April 11, 2011

Natural Remedies: What to do about Allergies?

Most allergy medications attempt to treat the symptoms your body instigates to get rid of the allergen. But doesn’t it make more sense to shore up your defenses before your body goes into attack mode? Many of the natural remedies discussed below are designed to prevent a reaction before it occurs.

1. Avoid bad air: close window, don't use fans (can pull pollen indoors), stay indoors during peak times-August until the first frost. Maybe wearing glasses could limit some allergens getting into your eyes.

2. Keep clean: Frequently dust, vacuum (with HEPA filter) and wash your hair, bedding, clothes, pets, rugs, carpets (wood floors are best to have), etc. Wash your eyes if they're irritated. Make sure your laundry does rinse, or even add an extra rinse if needed.

3. Saline Solution
 You could simply use your cupped hand instead of a neti pot to rinse sinuses, but netis are inexpensive, and many people find them much easier to use. To flush your sinuses, mix a quarter to a half teaspoon of noniodized table salt into a cup of lukewarm water and pour it into the pot. (You can adjust the amount of salt, depending on what feels most comfortable.) Lean over a sink with your head slightly cocked to one side, then put the spout of the neti into one nostril and allow the water to drain out the other nostril. Use about half of the solution, then repeat on the other side, tilting your head the opposite way. Gently blow out each nostril to clear them completely. Neti pots are widely available online and at natural food stores. Use your pot about twice a day during allergy season, especially in the morning and after spending time outdoors. You also can use a neti pot before bed to prevent snoring caused by allergies and promote optimal overnight breathing.

4. Quercetin -- and less processed, sugary foods
A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season. Those with liver disease shouldn’t use quercetin, so please consult your doctor before using this or any other supplement — especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

5. Allergy-Fighting Foods
Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs. Or add a dash of horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food — all act as natural, temporary decongestants. Be careful: fighting off allergies can also render the body hypersensitive to foods you're allergic to, causing more severe reactions than usual.

6. Dehumidify
Dust mites love humidity. Don't let bathroom steam up and be careful if you use humidifiers.

7. Don't mow your lawn
Let someone else mow the lawn

8. Stinging Nettle. If you decide you need an antihistamine but want a natural option, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) behaves in much the same way as many of the drugs sold to treat allergies, but without the unwanted side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness. Nettle actually inhibits the body’s ability to produce histamine. It’s a common weed in many parts of the United States, but the most practical medicinal form is a freeze-dried extract of the leaves sold in capsules. Studies have shown that taking about 300 milligrams daily will offer relief for most people, although the effects may last only a few hours. You also can make your own tinctures or teas with stinging nettle. (You could grow some in a corner of your yard--that your children won't play in though! Why? Contact with the stinging hairs on fresh nettle can cause skin inflammation, so wear protective gloves when handling it. )

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