8 Ways to Calm Down Your Allergies. Itchy, Watery, Runny, Sneezy, Wheezy, and Clogged sounds like a janky version of Snow White’s Dwarfs (I know Sneezy was already one, but really, how helpful was he?).
I’ve gotten homesick in Allergytown more times than I care to count. There were times where I was laid up in bed with a wet washcloth over my eyes just to keep from gouging them out because they itched so badly. And how sexy can you be when you are sneezing incessantly? Not at all. And getting a baby to sleep? Forget it. Every time I got the baby to sleep, a sneeze would surely startle her awake.
Because I didn’t want to take drugs, I tried some more natural approaches… They either didn’t work an iota, or else they made them WORSE! Yes, an acupuncturist gave me some Chinese herb pills, all I knew was they were little black balls, and they gave me a gnarly sinus infection that I would have traded back for allergies any day.
Can you relate to any of this? If so, here are some ideas that may help you find relief!
1. Stinging Nettles
While they are quite prickly and unpleasant when fresh, the prickles disappear when blanched in hot water or cooked. Nettles are great for allergies because they contain compounds that reduce inflammation. They have been studied extensively and have been found to have numerous health benefits for all sorts of ailments (and particularly allergies), from skin irritations to most things that end in ‘itis’. As with any herb, you can find this in many forms, most commonly administered in the form of tea, tincture or capsules. In addition to using nettles therapeutically, cook with them! They are chock full of minerals and very cleansing! Use instead of spinach in recipes that call for greens. I’ve included a recipe below.
Quercetin is a citrus bioflavonoid and potent antioxidant. While it won’t work as effectively as drugs tend to, I still notice its benefits – and it won’t make you crunk or tired like drugs do. Quercetin is a natural histamine blocker that is most effective if you start taking it a few weeks before allergy season arrives. This allows it time to build up in your system. By the way, it is also great for asthmatics. Quercetin is not highly absorbable (take it with fat/oil to increase absorption), so it is often paired with bromelain (another phenomenal anti-inflammatory), which work synergistically together!
3. High Histamine Foods
There are a variety of foods, even ones known to be extremely nourishing to the body, which contain high levels of histamine. Avocados are one of these foods. Also, anything that is aged or fermented will be higher in histamine content (bone broth included). Then there are foods that cause the mast cells to release histamine even if the food itself may not contain histamine. These are called histamine liberators and are found in things like strawberries, citrus and chocolate. You can easily find lists of these foods online. Following a low histamine diet alone may offer enough relief for some folks, while others may need to implement a few more of the suggestions I make here.
4. Food Sensitivities
Once I identified a few food sensitivities, my allergies chilled way the eff out. The test I use with my clients to decipher which foods they are reactive to is the MRT. This is currently the gold standard of food sensitivity testing for functional nutrition/functional med doctors. If your body has a sensitivity or allergy to certain foods, it sends your immune system into high-alert and stimulates mast cells to release histamine, which makes allergies worse. Every time you ingest reactive foods, the immune system mounts a response. Pretty soon the immune system is reacting to anything that even (molecularly) resembles the offensive food/substance, which is called molecular mimicry.
5. Yoga or Some Method of Coolin’ Out
Stress is a HUGE factor in sending the immune system into high-alert, which is why it is so insidious and linked to weight gain, advanced aging, digestive woes, and lots of other things that are no picnic. Breathe. Move your body lovingly. This will help lower the stress response and immune reactivity.
With all the excess estrogens in our diet and environments, on top of poor air quality, it’s no wonder that allergies are on the rise. Estrogen stimulates mast cells to produce histamine. But it gets worse: histamine stimulates estrogen production in the ovaries. You may be able to get your allergies to calm down by getting hormones balanced.
Of course the ol’ genes play a part in how allergenic we are. Our bodies make enzymes that degrade histamine. One of them is called diamine oxidase. This enzyme is made by the AOC1 gene (also called ABP1). If someone has a variant (also called a SNP or polymorphism) in the AOC1 gene, which is extremely common, their body may produces less DAO. When DAO levels are low, histamine intolerance and allergies can occur. This enzyme is made in the gut, so if gut health is compromised, DAO production will be as well (regardless of genetics).
Diamine oxidase is fascinating and could be a topic for an entire blog post. For instance, the placenta produces DAO, which is why women often find relief from allergies and food sensitivities during pregnancy! Similar to foods that contain or release histamine, there are also foods that block DAO production and can lead to elevated histamine levels. Black tea, green tea and alcohol are a few.
Another enzyme that degrades histamine is histamine-N-methyltransferase, which is produced by the gene of the same name (HNMT). HNMT is dependent upon methylation status (which is a whole ‘nuther topic for a blog post as well), so if you have variants that affect methylation or are deficient in nutrients like B6, B12, or folate, allergies may likely occur.
*Keep in mind that just because you may have a variant in a gene does not mean that it is doomed to express.*
Oh Alcohol, We Have Such A Love/Hate Relationship
Yep, my allergies were always worse after a night of drinking. Even just one or two drinks. Alcohol pounds the immune system and that’s what makes allergies worse. When you couple that with a food sensitivity like gluten, which is found in many alcohols, it adds insult to injury. Alcohol contains histamine (since it’s fermented) as well as being a histamine liberator. It also blocks DAO production, so that’s a triple whammy. Decide if it’s really worth aggravated allergies before sipping.
Allergies, hay fever and/or histamine intolerance can disrupt our daily lives. A common analogy for histamine intolerance/allergy symptoms is a bucket. Anything that contributes to histamine release or that inhibits histamine degradation helps to fill the bucket and when the bucket is full, that’s when symptoms occur (hives, skin irritation, asthmatic reactions, sneezing, etc).
Hopefully this article will help you find some relief with allergy symptoms. Please share this if you know someone that struggles with allergies!
Nettle Saag – Courtesy of Eli Weaver and Lancaster Farmacy http://www.lancasterfarmacy.com/
This is a traditional Indian dish which commonly uses spinach. Upgrade to nettles for an even greater “food as medicine” effect.
Oil — 4 tablespoons
Onion, chopped — 1
Garlic, minced — 6 cloves
Ginger root, minced — 1 tablespoon
Coriander, ground — 2 teaspoons
Turmeric — 1/2 teaspoon
Cayenne pepper (optional) — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
Nettle, chopped (use gloves) — 1 pound
Water — 1 cup
Salt — 1 1/2 teaspoons
Yogurt (for dairy-free option use plain coconut yogurt) — 1 cup
Heat the oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger spices, salt and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.
In separate pot, boil about 1 lb of nettle for 5 minutes. The sting goes away once heated!
Drain water after boiled. Mix with sauted spices and stir. Add water and bring to boil and then simmer 10 minutes till nice and mixed with spices.
Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit. You can eat as is or choose to use a blender or food processor to puree in batches.
Stir in yogurt and return to brief simmer and immediately remove from heat. Adjust seasoning and serve.