I used to have the worst seasonal allergies. As in, I was home sick and missing school/work. At the time, I was singing in a schola (Latin/Gregorian chant/polyphony choir) where you have to sing with absolutely no vibrato and when your throat is clogged… Yea. That isn’t happening. Every year, without fail, you could count on me getting seriously ill with a sinus infection that would settle into bronchitis. Every. Single. Year.
I took all the drugs – the allergy shots, the nasal sprays, the herbs and nutritional supplements, the over-the-counter pills and various prescriptions. Nothing worked. Sure, they would put off that inevitable infection for a few weeks. But nothing was ever truly fixed. I had to settle for the fate of traveling with a box of kleenex, my tea with honey and lemon, and Sudafed for those “just in case Niagara starts flowing from my nose” moments.
Thankfully, those days are long, long gone! Sure, on heavy pollen days, I get the occasional sneeze and sniffle. But really, who doesn’t? When your black car is re-painted neon green/yellow for the day, anyone is going to be sneezing a bit.
I’ve often wondered about our ancestors – did they suffer from seasonal allergies the same way we do today? For some, it’s just a nuisance and they can live with it. But for others, it can be a seriously debilitating ordeal and potentially life-threatening.
Things started to change the first year I went gluten-free and went on my anti-inflammation diet to help curb my “pre-Crohns’” diagnosis. I had started the diet in January and by the time nature decided to spew its sex cells into the air, my symptoms were dramatically reduced. As in, forgetting to take Zyrtec for a few weeks wasn’t harming me at all. On the really bad days, tea with honey and lemon and maybe a teaspoon of elderberry syrup was all I really needed.
I started reading up on the real cause of seasonal allergies and the answer was surprising (it went completely against everything I had learned in my science/pre-nursing degree at the state university I paid thousands of dollars to attend for four years… but I’m not bitter).
Anyway, seasonal allergies are caused by leaky gut. I know I’ve written some on that lately in my acne post.
Basically, leaky gut is the culprit for a lot of the problems with health – ranging from acne to mental issues to seasonal allergies and more.
According to Dr. Mercola, leaky gut is…
a condition that occurs due to the development of gaps between the cells (enterocytes) that make up the membrane lining your intestinal wall. These tiny gaps allow substances such as undigested food, bacteria and metabolic wastes that should be confined to your digestive tract to escape into your bloodstream – hence the term leaky gut syndrome. Once the integrity of your intestinal lining is compromised, and there is a flow of toxic substances “leaking out” into your bloodstream, your body experiences significant increases in inflammation.
Here are a few easy tips to beat the runny nose and itchy eyes. Because. Let’s face it. No one likes dry eyes.
Beating Seasonal Allergies
- Go on an anti-inflammation protocol. Work with a doctor or healthcare professional on this one as new diets should be introduced with professional help. However, avoiding foods that cause inflammation – grains (especially gluten-containing grains), processed sugar (pretty much everything except raw local honey), dairy, coffee/caffeine/soda, alcohol, non-organic foods/processed foods (to rid your body of chemicals), chocolate, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, okra, peppers), pork, processed meats, peanuts, and shellfish/warm water fish.
An anti-inflammation diet will help to calm the inflammatory levels in the body and get things back under control. Working with a doctor (naturopaths are good for this one), they’ll help you carefully reintroduce foods back into your diet.
- Increase nutrient-dense foods. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bone broth. Bone broth is high in healing minerals, vitamins and is more powerful than a store-bought multivitamin. It’s also cheaper than said multivitamin. I’m always down for the cheap side of things.
Eating foods that are local, organic and seasonal – seasonal foods have the nutrients you need for that particular time of the year. In the spring, fresh shoots (asparagus, etc), sprouts, early spring onions (if you’re okay with FODMAPS), early spring carrots – check out a farmer’s market to see what people are picking right now and ask the farmer when they were picked. If they’ve been in a holding fridge for months on end, look elsewhere.
- Restore your gut flora. Bacteria is so important for your overall health however, in our sanitize everything culture, we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We like our pasteurized, sprayed, and refrigerated foods.
Years ago, prior to the advent of the Frigidaire, people would preserve foods for long periods of time via fermenting them. The natural bacteria (these are the good buggies that live in your gut) would go to town and pre-digest the food for you, thus making it more gentle on your digestive system and increasing your ability to absorb nutrients. Traditionally, we’re supposed to have anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds of good gut flora in our digestive tract. Unfortunately, because of our “SANITIZE ALL THE THINGS!!!!” mentality, many people living in the Western/“Civilized” world are seriously lacking in that.
Fermented foods are also naturally high in the B vitamins, folic acid, and enzymes. The fermenting process also unleashes vitamins into a more readily absorbable state, allowing the body, even one with a damaged gut lining, to be able to more easily absorb them. Latin American sauerkraut or traditional sauerkraut are both quick and easy ways to get those bacteria. A little bit with meals will be sufficient. Kombucha will also provide necessary bacteria back into your gut – but only 8 oz is needed per day! Other ferments such as beet kvass are also good – and the beets will give necessary support to your liver.
- Increase your healthy fats. Tallow (beef fat), schmaltz (chicken fat), ghee and omega-3s from cold water seafood are all great sources. Make sure that you are choosing sources that have been pasture-raised and are organic. More information on fat can be found on my post here. Also, if you’re eating organic pasture-raised meat, such as chicken thighs, keep the fat on it when cooking.
- Drink lots of filtered water. You will be, in effect, flushing lots of toxins out of your body with these protocols so increase your water. About half of your body weight in ounces is a daily maintenance for water intake and is a good rule of thumb for starting out. You may find that you have to urinate more regularly. Don’t let this deter you. You need to get these toxins out of your system.
It’ll take a while for healing to begin, depending on how much damage your system has sustained. However, if you start your healing process now, by the time next spring rolls around, you should notice a lessened immune reaction.
Feel free to email me if you have any follow-up questions and cheers to your health!