I didn’t always have allergies, but suddenly, as a badge of honor for turning 30, there I was with itchy eyes (like really, I wanted to scratch my eyes out), sneezing, and congestion. Find out what natural treatments were effective for me and how I ultimately ditched my seasonal allergies for good.
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There was no gradual on-ramping. One spring, seemingly out of the blue, allergy season hit me full-tilt. But I don’t discourage easily, and I wasn’t about to accept this misery as a fact of life. I have a built-in stubbornness that makes me question the status-quo and look for solutions. At first, I was focused on fast relief. I wanted my life back!
Allergy Medicine Relief
For the first few years, I was bewildered by just how miserable ‘common’ allergies were. I mean, the word ‘common’ means not-so-bad, right?
Spring and fall were my worst allergy seasons. Allergies were affecting my mood, my ability to think clearly, and my energy level.
Note: The ‘I’m about to sneeze’ face and the ‘face-hidden-in-hanky’ will not score you many dates!
I was willing to try anything to get rid of this damper on my social life, so I tested every over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine and decongestant I could find. Rather than relief, however, I discovered more drowsiness and no change in my symptoms. When I realized I was maxing out the recommended doses without relief, I decided it was time to change tactics.
Seasonal Allergy Prescription Drugs
I visited my doctor because I figured he would know how to stop allergies, and he prescribed me with Clarinex. As I headed to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription, I was full of anticipation. This has to be the holy grail that will give me my life back!
Unfortunately, that was not the case. The prescription might as well have been an OTC medication. The drugs just didn’t work and drowsiness is not a worthwhile side effect for ineffective medication. After a few times, I didn’t refill the prescription.
I went a couple of years feeling miserable and hopeless. Then one day I started exploring natural treatments for allergies, and I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Natural Allergy Relief (Almost)
There are all kinds of natural treatments advertised out there, and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. After a lot of time sifting through medical journals and looking for clinical trials with real results, I settled on the following two treatments:
#1: Freeze-dried Nettle Leaf
It is unclear how nettle leaf helps to relieve allergy symptoms, but it’s been clinically proven to be beneficial. In capsule form, I took 300 mg, 3 times daily.
#2: Local Bee Pollen
I used local bee pollen because it was produced by local bees from local plants, which can help build immunity to the pollen in my area. This was safe because I’m not allergic to bee stings. A simple test can determine whether bee pollen would be safe for you. I consumed 2 tablespoons of bee pollen granules per day in a fruit smoothie.
I was completely floored when the natural remedies worked way better than any of the OTC or prescription medications I had tried. They actually put a dent in my allergy symptoms without any side effects!
Through my research, I learned that it’s beneficial to begin taking natural remedies about 4 weeks before symptoms develop. I marked on my calendar when the first itchy eyes of the season developed, so I could keep track over time.
I discovered that my spring allergies usually begin around the spring equinox, roughly March 21st. So I started taking these remedies around the end of February, took them through the spring allergy season (around early June), then picked them up again around mid-August, taking them through the fall allergy season (around November).
The nettle and bee pollen absolutely reduced my allergy symptoms and gave me a higher quality of life, but it wasn’t a 100% reduction. It took diligence to see the effects, and it was expensive in the quantity necessary for results. If I were still experiencing symptoms today, (but I’m not, so read on to find out what did it!) I would add quercetin, butterbur and bromelain to improve results, and I would add an essential oil regimen.
What Causes Allergies?
After a few years of feeling satisfied with a partial reduction of my allergy symptoms, I began asking deeper questions about seasonal allergies. For example, humans have evolved over millions of years. What’s the evolutionary benefit of being allergic to one’s local environment?
Turns out, allergies are a symptom of a deeper (more modern) problem, and getting at the root cause can actually stop allergies in their tracks and prevent them completely.
All disease begins in the gut.” –Hippocrates
Approximately 70% – 80% of our immune system resides in our gut.”– Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind.
Our gut is affected by the food we eat, by medications we take (think NSAIDs and antibiotics), by stomach viruses and food poisoning, and by the gut health of our mother, who passes along her gut health to us at birth. Stress really makes a mess of the whole thing, too.
If we continually eat something that our body doesn’t agree with, plus take antibiotics after a medical procedure, plus get the stomach flu, plus have a super-stressful year, plus…you get the idea… eventually our body will get tired of fighting these abuses and will develop immune ‘oddities’, such as allergies or asthma.
These unexplained oddities are sometimes followed by more serious conditions like autoimmune disease (see my battle with rheumatoid arthritis) or cancer, if left unchecked. Yes, food incompatibility can actually result in seasonal allergies (or other conditions) instead of more obvious signs of a food allergy like a swollen throat or indigestion.
This is called Leaky Gut: a syndrome affecting the intestines where there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, food isn’t digested properly, and nutrients and toxins aren’t filtered properly. Over time, the intestinal lining becomes damaged and permeable, and these toxic, undigested contents may leak into the blood stream.
This results in systemic inflammation in the body, and a reduced ability by the body to fight off bad stuff and recover from stress and illness.
The Diet Shift, Step 1: Remove Offending Foods
As I read more about the leaky gut phenomenon, I decided to remove the foods that most often contribute to–or exacerbate–a leaky gut: Grains, legumes, and dairy. Removing these items is sometimes referred to as a paleo or primal diet. It was a big shift in the way I was eating. And yet, the results were immediate.
I began the diet in January, and within the first month, all kinds of health issues disappeared. The spring equinox came and went without any seasonal allergy symptoms. NO allergy symptoms! (I didn’t even start the nettle leaf/bee pollen regimen!)
Now, I went cold-turkey with my diet experiment. However, other people prefer a graduated approach to eliminating the incompatible foods they love, and I like the 21-Day Sugar Detox for that. I periodically use that program to reenergize my commitment to health and healing.
The Diet Shift, Step 2: Add Healing Foods
I was feeling great with boundless energy. No longer did I feel like a 35-year-old trapped in an 80-year-old body. Although my gut was not experiencing an onslaught of abuse from my everyday meals, it was still going to need some real TLC to recover from past abuses, and to regain healthy populations of beneficial gut bacteria.
So I added the following healing foods: homemade bone broth, collagen (I add it to my morning glass of water, my morning coffee, and my afternoon/bedtime tea), and foods with natural probiotics such as homemade yogurt and raw sauerkraut. I also added essential fatty acids in the form of grass-fed meat and high-quality fish oil.
My Allergy Status Today
three four years since I decided to change my diet, and I’m still completely free of allergy symptoms. Not even a sniffle! The change in health–more than just a ridding of seasonal allergies–has been a pretty big motivator for me to stick with it.
I still have treats because what is life without treats? Dark chocolate and coconut milk ice cream are two of my favorites. Have you tried Equal Exchange chocolate? It’s good to people and earth. And unlike its bitter-tasting competition, this dark chocolate is pleasantly infused with rich vanilla bean.
Treat the Source and Save Money
For me, the grain-and-legume-free diet has become a lifestyle, and one that I’m committed to because I am choosing health and vibrance over a life of chronic immune oddities.
Plus, the diet has saved me a lot of money! The nettle/bee pollen combination alone was expensive to take 9 months of the year in the volume required to see results. Imagine if I added the other natural treatments such as quercetin, butterbur, bromelain, and essential oils to my regimen?
Sometimes our bodies produce symptoms to get us to pay attention: “Hey! Something’s not right here!” With the natural remedies, I was only suppressing my body’s signal that something had gone wrong. I use plenty of natural remedies to support my health, but they only work in conjunction with–not instead of–an effective diet. Our diet really is our health.
Have you prevented a condition (such as seasonal allergies) through diet? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.