If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I would ever suffer from seasonal allergies, I would have said no. I spent my first 30 years in the lush green environment of the Pacific Northwest and the Olympic National Rainforest. Then there were more than 22 years in Northern California, where everything grows whether you want it to or not and something is in bloom every month of the year. In between I stayed for a short time in the mountains of Utah, near Salt Lake City and travelled across the country, mostly by airplane, to quite a few of the major cities in the northern and westerns parts of the country, Denver, Las Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, even Santa Fe. I had spent several summers camping in the high desert of Eastern Oregon. Allergies were never an issue.
Then 3 years ago, just about this time of year, Linda and I began our transition to New Mexico. I came to Albuquerque in March 2007, and then moved here permanently in mid-May when Junipers are already in the berry stage. Last year the symptoms hit me in early March and persisted through summer when the last Mulberry pollen was washed away by the afternoon rains and the wind had blown all the “cotton” from the Cottonwoods.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the landscape and the climate of the high desert. I love the architecture in this part of NM. I love the people, the food and the mix of cultures. I love New Mexico; it is my place. But seasonal allergies, I could do without – the persistent sneezing and runny nose; the itchy, watery eyes; the stuffy and aching head. I took over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants which worked for awhile. But they dried my membranes out so that I had to contend with bloody nose, and after awhile, they stopped working. While I don’t suffer as badly as I know others do, I recall at least 2 weeks last summer that were particularly miserable. I even asked my doctor for a steroid nasal spray.
This year, the morning I woke up with a headache and stuffy nose and looked out to see the Junipers on our property brown with pollen I took an OTC medication. It did little to stop the faucet that previously was my nose. So I renewed my prescription and began to deal with the cracking and bleeding membranes, the reduced immunity and the water weight associated with steroids. Then I was in my local health food market in Albuquerque and came upon a combination homeopathic remedy called Sabadil. I stopped all caffeine (which interferes with homeopathy) and began taking the remedy. It has worked great without all of the side effects. I did have a bit of a headache for a couple of days, but really attribute this to my caffeine withdrawal, rather than allergies.
At least 22 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. So if you are afflicted,
- Know the plants in your area. While it is impossible to isolate yourself completely from allergens, the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology notes that the best way to reduce allergies is to avoid the allergen.
- There are 3 distinct allergy seasons depending on the type of pollen present. Tree pollens appear in the spring. Then grass pollens mix with the tree pollens through summer. In the fall, the ragweed and other weeds start to bloom.
- When people move from one area to another, they often bring their favorite plants and trees and import new allergens with them. In our area, Chinese Elm, a non-native plant is a major allergen which re-seeds itself and springs up everywhere.
- Watch the weather and your local pollen count. The weather is a major factor in determining how much pollen is loaded for each breath. In my area, locals comment, “We don’t have Spring in NM, we have wind.” Wind blows the pollen off the trees and increases the pollen count in the air. For the last 30 days the count for Elm and Juniper has ranged between 9.4 and 11.3. Today, the pollen count is 5.7 because it is raining.
- Clean and filter your environment.
- Dust and mold can create sensitivity, as can harsh cleaning products. Check your local area for natural cleaning products.
- Use a High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA) in your home or office to reduce spores.
- Clean the vents in your AC/furnace in the Spring and Fall. Keep your windows closed during the day when the pollen count is high.
- Rub down dogs and cats with a damp towel when they come in from outside.
- Don’t wear shoes in your home.
- Time your activities. Grasses pollinate in midday and the wind keeps the air filled with pollen until night. So participate in sports and outdoor activities in the morning when the pollen count is lowest.
- Eat the right foods. A whole foods diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, and low fat dairy can be helpful in cleansing your body of toxins and supporting your immune system. Specifically:
- Onions and garlic contain phytonutrients that help reduce runny nose and other allergy symptoms. One of the active ingredients in the homeopathic remedy that worked for me is Allium, or onion.
- A study at UC Davis found that eating yogurt every day reduced the incidence of pollen stimulated hay fever attacks.
- Local honey carries small amounts of bee-digested pollen. The allergic reaction is an inappropriate response by the body to a substance which is not normally harmful. The body identifies “invaders” and mobilizes white blood cells that produce histamines to take them out. Bee pollen is pre-digested so your body accepts it. This reduces your allergic response when exposed to raw pollen.
- Bananas, kidney beans, almonds and brown rice are good sources of magnesium. According to a study at Glessen Univ. in Germany, 180 mg of magnesium was enough to stop a hay fever attack.
- Papaya, mango, citrus fruits, and berries are rich in Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants.
- Supplement your diet.
- Green foods: A daily drink containing spirulena, chlorella or wheat grass along with a variety of fruits and vegetables can help detoxify your body from allergens. We like Alive Ultra Shake or Vita Mineral Green. You can find a variety at your local health food store.
- Garlic is a powerful sulfur containing anti-oxidant which helps reduce symptoms and boosts the immune system. If you don’t want to eat it, try an odor-free supplement sold in most health food stores. Garlic supplements vary so read the label carefully. Generally 1 gram per day is the recommended dose (about the equivalent of 2 cloves).
- Vitamin C acts as natural anti-histamine, anti-oxidant and immune support. It reduces the release of histamines and the allergic response. Take 1 to 2 grams a day with meals. Start with a smaller dose to test tolerance and build up to a larger dose over several days. Continue with the larger dose or reduce it gradually after allergy season.
- Quercetin is a bioflavonoid which carries both anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It is especially powerful when taken with vitamin C. Quercetin is found in apples (skin), onions, and black tea but also comes as a supplement. Be sure to get the natural form as most synthetic supplements are not water soluble and don’t absorb well. Take 400 mg 2 -3 times per day. My friend, Sheri, swears by a supplement called “SuperQuercetin” which contains Quercetin, Vitamin C, Bromelain and Acerola. Follow directions on the bottle.
- Fish Oil is packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids. It is available in capsule and flavored forms. Adults can take 1-2 grams daily.
- Bee pollen is rich in the complex of B vitamins, Vitamin C, and E. All of these support immune function. It comes in several forms but freeze drying best preserves nutrients. You can find freeze dried bee pollen at your local health food store. Be sure to purchase GMP certified bee pollen to ensure purity. Do not use this product if you are allergic to bee products. 1 gram per day is generally recommended.
To your good health.