Yes, spring has sprung and your nose might be “sprung” also. Ah-Choo! If you have drainage in your throat, drippy nose and watery eyes then allergies can definitely be at play. If you have severe allergies though there is often a whole different level of histamine problems you may be having. Let’s start simple and then over the next several weeks I am going to explore all the different possible culprits.
Spring and sometimes fall are big times in the allergy world due to high allergen counts whether they are from trees, grasses or pollen. Some people are more sensitive to one particular type than another so this does have a lot of variability. When you have sensitivity to a particular allergen, allergy shots or allergy drops may work on desensitizing your system. This is a long term commitment and must be started and continued for perhaps years to achieve full effect.
In the short term, the usual treatments get added on: antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops. Let’s talk about 4 simple approaches for routine allergies. READ ON….
- Antihistamines – duh (Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl and Zyzal). You already know about these because you reach for them every year. These aim to treat the allergy symptoms like drippy nose, water eyes, itching etc. What you may not know is that the typical antihistamines work on a specific receptor called H1 receptor. If one doesn’t work try a different one because they all act a little differently. Zyzal has a tendency to be a little longer acting. The sustained release formulas sometimes release such a small amount over an extended period of time that the more rapid acting ones may work little better in more difficult cases of allergies. There is another histamine receptor called a H2 receptor that you can target during high allergy times. These can be added to the H1 blockers for an additive effect. A staple in this category is Pepcid AC. Yes, I know this is for heartburn but it has the histamine blocking capability too!
Histamine receptors are found all over the body. They are in the central nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, gut, muscle, nerves, adrenals just to name a few. This is why when you have allergies or sometime take allergy medication you can have a plethora of symptoms from drowsiness to anxiety, muscle twitches, gut issues and so on. Since there are so many receptors taking an anti-histamine only goes so far and your symptoms continue. That’s where our next step comes in….
- Decrease histamine loads. This is actually a very large topic and I will be covering this more in my upcoming newsletters. For now, let’s talk about how to decrease your load with supplements so it’s not just continually floating around in high levels waiting for a receptor to open up. One of the easiest products to reach for is Quercetin. Quercetin helps inhibit histamine production. While we get histamine coming in from the environment it triggers our own cells to dump more histamine into our system compounding the problem. Quercetin can help decrease this load. Next week I will be discussing another KEY way to decrease your histamine load so tune in!
Since the biggest problem we have with allergy season is the side-effect of a sinus infection our medicine cabinet would be missing something if we didn’t reach for something that may help stave this off. This is where our next two steps come in.
- Decrease inflammation. When our noses are drippy and full of mucous the passages in the sinuses will start to swell. These are not large conduits to begin with so it doesn’t take much for them to close off and the result is a sinus cavity that has a bunch of trapped mucous, bacteria and who knows what else from our environment. Keeping the passages open becomes a key component in avoiding a sinus infection. This is why nasal sprays and steroids are often prescribed. In addition, medications with decongestants which are often represented with the additional “D” or like Sudafed aim for decreasing nasal congestion by narrowing your blood vessels causing shrinking of the tissues trying to decrease swelling and inflammation. While you can certainly reach for those, a natural substance that can help with this swelling is bromelain. Bromelain is made from pineapple and has a unique ability to reduce swelling. It also is felt to have some anti-allergy potential not only in the sinuses but in other areas like the lungs. If that is not enough, bromelain has some anti-bacterial properties! Tumeric also has some important anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of these two would be a powerhouse.
I’m sure when allergies are at their highest you feel like everything is just stuck – that’s because it is. Mucous builds up and clearance is diminished. You can help break down the mucous, though.
- Clear mucous. Over the counter preparations like Mucinex are aimed at helping you clear the mucous more effectively. You can also do this naturally with supplements containing NAC and Thyme. Both of these can help loosen the phlegm which prevents it from clogging those passage ways.
Clearly, when allergies are at their peak it doesn’t take much to tip the balance and end up with a sinus infection. Prevention is truly key because if you wait until you have full blown symptoms the chances of progression to a sinus infection is high.
I have two favorite products I recommend. The key is starting them either before you have major symptoms or at the very first sign of allergy symptoms.
- Sinus Calm is in my opinion a fantastic product that has kept my sinus infections down to a minimum over the past decade. I don’t have horrible allergies but when I do get them they used to always end up with a sinus infection. I use this at the very first sign of my nose/ears getting mucous buildup. I start out with it twice a day for only two days and then decrease to the full dose once a day until the symptoms resolve. This product has NAC, Bromelain, thyme, turmeric as well as several other herbals that all target the immune response.
2. AllerDHQ by Xymogen is another product that acts more like an antihistamine but has the difference of the additional quercetin, bromelain and NAC . Other herbs like stinging nettle and rutin contribute to its’ effectiveness.
Don’t forget your netti-pot as this can help rinse your nasal passages keeping pollen and bacterial counts down.
Even though you are doing all the prevention steps and have started on products at the first sign of issues you can still get a sinus infection. If your symptoms get worse then you may just need antibiotics so don’t forget that. Sinus infections are nothing to mess around with!
To your health,