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For almost 10% of North Americans, the signs of Spring include sneezing, runny nose, stuffiness, headache and itchy watery eyes. It’s not a pleasant way to start the season. Your symptoms can start in April and May when tree pollens are released. If you also have grass pollen allergies, then it can continue into June and July.

In this article, I will explain the factors causing these symptoms and why such allergies are on the rise. Importantly, I’ll give my naturopathic perspective on how to get relief from these irritating symptoms so you can breathe and function with much more ease.

Causes of Seasonal Allergies

The fact that you are experiencing such symptoms means your immune system has been sensitized to pollens. Pollens are very small particles that can settle in your nasal passageways and trigger your immune system. A commonly cited cause is genetic susceptibility: if your parents have allergies, you have a greater likelihood of having them as well.

However, allergies are getting more common and so there must be other factors involved. One theory holds that since we are living in cleaner environments, our immune system isn’t ‘trained’ to handle such irritants… this is called the ‘hygiene hypothesis.’ It’s partly based on the fact that people living in rural farming communities have less allergies. Other research is showing it’s more complex than that. Some studies have shown that early use of antibiotics and the increased use of acetaminophen in children may have a role in increasing allergy and asthma rates. Rising rates of obesity may also have a lifestyle related role. Even the quality of nutrition affects the proper functioning of the immune system and likely has a role to play.

Naturopathic Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

It’s always best to support your body before the allergy season begins. Whether it’s improving your diet, exercising, addressing stress, taking supplements, etc.

Herbal Support: Several herbs can help reduce the body’s allergic reactions. For example, Magnolia flower has been found to relieve nasal discharge and sneezing in people with allergic rhinitis; this study was published in 2010 in the journal International Immunopharmacology. Butterbur is another herb with proven benefits for those with seasonal allergies. Eyebright herb can help with nasal symptoms and with itchiness. Nettles have anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties when prepared from dried leaves which I often recommend as a tea.

Diet: Remove the foods that are a burden on your immune system and this can improve its overall function. The most common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, soy, corn. Onions can be a helpful food as they are high in quercetin, a naturally-occurring substance that helps regulate the immune response. High sugar containing foods and beverages are known to weaken the immune system and often help when intake is reduced.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C has mild anti-histamine effects and so can ease Spring allergy related symptoms. Vitamin D has several immune-related benefits, but is commonly deficient after the long dark winter months or simply from not being outdoors enough (it’s made in the skin from ultraviolet sun exposure).

Avoid the Pollens: It’s ideal to avoid the pollens by reducing your morning outdoor activities between 5-10am when pollen counts are typically high. Also, changing your clothes promptly when you get back home from being outside. Rinsing your nasal passageways with a saline solution will also help clear residual pollens.

Other Factors: Basics to better immune balance include getting enough sleep and improving your digestion. Swiss researchers published a 2013 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition finding that after two months of taking a probiotic (a beneficial bacteria naturally found in the digestive tract) supplement, nasal symptoms of seasonal allergy sufferers improved significantly. Breast-feeding is known to prevent seasonal allergies in children partly since it contains good probiotics for colonizing the young digestive tract of the child, in addition to the inherent nutritional content.

The above naturopathic supports can be helpful in relieving your Spring allergies and may even have a preventative effect if started soon enough. If you’re not sure what natural treatments to start, consult your naturopathic doctor, or other primary health practitioner.

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Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.