Stop Sneezing and Start Breathing! A Guide to Spring Allergies


Well the sun is finally starting to come out along with warmer temperatures (please please stay!!), but that doesn’t mean all happy times for those who suffer from spring allergies. Pollens and other allergens are starting to come out and cause sneezing, itching and runny noses. Naturopathic medicine can be very helpful in battling these spring allergies, so you don’t have to rely on over-the-counter, or even prescribed, anti-histamines forever! 

I know what it is like, I have been there. When I was younger I would get chronic hives if I didn’t take Reactine daily. I also could barely function without Reactine, eye drops AND Flonase in the morning one summer when at camp, especially when there was fresh cut grass! Fast forward to a year or so later with no allergies at all, after seeing an ND myself and working through some of the suggestions below. 

3 Main reasons for chronic allergies:

  • Poor adrenal function - The function of your adrenal glands are very much connected to your immune system. I see it time and time again, that if someone is drained due to chronic stress they start to have more sensitivities, allergies or just get sick more often. 

  • Poor liver detoxification - Think of your body as a bucket. If there is too much toxicity going into the body but poor detoxification from the liver, that bucket is going to overflow and symptoms such as allergies start to occur. We need to empty the bucket somewhat by aiding in liver function. 

  • Poor digestion - The digestive system is a main organ of elimination. It also makes up about 70% of our immune system. When we are eating food we are sensitive to, too much sugar or processed foods we damage the gut and its proper function. The digestive system is also affected by such things as chronic stress and chronic use of antibiotics. More damage to the gut leads to a poor immune system and poor elimination. It is that simple. 

Solutions for your allergies:

  1. Clean up your diet - If you suffer from spring allergies every year I would advise you to start cleaning up your diet at least 3-4 weeks before allergens start to affect you. This means decreasing the amount of sugar you eat, decrease processed foods and takeout and figure out other food sensitives you may have to avoid for now. Just that will strengthen your immune system and proper detox. Your body can focus on controlling inflammation elsewhere instead of your gut. Add heathy foods such as fresh veggies, fruit and even a little local honey will benefit your digestive system, liver and immune system. 

  • Add a probiotic - This is especially important if you suffer from digestive concerns or you have had multiple rounds of antibiotics throughout your life. We want to repopulate the gut with those good bugs to support the immune system. Not all probiotics are created equal though so please come see me if you are unsure what to take. Start with one with at least 11 billion units, try coconut kefir or include fermented foods into your diet. 

  • Introduce Urtica diocia (Nettle leaf) - This mineral rich herb acts to revitalize the liver as well as inhibits masts cells (an important part of your immune system) from releasing allergens. This makes it very helpful for spring allergies. It can be taken as a tea or added to a supplement. 

  • Quercetin - This is a plant flavonoid found in foods such as apples, kale and onions, which was a key player in eliminating my allergies. It has a low bioavailability in food so a good quality supplement is necessary to do the trick. Quercetin helps to down-regulate histamine release from mast cells, instead of completely blocking it like over-the-counter anti-histamines do. That means you may need higher doses at first but will not have to take it long term, unlike Reactine or Aerius. 

  • Take vitamin C - Not only is vitamin C a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, it helps support the adrenal glands as well. The can be given in a Myers IV in clinic or in a buffered supplement form.

With these few suggestions you can minimize or even completely resolve your chronic sneezing and itching! Depending on the severity of a patients allergies, I tend to give a combo of these suggestions. If your allergies are chronic and severe you may need a more comprehensive liver detox program. This is something I can guide you through at the clinic. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Spring Allergies...nothing to SNEEZE about

As I am sitting here in the sun (yeah for a beautiful warm day!), it is a lovely reminder that spring weather is on its way. The season bring many wonderful things - sun, warmth, fresh flowers - but for many it brings a plethora of negatives - sniffling, sneezing, itchy eyes, fatigue. Oh, the dreaded spring allergies. You may have suffered from these for many years and are reliant on over the counter antihistamines and nasal sprays, but within only a short time you could be free of these forever!

My story:

For many summers as a teen, I suffered from seasonal allergies, especially from fresh cut grass. As a camp counsellor one summer, I remember not being able to function in the morning until I took a Reactine, my nasal spray and eye drops. I literally did not feel like a person and was miserable until I did these steps. I continued to take Reactine daily for 3 whole years because otherwise I would break out in hives, with no known trigger. I would panic slightly if I forgot my anti-histamines while travelling because I knew I would be very itchy soon. Not fun! Flash forward a couple years, after seeing an ND myself, I was free of all medication and spring allergies haven't crossed my mind since (except when treating patients). All it took was simply tweaking my diet and taking a few supplements for a short period of time. 

So what can you do?

The root cause of seasonal allergies is typically an increase in inflammation and hyper-reactivity in the body. Meaning, our bodies are hyper-alert to anything that seems foreign to us and we mount an inflammatory response by releasing histamine. It is histamine that causes red, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, hives etc., released from mast cells. It is important to build our immune system and decrease inflammation to eliminate this reaction, and it all starts in the gut…surprise, surprise! 😃

Here are 5 things you can do to prevent spring allergies:

1. Adjusting your diet - Focus on nutrient rich colourful foods to support your digestive system and provide necessary nutrients. Eliminate gluten, dairy, and artificial sugars for at least 3-4 weeks (one month of your life isn't so bad), to drastically decrease inflammation in your body. If you need some guidance feel free to reach out. Here's a list of low-histamine foods that are great to add to your diet:

  • freshly cooked meat, poultry (frozen or fresh)
  • freshly caught fish
  • eggs
  • gluten-free grains: rice, quinoa
  • fresh fruits: mango, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapes
  • fresh vegetables (except tomatoes, spinach, avocado, and eggplant)
  • dairy substitutes: coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk
  • cooking oils: olive oil, coconut oil
  • leafy herbs
  • herbal teas

2. Probiotics - This is an important step in healing the gut and boosting your immune system. With the abundance of antibiotics taken, it is likely that your gut flora is lacking the beneficial bacteria that are vital to our health. Adding a probiotic supplement with at least 11 billion units, eating 1-2 tbsp of coconut kefir, or adding fermented foods to your diet are all possible options. 

3. Nettles - This is one of my favourite herbs for spring allergies and liver detoxification.  It acts as a great natural anti-histamine. I add it to my allergy teas or give it in capsule form. If you are antsy for a quick fix this is a great start. 

4. Quercetin - Another good natural anti-histamine. Quercitin is found in foods such as apples and onions, however a higher dose is typically more effective for an alternative to OTC anti-histamines. This is one supplement I used to wean myself off of Reactine those years ago. 

5. Vitamin C - This helpful vitamin acts as a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. It is helpful to build your immune system as well. I typically start with 1000-2000mg of buffered vitamin C, and be weary of an increased dose in pregnancy and its potential to cause loose stools. 

Several of these suggestions can be mixed into one supplement and taken all together to minimize the miserable effects of spring allergies. This is generally what I do with my patients. In conclusion, by addressing your gut and immune health with a few tweaks, you can improve or forever eliminate spring allergies so there really IS nothing to sneeze about. 😃

If you have any questions or visit me for a free 15 minute consult. I'd be happy to help! 


In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen


(Photo credit: avivaromm.com, womensday.com)