I love the warmth of spring and summer, but the very thought of all those flowers makes my nose itch and my eyes water. What can I do to avoid my usual hay fever problems?
Why do some people’s immune systems overreact to common daily things like pollens, dust, molds, and animal dander while other people walk around oblivious to these microscopic irritants?
Well, you can blame genetics, of course, because allergies (which is what hay fever is) tend to run in families, but that’s not the whole story. Is it something about the environment we were raised in and our diet? Perhaps, because in poor, undeveloped countries, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases are almost nonexistent, while they’ve reached nearly epidemic levels in ours.
So if something in our environment causes allergies, then it follows that we can do something to address the underlying causes.
In order to reduce your symptoms of allergy it is important to understand the concept of “total load”. When the all of the stresses, irritants, toxins, infections, and allergens you’ve encountered overwhelms your immune system, it becomes hyper-vigilant and tends to over-react to everything, even innocuous molecules like dust and pollen.
The key to lowering your immune system’s reaction threshold is reduce the total load of irritants affecting it, while at the same time supporting it with a healthy diet and nutritional supplements so it can work in better balance.
If you want to survive your hay fever, unburden your immune system and lower your allergies overall, here is what you can do:
1. Eliminate common food sensitivities or allergens for 2 to 3 weeks to see if that makes a difference—stop eating gluten-laden foods, dairy, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, and nuts.
2. Clean up your house—get rid of dust collectors, carpets, drapes, and stuffed animals, and make an extra effort to keep your bedroom monastically clean.
3. Buy a HEPA air filter and keep it in your bedroom (this is where you spend most of your time).
4. Check your house for mold. Bathrooms and basements are mold magnets. Get professional help if you suspect mold.
5. Eat organic to minimize toxins in your food.
6. Filter your water with a carbon or reverse osmosis filter.
7. Take probiotics (10 billion organisms) daily: They can help reduce allergies by balancing the immune system in your gut (which contains 60 percent of your overall immune system).
8. Take supplements: 1,000 to 2,000 mg once or twice a day of buffered vitamin C during allergy season along with 20 to 50 mg of zinc a day.
9. Try herbs: Perilla seed extract, stinging nettle, and quercetin taken daily can help reduce allergy symptoms.
10. Get injected. If you have intractable allergies, conventional allergy desensitization shots may prove helpful. However, if you don’t feel better after the first year or so, they’re not likely to work.
Mark Hyman MD