Hello, Spring, and hello, allergy season!
Most people I know this time of year are:
- Running around with Kleenex boxes
- Getting headaches
- And feeling pretty terrible.
If you aren’t experiencing allergies, I can bet many people you know are. But just because it’s “allergy season” doesn’t mean you have to put up with it for weeks. In fact, allergies are just a symptom of an imbalance inside the body. That’s why as a functional practitioner, I look at why allergies are happening in the first place and how we can support the body so that we don’t have to experience the symptom of allergies.
In this post, I’m sharing several important things you can do to boost your immune system to defend against seasonal allergies so you can get out there and enjoy the warm Spring air!
Here’s Why We Get Seasonal Allergies
Why do seasonal allergies happen in the first place, and – maybe more importantly – why are more people getting allergies these days? Looking back 40 years ago, just 10% of our population got seasonal allergies. Today, that number has more than tripled. At about the same time, food allergies have also increased, with over 1 billion people in the U.S. alone reporting having a food allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance.
It’s not a coincidence, and there are some pretty clear reasons why this is all happening.
From factors such as climate change, carbon emissions, the growth of more allergenic weeds, and the decreased nutritional value in food, it sometimes feels like we can be fighting our way to a quality patch of air…if that even exists!
All of these environmental factors have a big impact on the strength of our immune system. If exposure to any of these toxins persists, or you regularly eat a diet void of key nutrients, the immune system suffers and becomes much more sensitive to allergy-inducing pollen and weeds.
Gut health is another big factor. If you have poor gut health, that can negatively impact the immune system (because most of your immune system is actually in the gut), making you more susceptible to allergies. Especially when we look at things like histamines and mast cells, two areas of our immune system which can go haywire due to things like gut infections, we can start to understand why the immune system misbehaves. While the inner workings of histamines and mast cells warrant its own blog post, it’s important to know that if you seemingly react to everything, you should look into getting tested to see if these are at play.
Either way, we’re being exposed to a lot more toxins in everyday life than we were just 40 years ago, and it’s taking a toll on the immune system, making it harder to combat things like seasonal weeds and pollen.
The good news is, there are many ways in which you can support and boost your immune system and reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of allergy season.
1. Reduce Household Chemical Exposure
Toxic chemicals are hiding out in our cleaning products, hair products, makeup, and more. It seems that everything these days is soaked in chemicals, and at the detriment of our health.
You can decrease your toxic burden by swapping out standard chemical cleaners for cleaners without chemicals or fragrances, such as Mrs. Meyers or Seventh Generation cleaning products. You can also make smart swaps in your beauty care products, such as using brands like Juice Beauty, Thrive Cosmetics, or 100 Percent Pure (three of my favorite brands).
2. Improve Indoor Air Quality
Did you know that our indoor air is often more toxic than the air outside? Yep, it’s true. Between the chemicals we use to clean and maintain our homes to the furniture and carpets soaked in flame retardants and dyes, combined with the lack of ventilation (especially in the winter), and our homes are swarming with toxins!
So where do you begin? Start by making swaps like these:
- Instead of dryer sheets, use wool dryer balls
- Instead of regular candles, diffuse essential oils, use organic soy wax candles, or beeswax candles
- Begin to buy non-toxic furniture, carpets, and bedding (West Elm has a lot of great options, but also look at tag sales or estate sales, as older furniture often don’t have the chemicals we have today)
And as much as you can, keep the windows open and use an air purifier to cleanse the air. A brand I love is Molekule, but if that’s not quite in the budget, try for a HEPA filter first, get your air vents cleaned yearly, and buy some air purifying plants like aloe or snake plant.
3. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You can make your house as green as possible, but if you’re eating foods that are considered inflammatory to the human body (things like dairy, gluten, and refined sugar), you could still be putting a burden on your immune system and making yourself more susceptible to seasonal allergies.
It’s time to say goodbye to processed foods that can cause inflammation and hello to whole and organic foods. Think strawberries, sweet potatoes, and lentils! These foods, in particular, are rich in vitamin C, but nearly any dark leafy green or colorful fruit or veggie (as well as these favorites of mine) will do your body good! Try to fill your plate with as many colors as you can and know that you’ll be giving your system a big boost!
4. Feed Your Good Bacteria
Despite what we’re taught to believe, some bacteria can be really good for us! Especially the bacteria in our digestive tracts that play an immense role in immune modulation. So, if you’ve had gut health issues for a while now, chances are your beneficial bacteria need a little support in order to fully rebalance immune function. Why? About 70% of our immune system is located in the gut, and since good gut bacteria regulate most of what happens in our gut, they, too, impact how strong our immune system functions.
Here are a few ways you can feed your good bacteria:
- Eat fermented foods that are rich in probiotics (otherwise called beneficial bacteria)
- Take a probiotic supplement (here are the ones that I recommend)
- Eat a diet rich in fiber (think vegetables, nuts, and seeds)
- Reduce stress (yes, stress has an immense impact on how healthy our bacteria are!)
5. Supplement with Digestive Enzymes
Another way to support good digestion and ensure you’re breaking down all the vitamin-rich nutrients from your foods is to take a digestive enzyme. Especially if your digestion hasn’t been at its best lately, chances are it needs a little help breaking down your food. This ensures that you’re g
etting maximum value from the whole, organic foods you’ll be loading up on so that none of it goes to waste and all of it goes towards supporting better immunity to defend against allergies.
The two enzymes I like are Pure Encapsulations Ultra or Now Super Enzyme (note: both of these have HCL which should be avoided if you have (or suspect you have) h.pylori. If so, take LypoGold instead or first consult with your healthcare practitioner.)
6. Supplement with Vitamin D
Typically we think of Vitamin C when it comes to immune health, but did you know that vitamin D is an immune supporting powerhouse? Unfortunately, however, the majority of the U.S. population is suffering from chronic, low levels of Vitamin D, meaning we’re lacking in a key vitamin to keep our immune systems strong during the worst of allergy season.
There are two ways to get vitamin D:
- Through sun exposure (if you can do so before allergy season sets in)
- By taking a Vitamin D3/K2 supplement (these two vitamins are a great duo and K2 increases absorption of D3).
7. Choose Natural Antihistamines
To help your body detox histamines that accumulate from both external toxins like seasonal allergens and internal toxins like bacteria in our systems, supplements like quercetin, glutathione and vitamin C are fantastic. These help to open up your detox pathways to get allergens out quicker while simultaneously boosting your body’s natural defenses.
You can also eat low histamine foods, like fresh fruits (except strawberries), fresh vegetables (except tomatoes), leafy herbs, non-citric fruit juice, and herbal teas (except for black, green, and mate teas).
A Few Other Tricks for FAST Relief
If allergy season is already on top of you and you need relief FAST, here are a few other things to try:
- Do a neti pot or sinus rinse day and night to help flush out the sinuses
- Drink stinging nettle tea (or take it in tincture or capsule form) daily — this is an antihistamine and supports gut health as well as immune health
- Make a blend of lavender, peppermint, and lemon essential oil (I recommend doTerra) and either mix with 8 oz of water, drop in your hands and cup over your nose to inhale or diffuse in the air.
Make Allergies (and Gut Issues) a Thing of the Past!
If you have a hunch that gut health is at the root of a lot of your health concerns, have a weakened immune system and worsening allergies, or even an autoimmune condition that exacerbates all of these issues, my VIP program called Love Your Gut is a PERFECT place to start to get ahold of these issues and address them fully and naturally. Not only will you be running the most advanced gut health test out there (the GI-MAP), but you get regular one-on-one support from me (1 60-min one-on-one session, 3 live group Q&A calls, daily Facebook support), weekly modules to learn all about natural digestive health treatments, a brand new gut healing recipe guide, and daily tips and hacks to get your digestion and immune system under control and at ease fast!
Having an autoimmune condition myself (ulcerative colitis), I’ve dealt with all of these issues personally, and now as a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, I have created a program that could help those like me better understand what’s going on inside, run a test to actually uncovers the root of the problem, and learn strategies to address digestive and immune health naturally so you can look beyond symptoms and live a normal life not tied to the bathroom or in fear of food!
Have questions about if the program is right for you? Book a complimentary 10-minute session to talk one-on-one with me about it!