NATURAL MEDICINE: A natural approach to seasonal sneezes

By on March 31, 2015

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Spring is fast approaching and along with it comes seasonal allergies. Millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, especially when the pollen counts rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 million people were diagnosed with hay fever last year alone.

In Jackson, allergy season starts even before the snow melts with snow mold. The onslaught continues once the snow is gone with pollen from the extensive wilderness all around town. Seasonal allergies such as hay fever are a type of immunoglobulin E antibody, or IgE, allergy. This means that when exposed to an allergen, the body mounts an immune response with the production of histamine. Histamine is the compound responsible for all of your seasonal allergy symptoms from the sniffles to itchy and watery eyes. Common seasonal allergy symptoms may present as hives, eczema, red and itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy mouth, coughing and asthma.

Many people know they have a seasonal allergy because around the same time every year symptoms show up. The difficulty comes when attempting to pinpoint the culprit. In the spring, there are many potential allergens with all of the grasses, flowers and trees blooming at the same time. It is very helpful to know what you are allergic to in order to lessen or prevent exposure. In addition, you can be more prepared each year as allergy season approaches and treat yourself accordingly.

Allergy tests

There are several tests available to determine your allergies. The first is an allergy skin test. This test is very reliable for IgE allergies and it is also one of the fastest testing methods. Doctors perform the test by pricking the skin with specific allergens and then observing the skin’s reaction. Another is a blood test called serum-specific IgE antibody test. The serum IgE antibody test is often done in individuals who have severe or life-threatening allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis.

A naturopathic perspective

There are many different natural treatments for patients suffering from seasonal allergies. The primary goal of a naturopathic doctor in treating these allergies is to support the body and alleviate the symptoms. For increased effectiveness, it is important to begin natural treatments one month to several months prior to a known allergy season.

Improving overall health

Seasonal allergies are often exacerbated by increased systemic inflammation. In addition, your immune function, digestive function and endocrine function all play a role in how your body responds to an allergen. It is important to support all of these functions to lessen your allergic response. One way to do this is to identify any foods in your diet that may cause additional inflammation and stress to your body, with an elimination-challenge diet. This diet is not for someone with a severe or life-threatening allergy. To help manage potential reactions, it is a good idea to do this diet under the supervision of your doctor. This method for identifying food intolerances can take up to several weeks to complete. It consists of removing a potential reactive food or food group from the diet for a period of time, observing your reaction to this removal, reintroducing the suspected foods back into your diet one at a time, and then noticing any physical, mental or emotional response to this reintroduction.

Naturopathic recommendations

1. Decrease your overall inflammation by eating an anti-inflammatory diet high in vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flax, and minimizing red meat, dairy, sugar and alcohol.

2. Increase your water intake. The amount of water a person needs daily varies greatly. Visiting or living in high-elevation Jackson increases all your fluid needs. Being an athlete also increases your water requirements. If you drink enough water daily so that you do not feel thirsty and your urine is clear or just slightly yellow, your fluid intake is probably sufficient.

3. Decrease your overall stress levels. Reduced stress is associated with improved immune function and a lessened response to seasonal allergies.

4. Use a neti pot. The pots can physically remove allergens by flushing the sinuses when used daily.

5. Keep a clean bedroom. This will also help improve your response to seasonal allergies. Make sure to remove potential allergens from your room by vacuuming, washing your sheets and pillowcases weekly, washing your hair before bed, and consider using a HEPA filter. Being a pet lover, this one is difficult for me, but don’t sleep with your pets. They carry a lot of potential allergens on their fur into the bed with you.

6. Take supplemental vitamin C. It can help to decrease your histamine response to seasonal allergies. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is a key player in immune function.

7. Take quercetin, an anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid. It can also decrease your allergic response. Quercetin can be found as a supplement or in foods such as nettles.

8. Consider homeopathic remedies such as Allium cepa and Euphrasia. Allium cepa is helpful for excessive nasal discharge. Euphrasia is used for inflamed, burning and itching eyes, and some nasal discharge.

These natural treatment recommendations may be used with or without your current allergy meds or treatment plan and will allow you to get out and enjoy spring.

McKenzie Steiner, ND, is a naturopathic doctor with a family practice in Jackson Hole. Visit her on the Web at

About Dr. McKenzie Steiner

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