This is the season when everything is blooming, especially here in the Northeast, where “tree time” is presenting itself in all its colorful display of new growth, vitality, and beauty. It’s soon to be followed by more growth in terms of grass, flowers, and then the weeds of late summer.
But what about you? If you suffer from allergies, you know what I mean. This nature-made, annual event gives rise to an entire spectrum of discomforts: itchy eyes, sneezing, sore throats, congestion, fatigue, headache, and sinus pressure.
Spring brings into my New York office many patients who are looking for an alternative means to address these symptoms. Some patients come in on their own to find non-drug relief, and some are referred by physicians who know that my holistic East/West approach can be a successful complement to conventional treatment, so that patients can feel balanced, comfortable, and stress-free. Perhaps (after a discussion with their physicians), these patients can even require less medication as their discomfort eases.
Just as when I look at any condition, my approach is to treat allergy patients as individuals. Treatments may vary based on personal circumstances, preferences, and health histories.
To give you a picture of what customized allergy treatment might look like, I’ve selected two patients. These women have quite different lives, routines, and schedules: Sara spends most of her days in an office, while Amanda enjoys being at home with her child and looks forward to outdoor walks each morning. But the two do have something in common. Though Sara and Amanda are both very sensitive to spring pollens, these days they are handling their allergies quite well and living comfortably and happily.
Natural Remedies: Sara’s Story
A committed professional, Sara works long hours in her office and rarely gets outside for lengthy periods of time. During allergy season, she arrives in the office with itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion developed during her commute. Luckily for her, these symptoms decrease over time because her workplace windows stay closed, and she has no rugs in her private office to trap allergens traipsed in.
We spoke about simple nutritional measures Sara could take to keep allergies at bay, such as hydrating more frequently during the day and substituting water for her usual sweetened caffeinated drinks. She also began my 10-day no-juicing detox to balance and refresh her body’s systems by removing substances that slow it down and stimulate inflammation (www.robertamittman.com/detox). I also advised Sara to “eat the rainbow”—that is, enjoy plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, which are full of inflammation-fighting, immunity-boosting antioxidants and vitamins.
Lastly, Sara took to heart my suggestions to try plant-derived remedies for gentle symptom relief. She discovered that the formulas that worked best for her contained quercetin, stinging nettle, rutin, goldenseal, bromelain, and butterbur. She found using saline nasal sprays several times a day helpful, too, for relieving congestion.
In the past, Sara had noted that allergy season—or maybe it was the antihistamines she took to fight it—made her feel sluggish, plagued her with headaches, and made focusing on the tasks at hand difficult. However, after implementing her new arsenal of natural relief measures, Sara was able to take fewer antihistamines during peak allergy season. She reports that she now feels well, productive, and focused during this challenging time.
Smart Practices: Amanda’s Story
Living with a very different routine than Sara’s, Amanda is involved in caring for her young child at home. In the past, spring often brought special challenges and discomforts because Amanda found herself out and about with her daughter, in places where they were exposed to all manner of pollens and other allergens
After discussing her schedule, Amanda and I decided she should take several steps to combat her allergies. First, she would do a thorough nasal rinse with a Neti pot in the morning and again in the evening to flush out pollens. Amanda also committed to having a HEPA air filter running in her bedroom at all times, as well as keeping the windows closed throughout her home. She would further minimize the dust and pollens tracked in by vacuuming often and frequently washing bedding, where irritating dust mites like to hide.
Amanda learned to protect her person from pollen intrusion, too. Before she went outside, she would put on a hat and sunglasses to serve as barriers against irritants. She also adjusted her activities to avoid going out between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are highest. On returning home, Amanda would leave her shoes by the door to keep the floors clean. She showered as soon as she came inside from her outside walk, too, taking special care to thoroughly rinse her hair, keeping any pollen it picked up from being transferred to her pillow at night.
Like Sara, Amanda also adopted a “clean” diet without inflammatory sugars. Avoiding dairy, which can cause congestion, helped her breathing stay clear during this time as well. Finally, Amanda began to take supplements, including a probiotic and a multivitamin that offers vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium. Amanda tells me she’s doing very well this spring and is taking less medication than in previous years—one of her primary goals—and even has lots of new energy to play with her child and keep up with that busy, youthful schedule.
Even though this may be a dreaded time of year for you if you are feeling symptomatic, these patient stories clearly demonstrate that it’s possible to take action to reduce the impact pollens may have on your quality of life. Won’t you take time to survey your own home and routine as these patients have? There’s an excellent chance that, like Amanda and Sara, you too can easily find ways to reduce your exposure and bolster your physical defenses to become comfortable, energetic, and focused again!