By Jill Shainhouse, ND, FABNO
So, what is an allergy sufferer to do? You could take over-the-counter antihistamines, or puffers, but a lot of those medications leave people feeling plain old strange. Some cause drowsiness (even the ones that aren’t supposed to cause drowsiness), dry mouth or constipation….
Is there a better way? A natural way?
Quercetin: This “natural anti-histamine” is a bioflavonoid derived from apples (with the skin), red onions and black tea. It works by reducing the release of histamine from mast cells (the cells that secrete histamine in the first place). A typical dosage is anywhere from 250 to 500 mg 3 times daily. According to various sources, quercetin chalcone, is claimed to be absorbed better, but is difficult to obtain in Canada.
Omega 3 fatty acids: Most of us are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids and research suggests that these healthy fats might reduce inflammatory chemicals in our bodies such as: prostaglandin E2. A German study that obtained data from 568 people and concluded that a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever. One of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids is fish oil, but if you are a vegan there are other options including flax oil, walnuts and algae oil such as Nutra-veg by Ascenta Health. An ideal dose is at least 1500mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA per day.
Nettle (Stinging Nettle – Urtica): In Florida, a research team in 2009 reported that nettle (Urtica dioica) extract inhibited several key inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies. It significantly appeared to reduce the release of histamine. This herb can be taken in capsule form, but it’s best to obtain some dried herb and steep it in some hot water. The ratio of dried herb to water is about 1 tsp/cup. The tea can be sipped throughout the day. Many report that this helps to reduce throat itching and irritation.
Vitamin C: This antioxidant is a natural anti-histamine. A recent Korean study (March 2013) showed that children with higher vitamin C intake had less symptoms of allergic rhinitis. There are so many different forms of vitamin C. Which one is for you? If you tend towards a sensitive bowel, make sure you get calcium ascorbate (a buffered form of vitamin C) as opposed to a plain ascorbic acid.
Butterbur: Also known as Petasites hybridus , this herb has also shown some impressive results in clinical trials. In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers concluded 4 butterbur capsules per day were as effective as a popular antihistamine drug in controlling symptoms of seasonal allergies. At the 60th annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a group of researchers from Britain discussed butterbur’s efficacy on reducing grass related allergies.
Saline sprays: Of course, for chronic sufferers of allergic rhinitis and sinusitis it never hurts to flush the mucous membranes with a saline solution. You can do this with a spray or a neti pot (but neti pots seem to require a certain amount of skill!). This can help to reduce inflammation and prevent secondary infections.
Jill Shainhouse, ND, FABNO is a naturopathic doctor with an additional board certification in naturopathic oncology. She has been practicing since 2004 in Toronto in the Bayview and Eglinton area. Her goal is to provide safe and effective integrative care for every patient.
For more information visit www.insightnaturopathic.com