From my late teen years to early twenties, I suffered itchy, watering eyes, sneezing and general misery every spring and fall.
Some years were worse than others, and conventional allergy medication wasn't working. And I wasn’t about to live the rest of my life inside every time the weather was actually nice... so I started trying more holistic and natural ways to manage my allergies.
The results weren't all immediate, and it took a few seasons of trying different things; but for the last couple years, my allergy symptoms are limited to just rinsing out my contacts a couple times on those dreaded high pollen days!
Managing your allergies naturally takes some lifestyle changes, but they are worth it and leave you healthier and happier and able to actually enjoy the outdoors!
So in honor of the spring sneeze season, I thought I'd share some tips and tricks to managing and reducing allergies... the holistic way!
First off, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t understand what’s causing it. So to truly help relieve and manage your allergies, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what’s causing them - beyond just pollen and the weather. It's true things like pollen, pet hair, grass and certain foods can set off an allergic response. But no matter what you’re allergic to, your body uses the same process to respond - your immune system.
Turns out what you call allergy symptoms are basically the immune system overreacting to a non-threatening substance like pollen or cat hair... (1)
Your body sees allergens as an invader, so it uses its inflammatory response (which unfortunately produces your allergy symptoms) to try and rid itself of the supposedly “dangerous” intruder.
To prevent allergies, then, you should slow down your immune system, right? Wrong.
Suppressing or weakening your immune system may stop some of your symptoms, but it leaves you vulnerable to real threats. Instead, strengthening your immune system naturally balances your immune responses and reduces inflammation. For the immune system, strong means balanced, not hypersensitive!
Which leads us to the two most basic principles to manage and relieve your allergies:
- strengthening (balancing) the immune system
- reducing inflammation
Lucky for us, there’s many ways to accomplish both principles. Finding what works for you will probably include some lifestyle changes, but being able to open the windows during nice weather or just BE outside between March and October (yes please!) is definitely worth it.
Lots of allergy background... but important! So now you can better understand what you reeaally want to know - how to manage and relieve allergies!
· Natural Remedies ·
There are so many! But for this post, I’ve made a list of all the ones I’ve read about, tried or wanted to try. Everybody is different, so what works for me may not work for you; but, you won’t find what works if you don’t try! At the bottom of this post, I included a source list for more reading about seasonal allergies, and how these natural remedies work;)
1. Trace Minerals (2)
They alkalize the body (i.e. reduces inflammation) and support normal cell function and other functions throughout the body.
These worked best for me since I already eat a healthy diet. Trace minerals are a fairly cheap option and easy to take in capsules or even drops (be warned the drops taste horrible!) They are a great allergy preventative - so start taking them a few weeks before your allergy season starts. They're also good "maintenance" once symptoms are under control.
I take 2x capsules of Swanson's ConcenTrace Mineral Complex daily starting in late March and continue through September.
When I first started taking trace minerals, I took 2 capsules 3x a day for about a month along with a more restricted diet to get my symptoms under control - no sugar, no processed foods, limited amounts of whole grains, lots of veggies and greens, and low acidic fruits.
But everyone's different! So contact your trusted health advisor if you're not sure how many to take starting out;)
2. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
It alkalizes the body, reduces inflammation, balances and strengthens gut health... definitely good to have around the house! I like this article by Dr. Axe about some of the properties, uses and history behind ACV...
Apple cider vinegar is extremely cheap, easy to find, and the main ingredient in my family's daily cleanse recipe! We call it our "hot shot” - and it also works wonders for preventing allergy flare-ups;)
ACV "Hot Shot"
- 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp of honey (raw honey is best!)
- Dash of cayenne pepper (or as much as you like or can handle lol)
- Dash of ginger powder
- 2 Tbsp warm water (or more if too strong)
If you’ve never taken ACV before, make sure you’re not drinking this on an empty stomach since it can make you a bit queasy if you’re not used to it. It’s strong but it kinda grows on you!
3. Essential Oils
No surprise oils made it on my list, right?
But really, they help reduce inflammation, open airways, strengthen the immune system and more! You can pick one or mix and match for your favorite scent (like I did when I created Allergy Relief blend!) - then diffuse or dilute and apply topically.
Some of the best for balancing the immune system and fighting inflammation are...
Lavender | Peppermint | Eucalyptus | Frankincense | Lemon | Oregano | Chamomile | Ginger | Patchouli | Thyme
In my experience, nothing worked faster at relieving symptoms.
Most other natural remedies were more preventative or effective over longer periods of time. As I mentioned earlier, I created a blend I used to help with my seasonal allergies - Allergy Relief, made with Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint.
I used it to help quickly relieve symptoms when they got too overwhelming. I’d put a couple drops in my hands, rub on the bottoms of my feet and then inhale from my hands until things calmed down which usually took less than a minute!
(Want to know more about using EOs with allergies? Just ask me in the comments!)
4. Elderberry (3)
Elderberries are full of antioxidants and vitamins that strengthen your immune system.
It comes in a concentrated form which tastes amazing! The downside is it can get kind of expensive to take daily for long periods of time. But you can also find it in pills or even tea form.
I tried elderberry concentrate when I was first trying to control my allergies. It worked well for about a month, but lost most of its effectiveness for me as my body got used to it.
They boost your immune system through the gut health AND reduce inflammation.
I take probiotics daily in pill form, but you can also find good probiotics in fermented foods like keifer, yogurt, kombucha, raw cheese, and sauerkraut. As an added bonus, probiotics also help with digestion and overall health! For more info on probiotics and how they boost the immune system, check out this article by Dr. Axe!
6. Stinging Nettle (4)
The immune system uses histamines to cause inflammation. Research shows that nettle naturally controls histamines thereby making it a big help for managing seasonal allergies.
Stinging nettle can be taken in pill form or as a tea or tincture. I did not get a hold of any stinging nettle to try for my own allergies, but I have heard of it working for individuals with severe seasonal allergies.
I listed a few more articles about stinging nettle and allergies at the end of this post for a bit of extra reading if your interested;)
7. Raw honey
Honey is anti-inflammatory and taking a small amount of a local raw honey daily is thought to help build your tolerance to local pollen that is causing your seasonal allergies.
Doesn’t hurt to try, but it could be difficult to find raw honey from your area that would actually help with your pollen allergies.
· Lifestyle Changes ·
If you’re going to go to all that work strengthening your immune system and reducing inflammation, you have to control or cut out what’s weakening it and sabotaging your hard work. Many different things weaken the immune system and increase inflammation in the body, leading to worse allergy symptoms.
Some of the biggest culprits behind a weak immune system are...
- Poor diet
- Lack of sleep
| Poor Diet
What you eat affects your allergies! Ever had a "kinda" bad allergy symptom day and felt the urge for a cookie, soda or a bag of chips? Afterwards, your taste buds might thank you but your already overstimulated immune system is definitely not and your "kinda" bad symptoms just got a whole lot worse.
An acidic environment in your body leads to inflammation (5)... and sugar feeds inflammation.
Processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, refined grains, sports drinks and soda are all highly acidic and inflammatory foods. Take a look at this article by NAVA (Health and Vitality Center) for a list of inflammatory foods!
While you definitely want to avoid these foods when you’re trying to get your allergies under control, don’t assume you can never eat anything sweet or packaged again! Once your allergies are more manageable, think moderation! You can still have enjoy that cookie, but its best to enjoy it on a day when your symptoms aren't beginning to show or you know you'll be exposed to a lot of your allergy "triggers".
A big word for the study of how stress affects your body through your brain, hormones and immune system. It's pretty fascinating what they're discovering in this field - check out this article through the American Psychological Association for more about it!
From what they've studied so far, stress makes you sick and can weaken the immune system - especially prolonged (chronic) stress. Allergies are an immune response. So when stress attacks your already overtaxed immune system, it can increase your allergy symptoms. Managing and reducing stress, especially around allergy season, will help lessen symptoms and may even help prevent allergies from starting.
| Lack of Sleep
It seems a bit too simple, but mom was right when she said, "Sweetie, you need your rest." Well, mother knows best! Like stress, a lack of sleep can add fuel to a fire your immune system is already trying to put out.
Your body needs rest to recuperate, repair itself and recharge so it can deal with invaders - even the not so "dangerous" ones (a.k.a allergens).
At the bottom of this post, I've linked some interesting reads on how sleep affects immune function! They focus on colds or flu as a consequence of a weakened immune system through lack of sleep. But the basic concept of a weak immune system causing inflammation can apply to how your body deals with allergens as well.
Any questions about managing allergies or want more info on essential oils and allergies? Comment on this post or message me at email@example.com!
Some helpful reading...
- Dr. Axe: How Your Gut Health & Immune System Is Connected
- NCBI Research on: Stinging Nettle
- Dr. Axe: Hay Fever: 9 Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Lack of Sleep -