysteine bonds with the other amino acids naturally present in your body, the recovery efforts made by your body are strengthened.

To put it simply, the more amino acids you have in your body, the more building blocks you have to boost your immune system. These proteins are vital to break down food, grow and repair body tissue, and make all the neural connections the body needs to fight off harmful allergens. In other words - we can’t survive without amino acids.

Vinegar in any form tastes and smells unpleasant when drinking it straight. However, you may want to give it another chance when you hear about the numerous health benefits associated with it.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of those miracle foods that can be used for almost everything. It’s produced by crushing apples and squeezing out all the liquid. Bacteria and yeast are added to the liquid to start the fermentation process, and the sugars turn into alcohol. In the second part of the process, the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria. Acetic acid and malic acid give vinegar its sour taste.

Fermented foods, such as ACV, have an extremely high amount of probiotics in them, which by themselves can help boost your immune system and fend off seasonal allergies.

But specifically how does ACV help with fighting allergies? It does so by fighting the source of the mucus buildup, which is a direct cause of a sinus infection.

The acidic, antiseptic and antibacterial properties of ACV eliminate the harmful bacteria and prevent the infection from becoming chronic.

Unfortunately for those who may loathe the taste and smell, the best way to consume ACV for your allergies and sinuses is to simply drink it. This helps in breaking up and removing the mucus in your airways.

We recommend always diluting ACV with water to help with taste, and to avoid burning your mouth and throat.

If you recall, pollen and other causes of seasonal allergies can result in inflammation of your body.

These allergens cause the immune system to act up, triggering allergy symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing. This is due to your white blood cells releasing histamine to protect your body from invading toxins.

However, when histamine levels become too high, inflammation can flare up. This can lead to symptoms like headaches, diarrhea, sinus congestion or itchy skin. You may be familiar with the term “antihistamines” from over-the-counter medication aimed at tackling allergy symptoms.

Dr. Thomas Veech, MD of Retreat Doctor’s Hospital had this to say about antihistamines:

“Antihistamines are medications that block histamine, a substance released by the body in response to allergens. Some oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness and may be best when taken at night. Antihistamines in the form of a nasal spray are only available by prescription and typically are used to treat more severe allergy symptoms. Nasal antihistamines directly target the nasal passages, but may cause a bitter taste and/or headache.”

But what does this all have to do with garlic?

Garlic is an incredibly effective natural antihistamine. Garlic is a superfood that helps relieve and treat allergy symptoms such as difficulty breathing, sneezing and watery eyes.

Garlic also helps the immune system work naturally by attacking the free radical cells, also known as allergens, and removing them completely from the bloodstream.

The best way to consume garlic for helping with sinuses is to take a single clove and

  1. Chop it up into about five pieces
  2. Put them on a spoon
  3. Drown them in honey
  4. Swallow them with a drink

And speaking of honey…

Older studies from the early 2000s claimed honey does not help with seasonal allergies. But more recently, a study published in 2011 that dealt specifically with raw birch honey revealed some new research and the results were bee-autiful!

This study had patients diagnosed with birch pollen allergies try two different forms of treatment: one group would take daily servings of honey during the allergy off-season (November through March) while the control group would only use their prescribed or over-the-counter medications to control their seasonal allergy symptoms.

Patients were then asked to record their symptoms and use of medication during the height of allergy season (April through May).

The study showed patients who pre-seasonally used honey to control their birch pollen allergy experienced:

  • 60 percent reduction in allergy symptoms
  • Twice as many asymptomatic days
  • 70 fewer days with severe symptoms
  • 50 percent decrease in usage of antihistamines

One extra factor put to the test was the type of honey used to treat symptoms: regular honey or birch pollen honey. The study found people taking birch pollen honey used less histamines than those who used regular honey.

While the results of the study shouldn’t be taken as 100 percent reliable for everyone experiencing seasonal allergies, it does indicate that local birch pollen honey could be used as a remedy for some seasonal allergies.

Make sure you visit your favorite grocery store or farmer's’ market to get local honey and fortify your body before allergy season. It always pays to plan ahead!

Peppers: good for the soul and good for the sinuses!

Cayenne pepper has the ability to unclog a stuffy nose because of the spice from the pepper, capsaicin. An active compound in cayenne peppers, it helps to thin the mucus and stimulate the sinuses, aiding in air circulation. So consumption of foods containing cayenne peppers can help decrease congestion.

All of this may seem pretty straight-forward. Most people know eating spicy food makes your nose run, but before you go out and buy ghost peppers to clear out your sinuses, keep in mind cayenne pepper has another benefit you won’t find in other peppers: Cayenne pepper is full of beta carotene and antioxidants, which also aid in breaking up and moving congested mucus.

When it comes to helping relieve your allergy symptoms, always remember it isn’t the heat level that matters most.

So whether you’re getting your cayenne in a capsule or on your favorite fish tacos, make sure to keep it on hand this time of the year.

Is there anything more relaxing than a cup of hot tea?

A sore, scratchy throat affected by seasonal allergies can be soothed by a serving of your favorite tea, but what you might not know is that certain spices and herbs popularly found in tea may actually serve as a remedy for your allergy symptoms.

For example, a substance found in the herb rosemary has shown potential to combat the inflammation symptoms of hay fever. Or for those who prefer a sweeter taste, cinnamon extracts have actually been documented to be effective against nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. These spices and herbs can be brewed into tea; providing both the comfort and care your body needs when fending off sickness.

For a more adventurous remedy, you may want to investigate the positive effects of hops. The hops plant is perhaps most famous for its use in brewing beer, but a simple extract from the plant known as “hop water” has shown promising potential in treating allergy symptoms. Preliminary trials have documented a significant reduction in hay fever symptoms when consuming as little as 100mg of hop water per day.

Just like the benefits of broth and chicken soup, liquid remedies such as hot tea can both ease your surface allergy symptoms as well as help your body heal inflammation and the dreaded runny nose.

A hot drink, a healthy snack and a good book or two can work wonders for your health and attitude to set you up on the road to recovery.

Have severe seasonal allergies?

We hope this information left you well-prepared and educated for tackling your seasonal allergies! If your friends are sniffling and sneezing this allergy season, be sure to share this article with them.

If you are having more severe allergy symptoms than normal, find the nearest CareNow® Urgent Care Clinic so you can get immediate help. Don’t forget to use our Web Check-In® to shorten your wait time.