It’s spring time and everyone around me (whether in Phoenix or New York City) is complaining about their allergies. They’re miserable from the congestion, watery eyes, sinus pressure, and the resulting ugh feeling.
And I can empathize. I had allergies when I moved to Hong Kong, when I moved back to Phoenix, and when I visited my friend with cats. But not anymore, read on to find out what changed.
Both seasonal and environmental allergies can manifest as a variety of symptoms, but they all stem from the same root cause: the body’s immune system reacting to a foreign substance that’s being perceived as a threat. This can be cat dander, pollen, or even chemicals.
The immune system mounts a reaction to fight off the invader through the process of inflammation, which causes a stuffed up nose, headaches, skin issues, and more.
Commercial medications and OTC drugs don’t do anything to address the underlying cause; they merely mask symptoms, and often include more negative side effects than positive benefits.
Oh, the Suffering
It was a beautiful spring in Hong Kong and I wanted to scratch my neck off. My body reacted to the unfamiliar allergens in HK by causing my neck to itch. Having never experienced this before, I went to the doctor and he told me to buy new face wash and body soap, such as Neutrogena. I obliged but didn’t get much relief from the itching. So I itched and scratched for the next few months until finally it was time to leave HK.
It wasn’t until returning to Phoenix a number of years later that I found the neck itchiness returned, along with more traditional symptoms of seasonal allergies: stuffy nose and dry, scratchy throat. Each day I thought I was catching a cold, but the cold never manifested and symptoms hung around–I was fully in the throes of suffering seasonal allergies.
Now having just moved cities again, right in time for spring, you’d think I’d be enduring the discomfort of my allergies again. But instead, its friends around me, both in Phoenix and in New York City, talking about how her eyes are watering, nose is running, and she feels so much sinus pressure.
But it Gets Better
When I was suffering from all those allergies in Phoenix, someone recommended to me to eat Paleo–a whole food approach that eliminates grains, legumes, soy, sugars, corn, and of course processed foodstuffs. Within a few weeks of committing 100% to Paleo, I no longer woke up with a sore throat every morning, I could breathe through my nose again, and my neck stopped itching.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
I’ve since learned that grains, particularly wheat, and even some nuts and legumes, can poke holes in the gut. When larger, undigested food particles escape through the gut walls into the blood stream this is known as “leaky gut.” When these particles show up in the body, outside of the digestive tract, the immune system goes on high alert.
When the immune system is rocketing on all cylinders, it’s attacking anything and everything even the least bit ‘foreign.’ And that’s why something otherwise commonplace like pollen or cat dander that humans have been exposed to for millennia, and therefore shouldn’t cause any problems, becomes such a pain in the… nose.
By switching to a Paleo diet, specifically eliminating grains and sugar, I removed the offending substance that was causing holes in my gut. I took my supplements to support my body’s natural ability to repair and heal the lining of my gut, to again make that barrier intact. And once the food particles weren’t seeping through, triggering my immune system, my body was no longer on high alert freaking out at every passing allergen.
NO MORE ALLERGIES = Sweet relief!
But What About the Cats?
Last year I visited my friend who has 2 cats and after sitting on the couch and petting the cats, my allergy symptoms were back in full force: itchy, watery eyes, scratchy throat, stuffy nose. Ugh.
I figured out there are a few reasons for this:
1. I hadn’t been around cats, ever, really; this was a completely foreign experience for my body and immune system. So there was some adjustment and calibration that needed to happen.
2. Going from 0 cat exposure to stroking cats, and breathing and sitting in their dander was just too much all at once.
3. In the previous few days, I hadn’t followed my Paleo program very closely and had eaten a little too much grains and sugar, therefore my immune system was already more reactive than otherwise.
I followed a few quick remedies mentioned below, stopped touching the cats, or sitting on the couch, and was better by the time my visited ended.
Just a few weeks after that visiting more cats, and even now as I write this from an apartment with 2 cats, I haven’t had strong allergic symptoms at all. I know my immune system has calibrated to the cats, my gut is healed and the lining intact, and I don’t overexpose myself by touching the cats.
What I recommend
Of course, my first recommendation would be to skip grains, or at least wheat and all gluten-containing products. This will require a full commitment: 30-60 solid days of no gluten before you start feeling improvements. Be wary of wheat, barley, rye, soy sauce, anything processed or packaged, including protein bars and commercial sauces, which oftentimes use flour as a thickener.
When you’re removing the gut-destroying foods, then you need to repair the gut and heal the lining. There are a variety of supplements and herbs you can use to support your body’s innate ability to do this, but my personal preference is for the Orenda products of Immune, Eaze, Otropin, and All-in-One.
Supporting the body with the right vitamins, supplements, nutrients, and herbs also help balance the immune system and keep you regular as you’re changing your diet, while encouraging the rebuilding of the gut lining. Other gut-healing choices include MSM, Glutamine, gelatin, marshmallow root (not sweet marshmallows), licorice (not the candy), and slippery elm.
Other Natural Approaches
Acupuncture can also help alleviate allergies. If you’re new to an area and suffering pollen allergies, local honey or bee pollen can help sensitize the immune system to the local environment.
Since allergies are the symptoms of a inflammatory response, one of the most important and quickest ways to lessen your allergy symptoms is by reducing inflammation. Here are 3 at-home quick-and-easy ways to reduce inflammation:
- Use Turmeric: Turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices. Cook with it, make it into ‘tea,’ eat curry, or try turmeric roasted nuts.
- Drink Ginger Tea: Ginger is another anti-inflammatory, and it’s strong spiciness can help soothe your throat and clear your sinuses.
- Eat Fish: Fish, or fish oil as a supplement if you prefer, is rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.
Consume more Natural Anti-Histamines
One of the most well-known, naturally-occurring anti-histamines is quercetin. Although you can get it in supplement form, it is also found in fruits, vegetables, and tea, namely pu-erh tea. Bromelain, an enzyme found in papaya has been shown to make quercetin more effective.
Leave a comment below and tell us, what do you do to relieve your seasonal and nasal allergies.